Match-winner Morais relishing ‘favoured’ role

Midfielder spoke to the Comet after his two goals downed Pompey on Tuesday

TUESDAY night’s two-goal hero Filipe Morais says Boro fans will start to see the best of him now he is playing behind the striker rather than on the wing.

The 26-year-old Portuguese, who was brought in by manager Gary Smith during the summer after the midfielder’s contract expired at Oldham, scored in each half against Portsmouth – his first goals for the club – to seal an impressive win that cemented Boro’s place in the automatic promotion spots after 14 games.

Earlier on in the season Smith deployed Morais on the wing, where he perhaps failed to show what he is capable of. Tuesday night was the first time this season he has played behind the striker for the entire 90 minutes, and Boro certainly reaped the rewards as he proved a constant threat to the visitors and was rewarded with two goals.

“I’m playing in the position I most like, behind the striker, where I feel I can be most effective. The manager slowly eased me in and it’s been good,” Morais told the Comet.

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“I’ve done the job on the wing for a while, especially away from home where you’ve got to be more defensive, but that’s what it takes for us to win so that’s what I did.

“But at the moment I’m really enjoying it because I can play in a more ‘flair’ type role, but I also like to get back and help as well which gives us a solid feel in the middle of the park. At the moment it is working well so we’ve just got to keep working hard and things will only get better.”

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Apart from a 15-minute period at the start of the second half, where they scored their equaliser, Portsmouth looked a very disjointed outfit playing well below the sum of their parts. Players such as Akos Buzsaky, Izale McLeod, Lee Williamson, Jon Harley and Brian Howard have all played at a higher level but for the most part the visitors struggled to cope with Boro’s high-tempo gameplan.

Both of these sides went through massive overhauls in the summer – for very different reasons, of course – but it was clear for all to see on Tuesday which team has gelled better than the other.

“That’s credit to us. We knew the qualities Portsmouth had – Buzsaky played in the Premier League and is a great player, and a lot of them I know as they are my friends – and they are on good money as well because they are at a club that can afford to pay more than clubs like us and others in League 1, so they are going to be a tough outfit,” said Morais.

“But one thing we’ve got, as well as our good play, is our sprit and I think we stifled them with that and stopped them playing.”

One of the major factors in Boro’s success so far this season has been the continuation of the team spirit that served the team so well last season and under Graham Westley. And despite the plethora of new faces that came through the door in the summer, the team is still demonstrating those same qualities this season, and Morais feels his manager deserves a lot of credit for identifying players who would not shirk at pulling their weight.

“I think the manager has done a great job because he has identified good players, but players with a great attitude,” said Morais. “We all want to do well and we all know what’s required. It’s not all just about going forward, and we know how much we need to do off the ball. We knew coming to Stevenage that they had a lot of spirit and nobody wants to let the team down.

“I personally didn’t want to be the one that was the weak player, because I was coming to a team that was known for their strength, and I didn’t want them to lose it, and I think that’s the same for all the lads that came in.”

There is a sense this team is really starting to gel as we head towards the middle part of the season. Despite getting the points on the board consistently since August, performances weren’t always brilliant in the early stages of the campaign.

But with each passing fixture the players are demonstrating a better understanding of the 4-2-3-1 formation, and more importantly the chemistry between the players is enhancing every week.

“As much as we got some good results early on without playing that well, we always knew the one thing we could do was get better going forward, because we have the talent. It’s about gelling and that doesn’t happen overnight,” Morais added.

“That formation is about everyone knowing everyone’s strengths, and that’s when you start seeing things coming together. The main thing earlier in the season was making sure we didn’t get beaten, and then having moments of brilliance from individual players to win points.

“At the moment it’s coming together but it’s still early days and I think we will get much better. If we can keep our spirit that’s the thing that will take us through.”

Up next for Stevenage is a home match against Swindon Town this Saturday. Boro’s home form has improved from the early part of the season with three wins from their last four at the Lamex, and Morais explained the reason that sometimes it can be difficult to find momentum on your own patch is a lack of confidence to keep the ball in difficult areas – resulting in a frequent loss of possession which ultimately generates unwanted tension among the players and supporters.

“It’s a confidence thing,” he said. “We take confidence from our away form and try and bring it to our home form. And the way we want to play with the passing football, sometimes when the crowd get a bit edgy it takes its toll on the players on the pitch.

“The good thing is we’ve built a great foundation from which we can push on.

“Mentally we are strong and we want to win every game. Swindon is going to be a very tough test – as is any match in League 1. We’re not going to get carried away because we’ve done nothing yet, really, and we just want to do the best we can every single game and see what happens.”

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