“That’s our main focus now, to keep digging in, roll our sleeves up and get on with it…”
Mark Bonner is relishing the test Port Vale will provide his Cambridge United side with at the weekend.
The Sky Bet League One newcomers arrive on the back of a pleasing start, obtaining that hunger and enthusiasm for the challenges which are heading their way. Although the U’s are in a testing period, they importantly have a foundation to build upon.
“It’s a new season and a new challenge and they’ve taken to it really well. They’ve got fairly good continuity in the team that got promoted and added well, got a big squad with lots of options, particularly strong in the attacking positions.
“They’re a high-running team, high-crossing team, high-pressing team so we know we’ll have to be physically committed to the game, ready for the duels and the fight and scrap that it takes to be competitive. We’ll have to bring our own periods of control as well.
“An interesting, difficult game, and it’s up to us to create an atmosphere and inspire each other with our performance levels.”
What has been exciting in the past week is the change of formation to a 3/5/2, which over the years has evolved into a really steady setup that provides threats and numbers in every sector of the pitch, so long as the players utilised suit it.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while, thinking ‘right, how can we try and create a different way of playing, develop a different style or dynamic?’ What you see with the best teams at the top level, but also at this level, is the ability to play multiple shapes and change shapes throughout the game.
“We went for a strategy this summer of a real high continuity in the squad and the playing style and that paid off very well because our start was exactly what we needed it to be… you get to the stage where teams are settled, they know what you are and you need to find different ways. The timing of it was probably inevitable.
“Over the course of the season, we’ll dip in and out of a number of shapes now, which should help us.”
In a press conference battered with injury news - where the Head Coach underlined the extent of the setback for seven key men, including the devastating news of Adam May's ACL injury - he ultimately needs his group to pull together through this form of adversity.
“It reminds you that this does happen to every team… you can’t choose the order of your fixtures or the timing of your injuries. The squad is obviously really tested at the moment with form, results and injuries.
“I said to the players last week ‘if you’re ever looking for confidence, you’ve only got to look at history, and if the history shows you’ve done it before, it means you can do it again’.
“For us, that’s the main focus now, to keep digging in, roll our sleeves up and get on with it because we can’t control all of those things, but we can choose our response to them.”