Town’s Manager on away form, the rest of the season and the January window
Chris Powell says there is still lots of work ahead of the team during the rest of the 2014/15 season – starting with improving the team’s away form.
Town’s home record has been great on the whole, but results on the road have not always reflected performances. That is something Powell wants to put right as soon as possible, ideally starting at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
“The away form is the major question for us at this time, because we’ve been very good at home in the main. We’ve also shown an ability to bounce back from poor results at vital times, when questions are being asked,” Chris commented.
“There’s still loads of work to do in the second-half of the season and the away form is the main subject.
“Despite the results, we’ve been ‘in’ a lot of our games on the road. At Norwich we started well, hitting the bar before the sending-off that changed the flow of the game; we should have won at Rotherham; one moment cost us at Bolton; we had to come from two down at Ipswich – I could go on and on.
“Somehow, we need to add a bit more discipline and not be as open in our attacking away from home. We like playing quite an open style at home, but now we have to go to places like Middlesbrough and really give ourselves a foothold in the game by being a bit less expansive.
“We’ve found out how hard it is when teams come to the John Smith’s Stadium and shut up shop, so we have to take something from that. We need to break the home team’s rhythm up. We feel we have the options all over the park to be strong and a bit more compact.
“On Saturday we can’t let Middlesbrough get into their stride and stay there because they have some good players who will excel. We’ve got to do our best to control the midfield.”
By improving the away form, Chris believes the team can continue to climb the Championship ladder:
“We still have a lot of games to be played – there’s more than a third of the season to go. We want to continue on the league form after the draw at Rotherham and wins over Bolton and Watford.
“I want to look up rather than down. I’m sure our fans look at the table and see that we are 10 points from 6th and eight points from the bottom three; I want that to be the other way around. That’s something for us to target and strive for.
“Now we’re out of the cups, we need something to achieve. The Club’s league position has improved year on year for the last six seasons, so straight away our aim is to finish higher than last year and show improvement. That gives us something to go for in each game.
“The Sky Bet Championship is so tight, which means things will change week in and week out.”
A lot of attention will be on Jacob Butterfield’s return to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday; he moved between the two clubs in the summer.
Chris continued: “I’m very pleased with Jacob; he’s my sort of player. He wants to grab assists, score goals and get involved; he never hides from the football regardless of the situation. He’s not settled anywhere for a while after a serious injury, but he’s been very good for me; he’s showing everyone what a good player he is.
“I always feel that players have a point to prove when they go back to an old club, whether they did well there or not. I think it’s always good to go back and show people you are a good player, even though you’ve moved onto new pastures. I’m sure Jacob will take it in his stride.”
Powell’s midfield options will be bolstered this weekend with the return of Jonathan Hogg from suspension, but Powell admitted that Oscar Gobern’s performance against Watford has given him food for thought.
“Jonathan has been excellent for me; he’s much underrated. He’s been a catalyst for lots of our play. We’re stronger as a squad with Jonathan available, whether that’s in the team or on the bench.
“Oscar came in having not started a game and for someone who has been on the fringes or out on loan, he showed he has the attitude and ability to play at this level. I couldn’t see a way in for him before, so I’m really pleased with him. Not only did he play 90 minutes, but he contributed to a very good all-round performance.”
Two players whose availability is still touch and go are Murray Wallace and Harry Bunn, who are on the mend after suffering hamstring injuries.
Chris explained: “It’s possible; we’ll give them tomorrow until we decide if they’re available to travel with the squad. If not, that opens avenues and doors for others to come in and we’ll make sure they’re ready for Wigan next week.
“Otherwise we’re ok. Training has been good and I’ve been happy with the preparation in the lead-up to the game.”
The January transfer window is still open and Powell gave fans an update:
“It’s no secret I want a striker – there just aren’t too many available. I’m ok with it though; I’m quite relaxed. The squad is ok.
“Our two strikers have been very good and I’m very pleased for both James (Vaughan) and Nahki (Wells). Of course James has only just come back, but he’s got two in three in the league and we’re managing him as best we can. He looks stronger every day in training and both players look very confident.
“We need the right type of player and any deal has to be financially right. We haven’t managed to get anything over the line yet, but there’s still time; we’re not going to rush into anything. It would have to be the right player. Not too many players go ‘under the radar’ now; there are always lots of clubs after the same guys. That’s another hurdle we have to overcome. Hopefully it will happen.
“We spent over £1 million at this time last year, but that won’t be happening again this January. We’re cutting our cloth accordingly and doing what is right for the team, the squad and the Club.
“The Board – the Chairman, CEO and Ross Wilson – and I are in constant discussion. Dean (Hoyle) has been first class since I’ve been here; when I’ve wanted to bring people in, I’ve been given the ability to do so and we’ve had the two loan players arrive. We have good people here.”
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