Darren looks ahead to two games in three days as the festive football continues...
Stevenage welcome Colchester United to The Lamex Stadium on Saturday (3pm) in the final game of 2016, before Monday’s trip to Doncaster in the first match of 2017 and speaking to press at Bragbury End this morning, Darren indicated he’s very much looking forward to the challenge.
First up is the visit of the U’s, whose 1-0 win at Luton on Boxing Day lifted them level on points with Boro, albeit a place above them in the table thanks to goal difference.
Speaking about Saturday’s opponents, Darren told us, “I know John (McGreal) from our days as youth team coaches. To manage the situation of coming down from a league is difficult, very difficult. From experience when I took over as caretaker, to take over a team that had lost for three-quarters of the campaign was very difficult to manage, as the players mind-set was somewhere else.
“I think he’s done brilliantly. Of late they’ve hit a really rich vein of form which always seems to be the case when teams come to The Lamex. They’re in good form, but we’re in good form. They’re a good side but I think they’re all good sides in League 2. You just don’t get a rest. With all due respect there’s no Chelsea v Burnley, it’s never like that and the gulf is never that big. You can see that by the teams that are down there.
“It’s really important we try and maximise every opportunity given to us. We haven’t so far but we’ve got better at maximising those opportunities. It’s important that despite our respect towards Colchester, and we of course give John and his team respect in the way we prepare, it’s so important we concentrate on Stevenage and we keep looking at Stevenage.
“If we had done better for our two goals we would have won the game on Monday and that’s Stevenage, not Cambridge. So it’s important we focus on ourselves. It’s pretty clichéd but it’s quite prominent that we have that type of thinking and we give those guys and girls that come to the home games, we give them something to really support.”
Two games in quick succession means Darren’s squad will be tested and he indicated there may be some rotation.
“We’ve got a real mix here in that we’ve either got – they’ll hate me for saying this, but I’ll say it – old or young. Jamie Jones is probably the only one in that 27-30 year old ‘peak’ years of your career (bracket). It’s tough. The intensity I want to play at and the intensity the supporters demand that the players carry out the game in, means it’s going to be hard for some to play two games in three days. So there will need to be a rotation.
“I also think that going into the Doncaster game, we’re now going into the second half of the season where we’ve played everyone. It’s now about utilising what you know, what hindsight can teach you, where we can learn from what we did wrong before and how we can utilise the squad tactically and strategically in a better way to get more points.
“I’ve got half a mind on Saturday, half a mind on Monday. I’ll make sure we utilise the players we need to utilise in order to get six points, because we don’t play any game to draw and we certainly don’t play any game to lose.
"I can’t wait. Two games in three days? That is Christmas. I’m very much looking forward to it. Colchester is the challenge at the moment and the performance and results at home have to change, and on Sunday morning, whatever mood I’m in emotionally, we’ll look at Doncaster away."
For the full pre-match press conference, in which Darren talks more about the Boxing Day defeat, the form of Ben Kennedy, his four loanees and more, sign up or sign in to Boro PlayerHD now at www.player.stevenagefc.com.
Tickets for Saturday's game can be purchased at 'in advance' prices in-store until 5pm on Friday 30th December, or online at www.borotickets.co.uk until midnight on Friday 30th December. Tickets can also be purchased on all cash turnstiles on Saturday at Category A match day prices.