Kevin Watson was denied his first win with Woking’s penalty hitting home the very moment the fourth official’s watch pinged on 90 minutes. And Fleet’s interim boss said his side’s fitness was an issue, an area he is working hard to overcome in the short term.
“They’re giving me everything, absolutely everything,” he told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “We still need to be fitter but that wasn’t going to happen in two sessions in one week. It takes a while to get that fitness. The pitch is quite heavy, quite energy sapping but they’ve given me everything today and I can’t ask for anymore.
“They need to be fitter. I’ve said it all along, it’s not a group that’s seeing out 90 minutes and they appreciate that and we are trying to get them fitter. I’ve got Craig [Lewis, ex-Welling and Billericay Town] in, he’s a top sports scientist and he will get them fit. It doesn’t happen overnight in two sessions in a week but as a group they need to be fitter, yes.
“I think it’s glaringly obvious for all to see. We’re getting to 70/75 minutes and we’re flagging a bit so, yeah, I am [surprised at the lack of fitness].”
Once again, Fleet were fluid and pleasing to watch in the first half and Watson asked them to be quicker about their business this weekend.
“Last week we played really well, passed it exceptionally well but it was a little bit slow and we weren’t opening them up,” he said. “This week, two/three-touch, a lot quicker and we didn’t give them time to settle back into a shape and in all honesty we should have been out of sight in the first-half. It needs to mean more in front of goal. We’ve had proper, good opportunities there to go in with the game almost settled. You only get the one and it puts you under pressure defensively. We couldn’t see it out.
“First half we played terrifically, second-half we didn’t keep the ball as much as I would like and our first pass out to the front wasn’t good enough. We had chances to break on them and that wasn’t good enough in that respect.”
And the late goal left Watson understandably gutted having come so close to booking a place in Round One.
“[I’m] sick,” he said. “Towards the end of the game they’ve just thrown as many bodies forward as they could, crashed it into our box and we dealt with it admirably. Big physical team. As the penalty’s given away, the fourth official’s watch goes off, time’s up, so gutted really.
“They came at us, they threw bodies forward. They played three or four different formations, started smacking it up to the front trying to get the bits and pieces. We need to be better dealing with that, better with what teams throw at you. To a point, they didn’t really create… offside goal, they’ve hit the post – again with us having the ball, probably over-committing.
“If we’d ground that out, even not playing so well, it would have been massive for the club and massive for the boys. It wasn’t to be. It was a poor decision from Lawrie to be fair, he doesn’t need to bring him down, he knows that and it’s cost us a result.”
With questions remaining about who takes the Fleet manager’s job on a permanent basis, Watson remains defiant that his methods are paying off.
“[This is my CV for the job],” he said. “To be fair to Alan Dowson their manager, he’s said he went in at half-time and said, ‘Kev’s got a group of players who are playing for him and you can see that, you’re not playing for me’. Which I appreciate, it’s there for all to see, these boys are giving absolutely everything and not leaving anything out there. If I get the time, if they get fitter, I have no doubt that the ability in this group will enable us to climb the league.”
And is Watson any clearer about his own future? “Who knows? You’ll have to ask the owner. I’m trying to implement a different style of play. We are obviously sitting at the foot of the table on 10 points. Would anyone come in and change that very, very quickly? I don’t know. All I will do is prepare the team for the replay and see where we go from there.
“You would look and see that our style of play is now different. In the second half I think we got caught up in defending a little too much and then not being brave and play out. I didn’t think we got hold of the ball, we gave it away too cheaply which enabled them to stop us getting out. We did try to play at times but the passes went astray.”
Now it’s all back to Woking once more on Tuesday for the fourth FA Cup or Trophy replay between the two sides. Watson admits it’s a game that does now get in the way of his training regime, but he’s nevertheless desperate to make Round One.
“The replay does get in the way,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a replay but there is. Of course we’re glad to still be in it. You always worry, and I won’t be the only manager to think this, that when they get the goal on 90 minutes and there’s five minutes added time, you just want to be in the hat because their tails are up. Fortunately not a lot happened in that last five minutes, we actually started playing in their half again. We need to be better than we were in the second half and the first half is what I would like to see for 90 minutes and I’m sure everyone else would.”