GERRY MURPHY admitted the tough training schedule he has ordered since becoming caretaker manager might have cost victory in the first match of his second spell at the helm.
But he said the extra sessions had been necessary to prepare the team to put in a spirited performance against Doncaster.
And the Irishman promised more of the same in the build up to Saturday’s showdown at Port Vale, where a Town victory would all but condemn the home side to the drop from League I.
Murphy, who watched from the dug-out while assistant Graham Mitchell, Town’s academy coach, shouted instructions from the touchline, saw his charges twice take the lead, through Robbie Williams after only six minutes and seven seconds, and Andy Holdsworth, with a well-struck free-kick on the hour.
But having made it 1-1 through one-time Town target Gareth Taylor in the 52nd minute, Doncaster claimed a point through Paul Green’s 84th-minute strike, despite having played the last half hour with only 10 men after Matthew Mills’ sending off.
The on-loan Manchester City centre-back was shown a straight red card by County Durham referee Nigel Miller for a professional foul on Chris Brandon which brought the free-kick from which Holdsworth netted his second goal of the season.
“We got the point, but I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t all three,” said Murphy, who took over when Andy Ritchie left the club my mutual consent on Tuesday.
“When they went down to 10 men we went a little bit direct, and had we looked after the ball a little bit better, we might have opened them up. We played into their hands a little bit.
“I thought we looked a little bit leggy in the last 10 minutes. That could be my fault because I had them in every morning and afternoon last week to get the discipline right and to work on the system I wanted to use.”
That system was three centre-backs, with David Mirfin, who had fallen out of favour under Ritchie, then picked up a back injury, making only a second start in 17 games alongside Nathan Clarke and Rob Page, who was made skipper in place of Jon Worthington.
Holdsworth, who played in midfield under the previous manager, took the right wing-back slot with Williams on the left while James Berrett was handed a holding midfield role with Worthington and Collins taking the central berths behind frontmen Brandon and Andy Booth.
Experienced duo Frank Sinclair and Luke Beckett, Town’s 12-goal top scorer, were dropped to a bench which was completed by Joe Skarz (the only substitute used), Malvin Kamara and Alex Smithies..
“I’ve always said you pick a system to suit your players,” said Murphy, whose previous six-match spell in charge was before Ritchie’s appointment just short of a year ago.
“There were players I couldn’t leave out, like David Mirfin, James Berrett and Andy Booth. I felt we needed someone with a bit of pace to play off Boothy, and Chris Brandon was the man to do that.
“They had two big centre-halves (Mills and Steve Roberts) but we know Chris is a handful and would gamble on things when he could.
“We asked the players to go out and play with a bit of passion and commitment and they did. We told them that the next manager would probably be in the stands and that they only had one chance to make a first impression.
“They were prepared to put their bodies on the line and they accepted that the buck stops with them when they cross that white line.”
On his preparation for Port Vale, Murphy added: “You have to look at things as you go along, and we’ll keep working with them.
“We’ll probably need some more technical work and I would say we’ll have them in pretty much every afternoon.
“I’m a believer in selecting your team as early as possible and I think what you do during the week reflects in your performance on a Saturday.
“We’ll keep working on our shape and set-pieces and while some may find that monotonous, for me, practice makes the player.”