05:00PM, Thursday 08 October 2020
Alan Devonshire and Ryan Peters will look to address the Magpies’ ‘soft centre’ in the coming days as they seek an upturn in form following defeats to Sutton United and King’s Lynn Town this week.
United kicked off their campaign with a deserved 3-0 loss to the U’s on Saturday and their soft underbelly was tickled once more as the Linnets came from behind to secure a 3-2 win at York Road on Tuesday evening, Aaron Jones firing in the 90th minute winner after some keystones cops defending from the hosts.
It left the Magpies manager feeling gutted and exasperated on the sideline after the final whistle. He knew his side should have picked up one or even three points having led 2-1 with eight minutes left on the clock.
The Linnets deserve credit for their approach to the game, pressing the Magpies onto the back foot with their impressive passing game. The home side started both halves well and twice took the lead through well-taken Sam Barratt penalties in the seventh and 55th minutes. However, a few of the players looked short of match fitness and this was exposed by the Linnets as the match wore on.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Magpies, with Hartlepool United visiting York Road on Saturday off the back of two straight wins, while Devonshire’s men will have little over 48hours to recover before they visit Wrexham on Monday evening for a clash that’s being shown live on BT Sport.
“I’ve been better,” Devonshire said after the final whistle.
“At the end of the day they’ve scored three goals and two of them were great strikes, but we’ve defended poorly. It’s gutting because the players worked their nuts off. At the end of the day we’ve got a soft centre because we conceded three on Saturday and three more today, so that’s something we’ve got to address.”
It’s been a short and strange pre-season for the Magpies squad and several players are still searching for match-fitness. Barratt is one of them, despite his impressive two-goal haul against the Linnets. Nathan Blissett led the line well for the hosts and had a hand in both of his side’s goals, but he also tired as the game went on.
They weren’t the only ones but there’s a feeling the Magpies will improve as a collective unit when they’ve got a few more games under their belts. They’ll have to hope that’s the case and that confidence hasn’t been pricked by these early defeats.
They’ve also got players to return from injury, with Remy Clerima in the running for the visit of Hartlepool on Saturday.
“We looked tired,” said Devonshire. “They moved the ball quite well and we were chasing it. We knew they’d do that though, so we’re disappointed. Yeah, we might be undercooked.
“I don’t know if you can judge anything until five or six games in.
“But we’ve got some tough games coming up, Hartlepool on Saturday and Wrexham on Monday.
“The annoying thing is we should have got something tonight. We let ourselves down defensively. I don’t know what to say, I’m gutted. We should have had at least a point tonight but instead we ended up getting beaten by an 88th minute goal.
“Hopefully Remy will be back on Saturday, but it looks like Ryheem (Sheckleford) is going to be out with a hamstring injury. Sam (Barratt) has just got a bit of cramp that’s all.”
Peters hopes it won’t take five or six games for the Magpies to find their true level and he’s calling for everyone to do a little bit more against Hartlepool. He says the players can’t fall back on a lack of match-fitness to excuse away these performances, and hopes they’ll produce an energetic display against Pools at the weekend.
“Sammy Barratt got a couple of goals tonight which is brilliant,” he said. “But he’s still not 100 per cent because we got him a little late into the window. And there are one or two others who are a little bit late on their fitness at the moment.
“We’d rather it doesn’t take five or six games to get that fitness. We’d rather it came straight away. It’s the opposite to last season when we started well but then tailed off. The quicker we can get points on the board the better. We now know how it feels to have someone score against us in the final minutes and we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Once we get Sam and a few of the other boys’ fitness up to scratch then I’m sure that results will follow.
“It will come with game time, but we can’t dwell on it or use it as an excuse.
“It’s too easy to find excuses. Our pre-season hasn’t been any different to normal in terms of the time we’ve had on the pitch. Hartlepool United are flying right now, but what better team to play when we need to get our levels up. We need to be better and that’s what we’ll look to do.”
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