Westley wants improvements ahead of League 1 bow

GRAHAM Westley says his team will need to learn to maintain better possession of the ball if they are to assert themselves in League 1 next season.

The Boro boss, speaking after Sunday’s 1-0 win over Fulham, was pleased with the two pre-season wins over the Cottagers and Hitchin Town, but says ball retention remains an issue the team needs to work on.

“I think in the first half the other night at Hitchin our ball retention was, on the whole, disappointing,” said Westley.

“And I know going into League 1 that ball retention and our ability to dominate and dictate play by retaining the ball is going to be even more important this year than it was the last.

“And if I’m honest about last year, I’d have to say a weakness of ours was our inability to retain the ball for as long as I’d have liked in games.

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“So the lads are going to have to step up to the plate as pre-season goes on and show they’ve got those abilities – which some of them have but maybe lack confidence in them – and they’ve got to get those abilities working because we need to be a side that plays much more like we did in the second half and much less like we did in the first half (against both Hitchin and Fulham).

“It was a more pleasing second half than the first (against Fulham). We prepared for the problems they were going to bring in the first half but didn’t really put our plan into action which I was disappointed with.

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“But I thought after the break we were much more like ourselves and the fluency of the football began to develop and it was a cracking goal to win the game.

“The subs who went on, each of them, made a telling contribution. I thought Phil Edwards in the middle of the park acquitted himself very well and showed the type of footballer that he is. He’s a very intelligent player, he has got a great voice, he is a good organiser, he is a leader and he’ll be pleased with his debut I’m sure.

“Darius (Charles) and Reidy (Craig Reid) up top started where they left off last season. They became a prolific combination in terms of leading the team to victory as an attacking force. Neither of them score an abundance of goals but both cause constant problems and constant menace and again, they will both be pleased with their contributions.

“Also it was good to see Stacy (Long) back after his operation, getting on the ball and giving the team a bit more composure and a bit more time up the field.”

Robin Shroot, currently on trial at the Lamex Stadium, scored the match winner against Martin Jol’s side after coming on as a 72nd minute substitute, and Westley says he has been impressed with the former Birmingham City man’s contribution so far.

He said: “Robin has been a good lad and a good character to have around. He has trained very hard and showed great endurance levels, he’s comfortable on the ball and he scored a cracking goal. He has done well since he’s been here and an impressive lad to have around.

“(However) Any trialist is exactly that until you come to an alternative agreement – either that he leaves or he stays, so he’s still on trial at the moment.”

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