Graham Alexander has challenged his players to get back to the high standards they showed against Preston North End and Coventry City after they brought their pre-season schedule to a close with a 1-1 draw away at Southport on Saturday.
David Ball scored his second goal in two games to open the scoring at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, but former Town favourite, Jamie Milligan, levelled from the spot in a tight final match of Fleetwood’s pre-season programme before the new Sky Bet League 2 season gets underway on Saturday against Dagenham & Redbridge.
Following the game, Alexander admitted that he was left disappointed with his teams performance during the game, especially after they had shown such high standards in their previous two matches against League 1 opposition.
Speaking to the Cod Player after the game, Alexander said: “It was a little bit flat today. We never really got going so it was disappointing, but it showed that we still have a lot of work to do so we don’t get carried away with the results we have had against Coventry and Preston in pre-season. We are still a work in progress and we still have a lot of improving to do.
“We can understand it (the performance), but we can’t accept it, because we want the highest standards every day in training and in every game we play. We will go in Monday morning and talk about yesterday, talk about what makes us a very good team when we have shown as a team the qualities that win us games and we will prepare for the game next Saturday, which is the big kick-off.”
Reflecting back on his first pre-season as a manager, the 41-year-old said declared himself satisfied with how his team have stepped up the challenges he has set, and after another week of preparation, his players will be ready for the first game of the new season next Saturday.
“The lads are fit, without a doubt, we can score goals, even though we only scored the one today, it was good for Bally (David Ball) to get back on the score sheet again. We’re not going to get to despondent or disappointed, I am disappointed (today) because I expect high standards from individuals and from the team and I won’t ever go away from those high standards.
“If they are not reached, I am obviously going to be a little bit down but looking at the bigger picture, we have had a tough pre-season with some tough opponents as well and we have come through it fit injury-wise and we have got the confidence that if we play to our maximum we can beat good teams so that’s what we will take into our league form.
“All in all over the course of pre-season the lads have been fantastic, they have really worked hard. We have put them through their paces and worked them hardly mentally as well as physically. Today what pleased me more than anything was the lads, after the game, were disappointed with themselves, they know themselves that they have not reached the heights in the previous games, but there is certain factors in that. We will just prepare for the game next Saturday and the big kick-off.”
Over the course of the new season, Alexander wants his players to play to their strengths as they have done during a successful pre-season. Fleetwood have won four, drawn one and lost one of their six games, including two stand out performances against Preston and Coventry.
“We need to stick to our principals and our way of playing, whoever the opponent. We will obviously come up against different opponents, who play different styles and have different qualities and we have to be good enough to stick to what we believe in and what we’ve bought players to do.
“We have certain qualities in our squad and we have to use those, if we don’t then we are doing ourselves an injustice and perhaps today was a reminder of what we have to do win games and be competitive. That’s what we will base upon our chat on Monday and sticking to what we believe is the right thing to do and what has got us results in pre-season and take them into the game against Dagenham next week.”
Alexander has also been left impressed by the Fleetwood faithful ahead of Town’s second season in the Football League and he says he and his team will be looking to give them maximum effort every game to reward their loyalty and support.
He added: “It’s great to see (the number of fans), we even had a few out in Austria as well, which is fantastic. We know the loyal following that they will go with us where ever we go and ally to that we have a responsibility that where ever we go that represent them the best possible way and that’s giving them the maximum every game and trying to get them the results.
“That’s what we are all here for and we appreciate their support so much and that they follow us where ever we go. They are always behind the team and long may that continue.”
The Town manager invites supporters to the Highbury Open Day this Tuesday. The first team will take to the pitch for training at around 10.30 and supporters are invited into Jim's Sports Bar for a Q&A session with the manager and players. The bar will be open and there will be opportunities for photos and autographs.