James Collins was delighted with the response from his under-23s as they bounced back from successive defeats to put in a promising all-round performance in their 3-0 win against Fulham.
Ahead of kick-off, the head coach had called for his players to focus on keeping just their second clean sheet of the season, and his players duly obliged, thanks to a outstanding performance from goalkeeper Andreas Sondergaard, as well as being clinical at the other end of pitch to net three time.
On picking up three points against Fulham
“I thought we fully deserved it and I’m delighted we kept a clean sheet. After having a good start to our season, in both our football and our structure and shape, I felt we conceded too many goals.
“It was nice to keep a clean sheet, and scoring three is always a plus, so I thought it was a really good all-round performance.
“I felt that we played excellent in the last two games; Aston Villa for an hour and Crystal Palace last week and came away with nothing. That hurt the boys, because to play well and not win is disappointing, but you know that if you keep a zero, you’re not going to lose, and that’s a good start.”
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On keeping a clean sheet
“With that group of players, you know you’re going to be a threat and get a goal, so as soon as we got a goal early, I thought today’s about keeping a zero, which they did.
“Our shape is very difficult to play against, especially when you’re 1-0 down, like the opponents found because they then have to come out and it gives us a chance to counter-attack from there.
“When you get an early goal, it always gives you an advantage in any system, but I think in our system especially so.”
On Sondergaard’s goalkeeping performance
“He’s a terrific professional. He trains down with the first-team every day and you can see his improvement from that, but he enjoys coming and getting his game time with us.
“He always comes back and is very good with the other boys, he’s always respectful and does what you ask of him, so I’m delighted he kept a clean sheet.”
On Meritan Shabani getting off the mark
“When you’ve had an ACL, everyone who’s played football knows that it’s a horrible injury. To have eight or nine months out the game, you’re unsure whether you’re ever going to come back.
“That’s how it feels, but he’s worked every so hard for him to come back, and since he’s come back he’s been missing that final bit – the goal.
“I know it’s been getting him down a little bit. We have a debrief conversation after every game and he gets very self-analytical and criticises himself, so I was absolutely delighted when he got the goal right at the end, and that was the cherry on the cake for me today.”