Encouraging Road ahead for Matt
Tue 12th December 2017 | Maine Road | By Ian Templeman
New Maine Road manager Matt Barnes is upbeat about his team’s chances of Premier Division survival, after bagging back to back wins at the start of last week.
Matt took over as manager in mid-November with the club in the middle of an injury crisis, and since then, he has used his many contacts to bring in much needed new faces to strengthen the squad.
After home wins against AFC Darwen and Barnton, the changes appear to be making a difference, and as Matt explained, he will also be drawing on the reserve team squad as he looks to build his first team squad for the rest of the season.
“I was made aware when I joined that there were lots of injuries”, said Matt. “I said to Derek (Barber, Maine Road Secretary) and the board when I came for the interview that I have got good contacts around the semi-professional game.
“That is helping us out, and we brought six players in last week. I’ve got a good relationship with Jonno and Bernard at Salford City, and they put me on to the Academy 92 management and coaches, and we got four from them.
“When our first team game was off the other week, I came down and watched the reserves and I was impressed with some of the young lads we have.
“I am all for bringing young lads in - I know what it is like, I was 16 when I first played in this league - but they have to be ready and have to be right.
“We had three lads on the bench from the reserves against Barnton, and I’m not afraid to bring them in, but they have got to be ready.
“They have to be patient and wait for their chance and likewise we have to be patient with them, look after them and probably bring them in for night games.
“That way they can still continue to play on Saturday for the reserves, and learn the game.
“We want to stay in this league and we will need experience so I have brought in some experienced lads as well. It’s all about getting the right balance.
“We want a settled side but we want good numbers too, I’d like to work with a squad of around 22, and we are getting near to that now”.
The two wins against AFC Darwen and Barnton ended a run of nine successive defeats for Road, and with the wins being against fellow relegation strugglers, Matt admits the results were hugely important.
“I don’t want to be sat down in the bottom four, and two games luckily fell for us that were important for us. If we had lost those two games we’d have been under pressure straight away”, he said.
“On the Saturday against Darwen we ground out a result, but against Barnton the following Monday I thought we were the better side and played some nice football.
“We had targeted six points from the two games, and I said to the lads before the Barnton game that after winning against Darwen, if we lost then Saturday would have meant nothing.
“We got the two wins, and it has put us in a good place now. When we came in initially it was a very quiet changing room, downbeat, and now the lads are all laughing and joking. Those two wins have changed everything, and we’ve just got keep that going now”.
However, despite the setback of the defeat away to City of Liverpool on Saturday, Matt insists that for now, he is just focussing on the next game, and at the same time building towards being a side that is difficult to beat, especially at Brantingham Road.
“I set high standards and expect the lads to work hard, which they did in the last two games”, he said.
“We want teams to come here and fear us, just like when I used to come here. I remember playing against Maine Road over the years and they always had young hungry lads.
“I used to hate coming here as a player, because I knew we were in for a hard game, no matter who I was playing for, and that’s our aim - to start to make this somewhere that people don’t look forward to coming.
“But at the moment we can’t get too ahead of ourselves, we have to take it game by game, there is no point in thinking ahead about the game after that.
“Right now, we have just got to go and chase the three points in every game”.