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Pre Match Press Conference | Crawley Town

Here's what the gaffer had to say ahead of Saturday's game.

12 October 2017

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iFollow subscribers can watch the full interview (above).

Town boss Russell Slade has emphasised the importance of this weekend’s Sky Bet League Two fixture with 18th-placed Crawley Town.

The Mariners, who are unbeaten in their last four home games, welcome Harry Kewell’s men to Blundell Park on Saturday (3pm), and Slade believes it could be a big test as he eyes up a play-off spot.

Speaking on iFollow Mariners, he said: “It’s a big game for us. I think it’s a really big game against an improving team that have won their last two away games – that’s something we’ve not done, so we’ve got respect for them immediately when they come to us.

“I do feel, though, if we can somehow find a way to win on Saturday, that will firmly put is in the top half and very close to the play-offs.

“Everything could be a little bit better. You want perfection, you never get that in this game but that doesn’t stop you from searching for that, and we’ll be looking to improve and build on what we’ve done so far at home.

“They [Crawley] have pace and energy on the counter attack. Of their 19 goals, I think they’ve scored eight goals in transition – in other words – won the ball and countered very quickly. That’s the highest in the league.

“He [Harry Kewell] was a very good player, for sure, and that experience as a player will help him. He’s still early days in his management and he will know that, and he’ll make mistakes as we all do early on.

“He’ll be finding his way around and it’s a fantastic opportunity for him and a great experience managing his first club, and I’m sure that they’re going to be an improving side.

“Jimmy [Smith] and Dean Cox, who’s been injured, were excellent players for me [at Leyton Orient]. Coxy, wide, provided great crossing ability and always was double figures for goals, and Jimmy got double figures from midfield.

“You’ve got to watch Jimmy because he arrives in the box, he’s a threat from a set play or he’s a threat from open play by getting in the box, so we’ll need to be mindful of him.”

And the gaffer also praised the Town fans for their support this season, as he said they can help the team push on.

He said: “Our fans have been magnificent. They were vocal and fantastic away from home again at Port Vale on a wet, miserable day.

“If they can stay behind us, together I think we can go and get in that top 10 coming out of this game – that would be terrific for us.”

Slade also revealed how Luke Summerfield, who has started the Mariners’ last three league games, has taken on-board what he’s asked of him in recent weeks.

“We have little conversations, talked about kind of modifying his game a little bit a good few weeks ago because he does like to get about the pitch.

“But I think I’ve tried to make him realise as he matures to get more selective because he’s good on the ball, takes the ball, can find a pass, so all those things from a deeper position sometimes can be a real benefit to the team.

“And he found the perfect pass, for example, for [Siriki] Dembele on Saturday.

“He will know that there’s competition for players, he will know that he has to keep performing if he wants to stay in the side.

“And to be fair that’s the same for every single player. I think we have got good competition and the more these players are coming back as well, the more competition that creates.

“It’s a good group. It’s a group that’s together, and I think it’s a group that will continue to improve. There’ll be dips along the way, and there’ll be difficult times, but it’s a good group and it’ll generally progress,” he said.

The gaffer also said he’s expecting a near-full injury-free squad for Saturday’s game, but Scott Vernon had a sickness bug earlier in the week, while Sean McAllister and Jamey Osborne remain out.

“He [Akwasi Asante] is still a little way short of where we need him but, again, another positive he’s come through that game with no injury worries, which is the main thing.

“You’ve just got to kind of monitor [it] really and he’s just so short of games – that’s the big thing, but we’ll just monitor it week-to-week.”

And he also said that winger Tom Bolarinwa is continuing to reach full fitness, following starting in the Checkatrade Trophy clash with Scunthorpe United last week.

“When I talk about the niggly injuries, he comes into that category with this calf strain that he’s had. And he didn’t come out of the Scunthorpe game too well, so we didn’t take any risk with him on Saturday.

“That’s all it is really – he’s just fighting for full fitness and trying to force his way into a competitive group to get some pitch time.”

Slade also said he was pleased with trialists’ Carl Lawson, Jason Akiotu, and Jude Oyibo’s performances in the 2-0 friendly defeat to Mansfield Town this week.

“Yeah, to varying degrees, they did okay. There were no problems with their performance – whether we take any of that forward, we’ll wait and see.”

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