By our Club Reporter.
Following on from a draw against Stranraer the Warriors face a tough test at league leaders Forfar on Saturday but gaffer Scott Booth has not expected any easy games and knows his team will have to work hard for their points.
“It will be a tough game,” said Booth, “although they have all been tough, all the games have been competed for and there have been times when both teams have had strong points and where the opposition take control a little bit, there have been very few games when I feel we have been able to dictate play for a long time.
“I think that is for a number of reasons, we manage to play well in periods then we let it drop and that is when the opposition come in and they stamp their authority on a bit of the game and when they have done that we have conceded goals. During that period we may not be able to dictate play but we should not be losing the goals we are losing. We should be able to defend those periods of the game and I think that is one of the reasons why a lot of the games have been tougher than they should have been.
“There have been four or five games so far when it has been very very tight between the two teams and we have lost, I wont say a silly goal but a goal we could have prevented with better defending or better decision making, that has been galling as I felt there have been games when we have been right in it but have not really been able to take advantage when we had the pressure and then not been able to shut up shop and make it difficult.
“That is what we have been working on in training, trying to make it tighter and I think we are getting there, we have done a lot of work and I have had a chat with the players and we know where the areas of improvement are needed.
“We are going to Forfar, where we know it will be a tough game as they play a different sort of style which is very attacking and very quick and we know what is coming but I am looking forward to the game.”
Despite lapses, Stenhousemuir have shown they can defend and the win against Morton was a good example, although that was a different situation to the times when Stenny have lost some goals, with Booth saying: “We can but it is more than that as well, that kind of defending you see at the end of a game, is when you are a goal up and the opposition are getting stronger and you tend to find those backs against the wall performances are at the end of the game more than anything else.
“That is fine, sometimes you need to defend like that but at other times during the game, when the opposition have the upper hand, which will happen in almost any game, we have to make sure we do not lose a goal. That is a little bit to do with experience, we have got a young side and within that there are a number of players who still have to learn, to be a bit tougher, a bit more streetwise and a bit more physical at times.
“I think the team is full of good players who like to go to play good football but in this league, against the opposition we face every week, we have to have a harder edge to us as well at times and we are working on that.”
Losing a goal to a quickly taken free kick at Brechin showed the need for some more streetwise awareness and Booth agreed with this, saying: “We did not react at all well, we did not step in front of the ball to make sure it was not kicked early for the free kick and that is definitely one that sticks in my mind, also the three goals we lost in 15 minutes against Stirling Albion we could have prevented.
“I thought we played really well here against Ayr and could have got the win in that game and there have been a number of games like that. Against Stranraer for long periods I thought we were in control and were playing quite well but without getting the feeling we could put them down and we knew they were always going to be there and come back at us. I counted eight good chances for us and there were good positions as well, just round about the box, where we did not capitalise with the final pass. We certainly created good things in the game and if we had taken them earlier on, certainly in the first 20 to 25 minutes, the result would have been different but in the end I was happy with a point.”
The match at Station Park will mark the end of the first quarter of the season and although Booth has not set a specific target for the number of points, he obviously wants more and also to see an improvement, he said: “I think everyone knows we would like to have more points than we have got, you cannot run away from that and when you look at the league table you think we should have had at least six more points.
“We are where we are and it is a work in progress and we have to look at it in the slightly longer term than the first quarter and, as I have said, there are young players in the team that have to learn from some of the mistakes we have been making and we want to see them progress and I am really confident we have got players who will progress.
“There are a number who have been around various clubs, some in the leagues above us, that have joined us but they have not played competitive games for those clubs, they have dropped down so to speak although they had not played for the clubs they were with previously, so this is their first chance for real consistent first team game time and there is always going to be a learning curve when you have players going through that.
“That is where we are at the moment and the immediate goal would be to beat the level of points we have taken in this quarter in the next and to have more consistency than in those games when we have dipped at times and if we do that I am sure we will take more points.”
It is still a tight league and Booth knows that any team who can string a few good results together can challenge, he said: “It is a good example in that we have beaten Morton and drawn with Stranraer, who are two good teams, I thought Stranraer would be high in the table as they have two good strikers who score regularly, we know that Morton will be there or thereabouts, they are a full time team, but Forfar are doing really well so if we can take points of them, hopefully get the win, we can start to go on a bit of a run.
“That is the way it is, if you can put two or three wins together, as clubs like Brechin and Morton have shown, as did Ayr, at the start of the season, you can be propelled quite quickly up the league.”
Booth has a young squad to work with but with all young players there is plenty for them to learn and, at times, to have a little more belief in their own abilities, something the gaffer is addressing. “Yes, there a is a bit of a lack of belief in some players sometimes and I have already mentioned that to them,” he said, adding: “I think they are very good players who can go on and become even better players, I think some of them can go on and play full time football. That is something I really believe but it is also whether they believe it as well and that is where it takes a little bit of time with young players, because the only way the players get that belief is through playing games and this is their first taste of being a first-choice, first team player.
“It is very early on in the stage of having that self-belief where they can go on and develop but I am sure they will because already I feel the young players in the side, like Kieran Miller and Kris Faulds, in particular, have definitely progressed, Ciaran Summers and Ross Meechan have progressed since the start of the season, so there are a number of young players in there that are getting better but there are a few that still need to improve further.”
One advantage of a young squad is that all of the players should be hungry for football and success. Booth said: “I think a young player should automatically be hungry for games but it is up to the player's individual mentality about where he sees himself playing eventually.
“It is the nature of part-time football, where some are at university, some have got jobs and some with good jobs and it also depends on what happens outside of football because that can dictate what happens inside football.
“If they have a job they like but love their football the chance is that they are hungry enough to make the step up to try to get full time football and that is the mentality we want and the majority of the young players we have want full time football, they want to continue to develop and learn. As I have mentioned with Ross Meechan this is his first taste of first team football and Ciaran Summers it was his first season starting in the first team and Kieran Miller had not played in almost two years before coming here, he was out constantly with injury but had had a good grounding at Hamilton and he has done excellently since coming into the side. Kris Faulds had a few games with Falkirk's first team a year or so ago but this is his first chance to show he is a starting eleven player.
“These are all players that need to handle being the first choice, to be able to sustain their form and stay in the side and also to want to develop and become full time players when they have the opportunity. I have only mentioned a few of them and there are another three of four we have that can do that as well.”
For some players with previous experience, albeit if it is not a lot, it is also the case of getting used to a new style of play, especially if it is quite different to the player's previous club. “That may have been the case with Kris Faulds,” said Booth, “He is an excellent technical player, he is one of the most technically gifted as far as being on the ball and comfortable on the ball, a great passer of the ball with good movement. He takes responsibility, he wants the ball, he is an excellent player but the problem with players like that is that as a young player in a team who play in a tough league you are constantly closed down and the tempo of the game is quite high at times. That can make it difficult to develop a rhythm when you first come in to the team and also to get the confidence to keep going and doing it because you are going to make mistakes, it is inevitable. He has made mistakes, he knows that but the good thing is he keeps bouncing back and he wants to go on and play again and I am delighted to have such a technical player who is a young player and a player who is hungry and wants to improve.”
While mistakes are inevitable for any team they are also something that need to be ironed out as soon as possible. Booth said: “We do video analysis every Thursday, so they see their mistakes but they will also see the things they do well, they see the mistakes they make individually and as a group. That is something they know will constantly come at them but they know it is nothing to be afraid of because it is used in a really positive way and we talk through these situations with the players.
“It is inevitable players will make mistakes and there have already been numerous individual errors within the side and that is a thing we have to cut down on but the individual errors are the more difficult to eradicate. Errors that are made by the team in general are easier to handle because there is generally an easy way to correct it but an individual error takes in the player's confidence, whether they are in form or not and the type of game they were involved in, there are so many different factors behind it.
“I am really happy with the way they have bounced back and again on Saturday when we were two one down, they kept battling, they all wanted to stay on the park and they all wanted to get a result for the team and that shows the level of commitment they have and they got the draw against Stranraer and I think it was deserved.”
Martin Grehan only lasted a few minutes against Stranraer and that was a blow for the Warriors and also a worry for the future. “Martin has been excellent for us,” said Booth. “I feel he has been great as it is important to have one player in your squad who is a spearhead of the attack and who can do a number of things within the game, predominately holding the ball up and linking with other players but also scoring goals and he has experience to handle certain situations.
“He has done brilliantly for us and we tried as best we could to get him through the game on Saturday but it was one of those where we just did not know how it was going to go and, given his form, we had to take the chance but he took a knock within a few minutes and he was feeling it and he was honest enough to say he could not do it.
“Then Colin McMenamin comes on and scored two goals and that is what you are looking for and it gives me a headache picking the next team if Martin is fit but that is the great thing about having Colin around as we know he will give us goals and he is still really really hungry which is great at his age and his situation with the club, where he is the development Squad manager. So we will see how Martin goes over the week, at the moment [Wednesday] he is still not training but we will give him every chance possible to be fit for the match.”
If Grehan is fit he will probably need to start as coming off the bench is not ideal in his situation, as Booth said: “The option is always there to do that but I always feel it is better to start the game than come on if you have a niggle because you are generally just sitting around and then you come on when your warm up has not been the best.
“It is something we will have to wait and see, it is a difficult one as it is a back problem so we cannot take any risks with Martin but I am more than confident with Gary Oliver, who has been excellent for us, he is a fantastic lad and we have Colin, Ryan Miller, we also have Paul Jon Sludden who are still hungry to get games, plus we have the wingers and Josh Watt who can come into it, so there are plenty of options for us.”
There is also the goal-scoring potential of Sean Dickson in midfield which is another plus for Booth and while the midfielder is still one of the younger members of the squad he is also a senior player, now in his sixth season of first team action at Ochilview.
“Sean Dickson scores goals and he has given us a goal since coming back into the side. He has certainly in the last couple of weeks given us a bit extra, especially as far as the midfield is concerned, and in going forward and giving a little bit more of a threat from that area.
“He is still quite a young lad although he is not a young boy any more, he is one of the mature players in the squad and he has played a number of games now. I do not think he would like to be considered a young player any more, he is still young but he is at the stage now when you need more consistency from him in his play and the performance against Morton was excellent and that is what we need from him every week but that is what we want from all the players every week.”