Boss hoping for further progress this Saturday
Okay, so two consecutive goalless draws might not immediately jump out and scream success, but for John Still the Hatters’ last two performances have been of steady improvement.
The stalemates with promotion fancies Forest Green and Cambridge United in the past week have impressed the manager and, ahead of Saturday’s trip to last season’s league runners-up Kidderminster, Still is hopeful of further progress.
“We’ve performed better in the last two games,” the boss said at his Thursday press conference. “It’s not exactly where we want to be but I’ve seen a gradual improvement.
“I was pleased with the Forest Green performance but more so with the Cambridge game because they’ve started better than us.
“Defensively and without the ball we looked really good on Monday. I’d say both games were fair results. There’s been improvements and it’s just the final third and attacking-wise where we’re not firing on all cylinders at the moment, but we’re working hard to improve that.
“I don’t think that our attacking players have showed their full potential yet, but there are some factors that come into it – some players need to move house or find schools for their children. Gradually that goes and they settle down, and I think that’s shown in the last two performances. They’ve been good and I think we can improve them. It’s nice to know we have improvement in us.
“Defensively, as I’ve said, we’ve shown solidity but it’s not just the defenders doing that job, the whole team is. In pre-season we’ve shown we can score goals but we know we have to be better in the final, attacking third and a lot of our work is focused on that at the moment.”
The Town travel to face a Kidderminster team who are already nine points better off now than they were at this time last season after five matches.
A pointless first five games was followed by a fantastic run of form that almost saw Steve Burr’s side lift the title, but Harriers were knocked out of the Play-Offs at the semi-final stage by Wrexham.
Still knows how much of a big test it will be for his players but believes his team can get a result at Aggborough.
“I don’t worry about other teams to be honest,” admitted the manager. “If we’re good, we’re capable.
“I don’t worry about how good the other team is, are or can be. Kidderminster will be strong and focused. They finished the season with a spring last year and you’ll like to think they’d carry that on.
“Knowing their players they’re a strong, committed, all-round side – but there’s a chance we’re going to be a strong, committed, all-round side as well. It’ll be a good game.
“All leagues are tough, though. I watched an all singing, all dancing best-players-in-the-world Man City lose to newly-promoted Cardiff City last weekend. It’s hard, and games are tough whoever you are.
“Take our first game of the season. Southport beat us – quite rightly – and it showed that if you don’t go into a game ready and prepared anyone can beat you. We have to make sure we go out ready and prepared – and if we are, we’ll be all right.”
Still could give a Hatters debut to new loan striker Paul Benson at Aggborough – if he proves his fitness.
“Paul’s a fit lad and knowing him I know he will have worked hard on his fitness,” said the boss. “I don’t think he’ll take long to get up to speed but I expect in two-to-three weeks he’ll be as good as he can be. He’ll be in contention.”
Alex Wall came through 75 minutes of an inter-squad friendly on Tuesday whilst Jon Shaw is due to now undergo an operation on a hernia injury.
On the situation of his strikeforce, Still said: “Alex is a massive boost for us. We’re all big Alex Wall fans here. With him injured and Jon not 100 per cent it’s been a bit of a blow for us. When everyone is back fit we’re going to have three centre-forwards which will give us a great opportunity to find the right player for the right game when it comes along.”
Midfielders Solomon Taiwo and Alex Lawless both trained on Thursday but the latter is still “a bit sore” according to the manager. “It’s slowly, slowly with Alex,” he said. “There’s no point rushing him.”
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