After the game and in the warmth of the clubhouse, Nathan Haslam reflected on the dramatic events of the League Cup tie at Consett, which was eventually decided on penalties with the Steelmen going through 9-8 on spot kicks.
“It was an amazing finish, but it wasn’t a great start! I was looking forward to half time because there were a lot of fundamental problems defensively which obviously keep cropping up but we’ve had some words at half time. I’ve asked them to do some simple things and they’ve done that and started to believe, and it worked. Consett are a brilliant team, especially here when passing the ball. They had 65% of the possession in the first half and you think with the wind behind them in the second half there was going to be an onslaught but it wasn’t that way. We reversed it. We had 65% of possession and I think we’ve had enough chances to win the game in 90 minutes. We showed character, we showed belief. Anyone can win on penalties and that’s the only reason we haven’t gone through, but it was a cracking performance in the second half.”
Not many people were expecting penalties five minutes from time with the score still 3-1 but as Nathan pointed out, “It’s not the first time we’ve done this, go back to Hebburn when we were 5-1 down with 10 minutes to go and go back to Thornaby when we were 2-0 down with virtually no minutes to go, so there’s definitely character in the team. But on the back of continuous defeats that we’ve had, I’ve seen a lot of belief in them tonight. There are lads who haven’t been in the team for a while who’ve come in because of other lads being cup tied, and they’ve earned their start next time out, it’s as simple as that. So I’m happy about that because that’s what I want to see. I’m chuffed to bits with Luke Salmon because he’s been badly out of form. That’s why he wasn’t in the team and he’s acknowledged that. I spoke to him yesterday. We had a chat and he said he was ready for it. I can’t fault him and it makes me proud to be honest with you, to see him get stuck in there, because you want characters.”
Craig McFarlane returned to the side and was an influential figure. He earned warm praise for his contribution. “Macca brings a dynamism to the team, he plays off the cuff and he likes to run forward pace so we put him up there. We thought Consett’s weaknesses were in behind but first half it didn’t pan out that way, they were well organised and they had more of the ball but second half he showed us a bit more what Craig McFarlane’s about, but we’re a couple of games away from seeing the best of him. It’s good to have him back, massively good. It was another option to play him up front. Macca’s so versatile, I still see him as a proper kind of wing man but when I see performances like tonight you kind of scratch your head a little bit because he can cause problems up front. Consett were a good team, well organised but he’s caused them problems as has Marcus Giles again, an 18 year old who I’m chuffed to bits with.
“Take the penalty element away from it, that second half we’ve had chances to win the game, we really have. We had a one on one where Kyle Hayes has pulled off a brilliant save, and we hit the post..and they’re good team! I keep saying it, we are a good team. But its consistency that’s the issue, for any manager it’s an issue. We know where we’re a bit weak and we need to work on it. When we came out second half they kept saying to me ‘we can do it.’ The important thing is we just need to do it every game!
“There are some players who are not fully fit, it was their first game back for a while so they could be involved in the Reserves game on Saturday to build up match fitness.”
A new name on the team sheet was Andre Bennett and as Nathan explained, knowing the player from when they were both at Bishop Auckland was a key factor in bringing him to Hillheads. “He signed today, it was a late signing. Players of Andre’s ilk don’t come around too much in the Northern League and it’s only because of a past connection we had at Bishop Auckland. We get along great, he’s a great kid and he knows what I want from him. There were other clubs interested and I was just chuffed to get him over the line. The moment he came on that pitch we looked a different team and he fills me with lots of optimism going forward.”