English League 1

Whittingham plays it cool

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Sat, 16 Mar 2013 20:50:00

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is adamant his side will not allow complacency to deny them a 20th league title.

A 1-0 win over Reading on Saturday evening thanks to Wayne Rooney's deflected first-half goal moved the Old Trafford club to within 13 points of winning the Premier League.

The title is therefore within touching distance but, having seen his side blow an eight-point lead in the last six games of last season, Ferguson is demanding full focus.

"You don't get points and medals for being complacent and we won't be," he told MUTV. "I think the players are conscious of the importance of the games now and that concentration, which has improved, has helped us do that [in terms of keeping clean sheets].

"I think, before the game, we always thought that winning was the important thing today.

"It wasn't a great performance but where we are today is not down to today but the last six months.

"The team has shown great consistency and played a lot of great football. Our goal difference is big over City now - 13 goals. It's a great position to be in but the only thing we can do is win our next game."

The Premier League now goes on hold for the international break and Ferguson has confirmed Rio Ferdinand will meet up with England after his surprise recall.

Ashley Young is expected to be fit to also join the Three Lions squad on Monday night despite being substituted with an apparent knee problem against Reading.

Ferguson has already bemoaned his United squad suffering from fatigue and the international break is consequently far from ideal for the Scot considering they travel to Sunderland on 30th March for a lunchtime kick-off, and Chelsea 48 hours later for their FA Cup quarter-final replay.

"With the problem I've got, a lot of players are away on international duty and play two games," said Ferguson, who made eight changes to his first team to face Reading.

"They come back and we've got a lunchtime game against Sunderland on Saturday and then it's lunchtime again against Chelsea on Monday.

"Why have we got a squad if we don't use it and we did today."

Ferguson added: "We are making arrangements for some players to fly home by privately hired jet after their matches to make sure they get home as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

"Tiredness is a great leveller but we'll do our utmost to make sure we field the freshest possible teams.

"Private planes are going to cost the club an awful lot of money but it is something we feel we have to do."

Vale entered the match with only one win in eight but an early strike from Jennison Myrie-Williams and a Lee Hughes goal was enough to seal a valuable three points.

The victory saw Vale cut Gillingham's lead to four points at the top and Adams is now hoping the win can spur his side on for the remainder of the campaign.

"I feel a lot of relief I think and I'm pleased for the people that matter - the supporters," he said. "We worked hard on a difficult surface but we did all the right things at the right times.

"It could have even been more comfortable but I think there was a real resolve about the squad. We would rather not have the situation that we have found ourselves in but they happen and what it has done is it has brought us closer together and it's a big result for everybody.

"I'm hoping that will kickstart us again. We realise the importance of these next seven games. The quicker we get to 70 points, the better and it will be a big psychological boost for us."

Hartlepool manager John Hughes felt his side's 1-0 defeat to Coventry hinged on one incorrect decision from the referee.

Hughes watched the second half from the stands after complaining during half-time that his side should have had a free-kick in the build up to the crucial goal.

Coventry striker Cody McDonald shrugged off Peter Hartley to latch on to Carl Baker's through ball and strike the decisive blow in the 33rd minute.

Referee Fred Graham allowed the goal to stand but Hughes felt the he made the wrong call and stressed the wider importance of such decisions.

Hughes said: "It's pointless getting hung up on that because we still had 60 minutes to get back into the game and we couldn't get the ball over the line.

"You go back to that incident and you are saying to yourself that livelihoods are at stake and you are playing for your livelihood so you are just hoping the decisions are 100 per cent correct.

"I felt it was a free-kick. I felt the guy bumped him so to get beat on that is disappointing. I felt we were the better footballing side.

"The referees have got a hard job. I am not pointing the finger of blame at the referee.

"I spoke to him at half-time and he probably made his decision to send me to the stand on his emotions.

"Not once did I raise my voice, not once did I use foul and abusive language I just pointed out that livelihoods are at stake."

Cody McDonald sealed a 1-0 win after the half-hour but Hughes felt the Sky Blues marksman committed a foul in the build-up.

It was City's first home win since January and they have now taken seven points from Pressley's three games in charge.

He said: "I have seen the replay three times and there was no foul.

"Cody used his body really well and turned the opponent and then a terrific finish for him.

"I am delighted for him because his work ethic for the team was terrific. Goals give strikers confidence so I am really pleased for him.

"He's a very intelligent striker, he moves well across the line and likes to dart in-between people and that was the movement for the goal."

"We hadn't won at home for two months so winning at home was a real monkey to get off our backs but for me the most pleasing thing is that there is a real resilience and determination in the group and I don't think they gave up a real chance in the entire 90 minutes.

"We have given ourselves a chance of getting into those play-off places."

The Shakers remain rooted to the foot of npower League One despite taking the lead through Craig Fagan and playing against 10 men for the majority of the contest following George Porter's fourth-minute sending-off.

"I'm full of praise for the players, they were terrific," said Blackwell. "It just didn't fall for us.

"There seemed to be a force field around their goal. We've had 51 crosses, 16 shots on target and 15 off.

"When you're at the bottom, you've missed chances and the fans are frustrated it's easier to hang the manager out to dry.

"But I don't know what else I could have done other than gone on and scored myself.

"If we'd scored six or seven you'd have been eulogising, but we lost and suddenly the whole thing changes.

"Other than deal with two or three chances a bit better, what more can you ask the players to do?

"I've got no complaints with them. I feel for them but that's the way it is, when you're down there you get kicked in the teeth."

In the fourth minute George Porter was sent off for the U's, who's squad was hit by a virus this week, and Craig Fagan fired Bury into a 26th-minute lead.

Yet the visitors stunned the Shakers with two goals in two minutes from Josh Thompson and Clinton Morriston before surviving a second-half onslaught for their first win in four.

"It was a remarkable win in every sense of the word," said Dunne. "We had five players playing that were 50 per cent fit and had to leave five or six at home.

"They gave it their all and we rode our luck. But for all their chances, we'll take the win because I thought our courage and determination deserved something from the game.

"On another day, we would probably have lost. But we felt we could score against them and once we got the two goals, we would have taken a point. Our keeper and our back four were superb."

On the sending-off, Dunne added: "Apparently it's a red card and it's clean cut.

"It was a bit of a silly thing to do but the players were galvanised and it brought us the win.

"They started the game really well but I thought our response was superb."

Jack Redshaw scored his fifth goal in six games to put the Shrimps ahead, opening the scoring as he had done at Barnet last weekend and against Northampton in midweek.

But the game followed a familiar pattern as Morecambe were once again unable to hang on, Bradley Dack levelling the scores in the 52nd minute with his first-ever Football League goal.

Bentley said: "It's disappointing that we haven't managed to win a game after taking the lead in three games.

"When you go into the break in the lead and playing well, it is all the more disappointing when you surrender the lead in the manner we did.

"But I have to give credit where it is due. They (Gillingham) are a top side and played some good stuff despite a poor pitch.

"But we have shown that we can match the best teams in the league when we are at our best and have now lost just once in six months at home, which is really promising for us.

"We looked solid throughout but unfortunately gave away a terrible goal that was a comedy of errors really and you can't afford to give sides as good as Gillingham that sort of opportunity.

"But overall it was a good solid display against a good side and I can't be too critical as some of my players are running on empty now."

The Gills came from behind to extend their superb away record, having now not lost on their travels since October, with goalscorer Bradley Dack and half-time substitute Charlie Allen earning particular praise.

Gillingham's lead at the top of the table was cut from five to four points but they still boast a game in hand over their rivals, who now have just seven matches to close the gap.

After seeing Dack level the scores with his first-ever Football League goal, Allen said: "Bradley has been on the radar for a long time.

"He scored 27 goals in the youth team last year and five goals for us in pre-season and I think I perhaps should have used him more this season.

"Having said that I was going to rest him here because I wondered if three games in a week was going to be too much. But he scored some great goals in training on Friday and looked really sharp and that made my mind up.

"He has a great engine, really looks after himself and gets into great positions and I thought he and Charlie Allen were excellent for us.

"The pace and running ability they have is priceless and their power told in the second half, I think if anyone deserved to win it was us. They had a lot of the ball but didn't really hurt us."

The Grecians went in front when Craig Woodman's corner was diverted into his own goal by Matt Duke and Lawson D'Ath celebrated his debut with a headed second on the stroke of half-time.

Kyel Reid scored direct from a corner to give the Bantams hope, but further goals by Scot Bennett and John O'Flynn sealed an emphatic win for Tisdale's side.

"In the first half we were second best and conceding a goal straight from a corner is not good enough and the second goal wasn't great either," Parkinson said.

"Generally Exeter were the better team. We had the elements against us in the first half, but I have played in games like that where you have got to roll your sleeves up and got to be stronger than you would usually be all over the pitch.

"We gave ourselves a lot to do. I thought second-half we played well, we pinned them in and got some fantastic crosses into the box. We got the goal back and to concede the third so quickly was a real blow because the momentum was with us at that stage and we were really having a good spell in the game.

"So the third goal killed it. We changed it and chased the game again and got done on the counter-attack, so you can forgive the fourth one.

"First-half we were second best, second-half I thought we played well but we have to play well for the whole game because Exeter are a good side."

Chris Brown put Doncaster ahead in the first half, but although Portsmouth seldom posed a threat, when the chances came the home side's way they failed to take them.

Doncaster took their foot off the gas and Portsmouth cashed in when Jed Wallace fired home a left-footed shot from 10 yards after Patrick Agyemang had set up the chance.

Whittingham said: "We are not too euphoric because it is a draw and not a win - whether we deserved to win is immaterial.

"Our results have been better recently, but it's been building for some time.

"Everyone knows the problems we've had with players coming and going, but the lads who are here now have worked really hard.

"The results we have been getting is a reward for that and it's very encouraging to see players with a spring in their step again.

"I don't think they dominated too much, we allowed them to play their game in the first half and put that right after the interval.

"All I said at half-time was really to point out that we were only a goal down against the league leaders and still in the game."

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