Manager Nicky Hayen praised his Haverfordwest County players for the way they controlled the game against Cefn Druids yesterday, as his first game in charge ended in a 2-0 success at The Rock.
Goals from the impressive Alhagi Touray Sisay and Jack Wilson, whose strike from 25 yards could end up winning goal of the season, helped the Bluebirds to pick up a vital victory which moves them to within just one point of Barry Town United in 10th.
Having been appointed as the club’s new First Team Manager and Technical Director on December 31, Hayen has had to wait nearly two months to take charge officially while his work permit was processed, and he made clear his delight at finally taking to the dugout for the first time yesterday.
Here’s what the manager had to say after the game:
You must be delighted to pick up such an important victory in your first game in charge?
“Absolutely. I already congratulated the coaching staff also during the time that I wasn’t able to work, they put in a really good foundation for us to build on. You can see that the group is willing to play the football I like, and from the beginning we controlled the game and I think we deserved to win.
“However, we do have to be aware of not becoming too sloppy and to keep going for the 90 minutes, not picking the moments like 60 minutes excellent and 30 minutes less so. We have to be more consistent, but no, overall I’m very happy.”
It’s been a bit of a wait for you to finally take charge, it must have been great to be in the dugout for the first time?
“It was great. If you’re not able to work you can’t say anything to the group, and this is difficult as a manager because you see some details that you can change, and if you’re not allowed to it’s difficult because you see things happen and you can’t solve them, and that’s why I was really delighted that I could be on the bench and was able to make some changes when I saw something.
“Sometimes the impact is bigger than people know, but the team did excellent yesterday so all the credit goes to them.”
The team’s performances have improved considerably of late, but we haven’t picked up the points we probably deserved, so it must be a relief for the players to get the win which shows their hard work is starting to pay off?
“Yes of course. We have improved already in ball possession, also we conceded less chances than before, and what’s also very important is you can see it two ways: we played five games and we only lost one, so that means you were unbeaten in four games, but then you can say we deserved more points.
“We need to be more efficient and score more from the chances we create, this is still an area where we can improve, and this is something we will try to do in the training sessions.”
That was our first win in the league since we beat Newtown at the end of October, could you sense the motivation and desperation from the players to end that run?
“Of course. However, what you cannot do is rush on things because the longer you lose, the closer a victory will come, and you only have to believe and have faith in the things you do and trust in the skills.
“My approach is that I want to be a positive manager, and everyone knows when they’ve made a mistake. You can highlight it and have a negative approach, and then players feel more guilty than they already do. So no, everyone makes mistakes, also managers and coaching staff members, but the focus is on how we can improve and not make these mistakes again and try to build for the future.
“This is the way we approach it, and from what I’ve seen so far we’re doing really well.”
What do you think has been the biggest area of improvement in the team since you came in?
“I think the biggest difference now is we really believe in our own skills. We know when to control the game when it’s necessary, and when to maybe speed up or slow down. We have the players to play this formation, and also multiple systems or formations and that makes it exciting because we can always adapt to numerous situations.
“We can exploit the weaknesses of the opposition, but of course everyone has to be 100%. If we think we can play at 75%, or if we lack the motivation or are not consistent anymore – for example the last 15 minutes of the first-half yesterday – then you see that even a team like Druids can put pressure on and create chances.
“It’s partly because of their pressure, but also because we didn’t do our job anymore that we did excellently for 30 minutes. This is something we have to be consistent with for 90 minutes, but overall I’m satisfied.”
Jack Wilson’s strike was right out of the top drawer, was it one of the best strikes you’ve seen?
“Yes.It was really in the top corner. The control was excellent, the shot was excellent, and I think he deserves it.
“This is something we can do more, shoot from the second line, from outside the 18-yard box. OK, you can shoot from 40 yards, but it’s not the same as if you’re in a shooting position like Jack was, but if there’s no pressure on you and you can have a good shot, you can always try it. Then the other guys need to be aware to follow it up.”
Something which was noticeable with Jack’s goal was where he picked the ball up, he played at wing-back but collected the ball on the edge of the area, is this fluidity in movement and positioning something you’re keen to see?
“For me it’s most important that all of the positions on the pitch how we want to play are filled in. Of course, it does matter who plays in which position, but you always have unexpected moves or movements, and if someone else is out of position and someone can fix it or replace him in that position, I don’t have any problems with it.
“I like it because this dynamic causes problems for the opposition, and also with Ryan [George], he had an excellent opportunity to score. That shows my full-backs can be really offensive, and then we have to keep the rest of the organisation.
“People know who is responsible for the defensive organisation when we play really offensive, and if they keep on doing this they can move on.”
Looking ahead to Phase Two then, is it fair to say that there’s a real positive mentality in the squad heading into the final 10 games of the season?
“Absolutely. But I’ve been observing the group and I’ve had some conversations with the coaching staff and some players, and I think how they got involved and jumped on the boat is because they have a positive mentality, and they see that what we try to do is effective.
“They see that they’re having more possession, the accuracy is much higher than before, they feel the confidence from both sides – from players and the coaching staff – and it has a lot to do with confidence, if you feel confident you can do much more than someone who isn’t confident.
“This is what we will try to do until the end of the season. This is a positive result. When I arrived I said I’m not coming here for one, two, three games, there were 15 games left when I came. Now it’s 10, it will be 10 cup finals, and this is how we have to approach it – like we did yesterday.”