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Anthony back in contention to start on Saturday

Midfielder could step up his return against Shrewsbury

27 January 2022

Midfielder Anthony Hartigan could step up his return against Shrewsbury on Saturday, having come on as a substitute in our midweek game against Ipswich.

Anthony, who turned 22 today, suffered stomach pains just over a fortnight ago, but he came on just before the midway point of the second half for Ethan Chislett and managed to see out the match.

“Anthony is recovering well,” said first-team coach James Oliver-Pearce. “We’re still managing him to make sure there are no reoccurrences of the issue that he had, but we’re making sure he comes back fit and healthy. Today, he’s trained brilliantly. I’m sure that over the next week or so he will regain his full sharpness and build on his momentum.

“He’s capable of starting the game, but we’ve got other players that performed well in those positions in midweek, so anyone who is selected will give their best levels of performance. If Anthony is on the bench, he's a great substitute to have.”

James also had an update on both defender Paul Kalambayi and winger Egli Kaja, as they both edge closer to returns.

“Paul is probably just over a week away now,” said James. “He trained today, and his leadership qualities are massive for the group. Having him out on the training pitch is nice to see, because he’s worked really hard to make sure that he gets back. Now it’s about him getting sharp and when he does get his opportunity that he takes it.

“Egli could be back in training next week. That’s the plan. Obviously with muscle injuries you must play it by ear, but he should be back in the frame as well.”

There are no fresh injury concerns, to add to the absence of defender Henry Lawrence, midfielder Alex Woodyard and striker Aaron Pressley (all hamstring injuries). With Ollie Palmer’s departure to Wrexham earlier this week, the focus has been on bringing out the best from the squad in front of goal.

“We’re always process driven,” said James. “If we aren’t scoring, we’ll look at how. We need to look at if we’re getting into the right areas, the bodies we get in there, and what sort of movement we need. Also, that we’re staying secure at the same time.

“It’s an area we need to get better at. Ollie was a big player for us, but he’s no longer with us. The focus now has to be on the players that are in the building and how we improve them.”

On facing up to the challenge of Shrewsbury, James added: “They’ve been really tight at the back recently. They’ve drawn a couple of games. We know what to expect from them in terms of structure and we’ve got to look at ways where we can be a bit more creative. They will have high energy, they’ll press and chase down lost causes. They’ll be organised when they don’t have the ball, so it’s about how we manage those moments and how we look to penetrate when we can, without turning over the ball too cheaply.”

Listen to the full interview with James Oliver-Pearce below, where he also talks about his own transition from Under 18s Head Coach to the first team for this season.

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