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Post-match reaction from Neal after defeat against Fleetwood

Manager's interview after home loss

30 March 2018

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Neal Ardley felt that referee Charlie Breakspear should have abandoned today's match at half-time due to the pitch conditions, but he said that his players produced a good performance in the circumstances.

Speaking during his post-match interview for iFollow after the 1-0 defeat, Neal said: "We are at the business end of the season when people say it's not about performances, it is about results, but I thought our boys put in a good performance. I don't agree with people that moaned at the end of the game. Given the conditions, we tried and it got harder and harder as the game wore on and easier to defend the lead for them. I thought we were the better team. It's all about points at the moment, but my job is to be positive with the group, to make sure I get them going out and playing football, not feeling the pressure.

"If the game today was 0-0 at half-time I think it would have been called off. I think there would have been no moans and groans from them, but once it goes 1-0 the ref is thinking, 'I am going to get hammered by Fleetwood'. I had it at Millwall when we were 1-0 up at Northampton and 70 minutes into the game it was called off. The pitch then was not as bad as it was today. You can make your own judgements on the pitch, but I thought the game turned into a farce in the second-half."

Neal added that his side's approach to the game was influenced by having to break down a Fleetwood defence with plenty of height in it.

"We had a game-plan, but we lost Joe Pigott to injury in training yesterday, which was a blow as he would have started," revealed the manager. "Our game-plan could not be playing the long ball against a defence defending deep with three 6ft 3 inch centre backs. We had to try and work the wide areas with switches of play. We did that really well in the first-half. We got into wide areas and had a couple of great chances. I thought we were the better team for the majority of the game. As the game was going on, the players were thinking that they did not want to make that pass, turn out, and play somebody in, but it was our best way of getting at them.

"In the second-half it became harder. The team that scored first was likely to go and win the game. Given the conditions, they could sit back in, and it was hard to produce any incisive football. They are not excuses because I thought the boys did some really good stuff. They scored a goal which the pitch helped them score.

"We tried to get our full-backs out, which was going to be our spare ball. We could not keep pumping it down the middle with their three centre halves. In the second-half we had a bit of a lull and we thought if we score it will be through a set-piece, so we brought Robbo on for that reason and we told him to stay in the middle of the goal. It gave us a better chance to score from a cross. It did not quite work, it fell back, but those were all positive intentions."

The players have a quick chance to put today's result behind them with an Easter Monday match at Doncaster and Neal called for everyone to pull together in the search for results.

"We need to stick together and that's everyone; fans, management, the board, and players," added Neal. "With seven games to go, the last thing we want to do is moan and groan, to turn on each other. We all need to play well, everyone at the club needs to be positive for the last seven games, and that will give us the best chance of achieving what we want."

The full post-match reaction from Neal is on our iFollow channel via the link above.

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