Nolan: Almost Perfect Away Performance
Sunday, 6th Oct 2019 17:41
Midfielder Jon Nolan felt the top-of-the-table Blues’ 1-0 victory at Fleetwood Town was close to being a perfect away performance.
The result saw Town extend their lead at the head of League One to four points with a game in hand on second-placed Wycombe Wanderers, who drew 3-3 at home to Peterborough.
“Hard-fought, we knew it was going to be a physical game,” Nolan said of the Blues' victory in the club's first ever match against Fleetwood.
“It’s always windy up here. They throw the ball forward but I thought we were comfortable and it was probably a perfect away performance apart from the missed penalty.
“We were comfortable throughout the game. Not for one minute did I think ‘We’re under pressure here, we’re going to concede’ and I knew we’d always get a chance with the firepower we’ve got and we put that chance away. A solid away performance.
“I thought we passed it around well at times but, and I think I said after the MK Dons game, it’s not going to be like that for 90 minutes, especially in this league, you’re going to have to fight, you’re going to have to battle and I thought the lads were different class today.”
Town’s current habit of winning 1-0 away - Saturday was their third successive win by that scoreline on their travels and their fourth this season - was perhaps appropriate for a game played at a ground called Highbury and Nolan is more than happy with that margin of victory even if it does mean the final minutes can be uncomfortable viewing.
“I’ll take every game this season 1-0,” he insisted. “They’re probably the best. But obviously towards the end they’re a bit nervy but I’ll take them all day.”
Town keeper Tomas Holy and the Blues’ backline have now kept six clean sheets in the last seven games and Nolan had praise for the 6ft 9in tall Czech, whose aerial prowess he says gives the side confidence.
“Unbelievable, I think it helps with the big man in goal,” he said. “When they put a cross in you just know [he’s going to claim the ball].
"I can’t even describe to you that feeling of knowing that when that ball comes into your box he’s going to come and get it, it just takes the pressure off.
“But as a team, clean sheets, the defending lads will love that more than the rest of us lads, we’ve just got to keep going.”
Aside from balls into the area Holy didn’t really have a serious save to make against Fleetwood.
“No, just crosses into the box and the big man comes and sweeps them up,” the 27-year-old added.
At the other end the former Shrewsbury man says Town are far more potent in attack than they were last season.
“We’ve got Kayden and Nors [James Norwood] up front and you look at the bench, we’ve got such a strong squad,” he said. “Rowey [Danny Rowe] did really well when he came on.
“There are goals throughout the team, Kane’s chipped in with a few, hopefully the [groin] knock he’s got isn’t too serious because he’s been a key player.”
Nolan was pleased with his own performance against the Cod Army: “I thought I had a good game. It makes that journey all the better, eight hours with three points, we’ll go back with a smile on our faces.”
He added: “When you’ve got the lads up top, Kayden and Nors, who have got that pace, they want the ball in behind, so I’ve got to get on the turn and play them in.
“Kayden’s made a great run for the penalty that he won. But the lads up top have been different class.”
Nolan was perplexed why he wasn’t awarded a second-half penalty when he was fouled by Jordan Rossiter as he was running on to a James Norwood cross from the right and was about to shoot just inside the area.
“Do you know, I think I ran about 80 yards and I didn’t expect the ball to come there,” he recalled.
“It was a strange one because if he didn’t slide tackle I would have just tapped it in, but the ref wasn’t the greatest today, was he? But never mind, three points.”
Town travelled to the North-West on Thursday and trained at Manchester United’s former first-team training ground The Cliff on Friday.
Among those making the trip and training at The Cliff and also on the Highbury pitch prior to the game but not in the matchday 18 were Will Keane, Myles Kenlock, Janoi Donacien and Toto Nsiala, illustrating the strength in depth at manager Paul Lambert’s disposal.
“I’ve got no qualms about saying it, we’ve got the strongest squad in the league,” Nolan continued.
“Competition for places, even the lads who aren’t getting in the squad, they’d do a job in nearly every League One team.
“But whoever is called upon by the gaffer puts a shift in and we’re top of the league, so it’s showing.”
The Town team now appear to be going into matches expecting to win, a very different scenario from last season and Nolan agrees that the mood has changed.
“I feel more comfortable, that’s all I can say,” he reflected. “We haven’t got any given right to be walking into games and win them before we’ve turned up, we’ve all got to work our socks off to get the three points, but I feel we’ve been comfortable.”
Nolan had praise for the 1,086 Town fans making a 566-mile round trip, the longest of the season, and vocally getting behind their side throughout the Blues’ fifth away win of the season.
“Amazing,” he said. “The coach driver has just told us it’s going to be an eight-hour journey on the way home, so they’ve come out in their numbers all that way and I take my hat off to them.”
Photos: TWTD/Action Images
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