THE performance of Alex Smithies was one of a number of positives to come out of what was a disappointing defeat at Darlington in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
We keep saying a number of our younger players need to gain experience, and this was a good opportunity to provide them with some.
Obviously you can only field one goalkeeper at a time, so chances are even more at a premium for them, and I was pleased with the way Alex responded to his call-up.
He made a number of good saves and stood up to the physical side of the match well, and he’s clearly got a good future ahead of him if he maintains his progress.
That’s a key word for many young players, because they tend to take great strides, then slow down and perhaps take a step back, then go forwards again.
That’s been the case for the likes of James Berrett, Michael Collins and Joe Skarz, all of whom featured on Tuesday.
While I felt we were off the pace in the first half, we certainly weren’t helped by the dismissal of Gary Roberts, which we felt was harsh, hence our appeal.
We were still adapting to being a man down when they scored what turned out to be the winner just before half-time.
In the second half, I felt we gave it a really good go, and could well have got an equaliser, but we just didn’t get that break you sometimes need.
I think that bit of luck has been missing in quite a few games, because we deserved to win at Oldham Athletic when we drew two weeks ago, and certainly deserved at least a point at home to Leicester City last Saturday, when we lost 3-2 to a mis-hit late goal.
While the points return from those two games was therefore disappointing, I believe the performances were encouraging.
We were up against two of the best sides in League I and competed well, and that tells me we aren’t too far off.
Nine points from nine matches isn’t where we wanted to be, but there’s still only a fifth of the season gone, and I always expected it to take time for me to get to know the players and vice-versa.
I certainly think we’ve got a good set of players with a great attitude and a willingness to work hard and that’s a very solid platform to go forward from.
Despite our current league position, I maintain that we are good enough to mount a promotion challenge, and the immediate aim is to go down to Swindon Town tomorrow and win.
I THOUGHT the support you gave us against Leicester City last week was terrific, and I know the players appreciated the backing during the game and the applause after it.
It was also heartening to see so many up at Darlington, so a big thank-you to the 387 who made the trip up the A1. It’s appreciated by this football club, hence the offer to those at Darlington of a discount on a ticket for the derby at Leeds United next month.
The current economic conditions aren’t good for any of us, so it’s good to be able to offer a helping hand to our loyal supporters.