Manager Mark Bonner and striker Joe Ironside sat down with local media this morning ahead of Saturday’s fixture against Lincoln City…
The boss was first to face the media.
- Mark Bonner on the two-week break:
“It has been beneficial. We have not had too many sessions in the last month between games, because when you have such a quick turnaround, you are always recovering from the last game and preparing for the next, so I think it has been beneficial to the whole squad and team – especially the ones that have not played or trained as much, they have been able to train in a lot of areas.
“It has been a worthwhile break for us. A little bit frustrating in some ways as we had momentum and we wanted to keep playing but at the same time, there was probably a few who needed some time off the grass last week and we have been able to get all those players back to good health ahead of Saturday.
“It was really strange, new territory for us. If you look at the leagues, there was only three games in League One, but a full fixture list in League Two – there in itself is a difference in the level straight away. For some of the boys, who did not play in the Papa John’s Trophy game, it has been two weeks without a game.”
- On Saturday’s opponents, Lincoln:
“If you look at the team they have available and the players they have got back coming into fitness, they are a really strong side – and they showed that last season, getting to the play-off finals. They have had a small turnover with players this summer after losing a lot of strong loans returning to their parent clubs over the summer.
“Michael [Appleton] has got them playing some good football, and they were a real threat in the league last season – they will this season too. Whilst they will look at the first few games and perhaps have wanted a better points return from it, they have been competitive and strong in a number of games and we know what they are capable of doing.
“From our point of view, I think the one thing that the games have taught us is that if we want to be competitive, we have to be at our best and that is certainly something we are going to have to do this weekend.
“We have played well against teams who have started well, we know Bolton well and we have had a good look at Burton, who started the season really well, those two wins were excellent for us, even more pleasing was the clean sheets. This weekend may be another level up and we must go into it finding our best level, but we go into it buoyed by our recent form.
“They will want to win it, they will come with a purpose to attack and try to dominate the ball, they have a lot of players in attack who have started the season very well, and will try to get them into the game as much as they can. There is no doubt they will test our organisation and defending, we are going to have to be good in those situations, we just need to also be a threat and take the game to them.”
- On Injuries:
“Jubril [Okedina] is back and has been training all this week, if he can come through the next few days unscathed, he will be available for selection. It is encouraging because that gives us another number available in defence – he was unfortunate to pick up an injury so soon after joining but he is back on the grass and looking good. I am excited to have him back.
“Jack Lankester is ready to play – he willll certainly say so himself, showing his desire. We must bear in mind that he has missed the last five months, and the most important time of pre-season so he is another one that the last two weeks have been perfect for him – after playing a big chunk of the Papa John’s Trophy game last Tuesday. He is just catching up really and 90 minutes would be a big ask for him. His job now is to get as fit as possible and force his way into a position where we have got players playing well.
“Greg’s [Taylor] ankle surgery went well. We will not see him this calendar year, that is for sure, and a way into next year. He has got a long road ahead of him, in terms of recovery. He is just a little inactive at the moment, but we are hoping to see him at the game on Saturday.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks he will be able to be in with us, rehabbing. It has been weird not having him around, being the influential voice and character he is within the squad.
“It was a fracture, but the early scans were encouraging in terms of ligament damage, so there is obviously a long way to come back from that and he has had an operation. Hopefully he can get back with us as soon as possible, I am looking forward to seeing him again.
“All positive news, aside from that. We have been able to rest one or two for a few extra days, we have had all sorts of bits over the last two weeks, whether that be from players taking knocks, little twists or just being tired after the busy schedule – even people being a little groggy after having vaccinations! No real drama other than that, and we got a full compliment out on the grass this morning, which was great.”
- On the start of the season:
It has been good, if we can roll out our form for the rest of the season, we will be on for 18 wins which will be exceptional! Look, let us see how the next block goes, but we have had a solid start and a good points return – and as importantly, the confidence that has been generated, and the lessons we have learnt will serve us well going into this next little block of games.
“Everyone will say it is important to get off to a good start, but there are teams that will start poorly and end up at the top of the table come the end of the season, and vice versa, it has got no real say on what is going to happen next, it just shows that we are a fraction to the way of achieving what we need to do.
“There are more teams that base their game around build-up and possession than perhaps the league below and games are more controlled. The identity of the teams we play are quite clear, tactically, so it gives us a nice challenge to analyse and prepare for games. The obvious difference this season is that there are simply some better players at this level, therefore the demands on us are greater to stop them. It is a challenge we are enjoying!”
- On Jensen Weir scoring for England:
“I spoke to him after the game, he played 35 minutes, scored and had a good week – a busy one! He is back with us today and hopefully from his perspective it would have been a different experience for him, and he will have confidence returning to the squad after scoring a goal.
“He has done well for us, it is a big jump from academy football to first team football anyway, let alone adjusting to a team that itself is adjusting to a new level, so it is quite a unique balancing act he has to manage. We have seen some highlights on what he can offer, with the ball he has a lot to offer as well as understanding how we play. Off the ball side he will pick up on and learn as he progresses – he can contribute a lot to us going forward this season.”
Striker Joe Ironside was next to answer questions from the local press.
- On the break:
“I think it came at a good time to be honest, a few of the lads had a couple of niggles and what not, and we obviously had a hectic start to the new season, so it was good to have a little time to recharge and have a good week of training - all ready to go on Saturday!
“It is always nice to have a little rest as the games come thick and fast once the season gets started, so you really have to make the most out of it and make the most on the training field.”
- On the start to the season:
“I think we have been competitive in every game. Obviously our last two performances have been two wins, which is always good. We wanted to get that first win out the way and then we followed it up with another win, which was nice.
“The standard does go up, but it is about how we adapt to the new league and the challenge and find out how we can find new ways to win games.
“It was nice to get up and running in the first few games of the season, and I scored my first on the opening day. It has been enjoyable and hopefully there is a lot more to come!”
- On signing a new contract:
“I was delighted to get that done, it was a no brainer for me personally off the back of last season and what not, so it was nice to get that sorted.”