Ward: Everyone's Disappointed, the Lads Are Hurting in There
Wednesday, 25th Nov 2020 11:42
Left-back Stephen Ward felt Hull City’s greater ruthlessness was the difference between the sides during Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat to the League One leaders at Portman Road. Ward says everyone in the dressing room was hurting after the game and knows they need to play better and react when Charlton visit Portman Road on Saturday.
Mallik Wilks put the visitors in front in the second minute, Josh Magennis made it two in first-half injury time and sub Tom Eaves made it three with 13 minutes left to end Town’s home league 100 per cent record.
“They came with a game plan. I don’t think the score reflects the game went in terms of what we did on the ball and the positions we got in,” the 35-year-old said after the match.
“But at this level when you’re going to win a league, you’ve got to take your chances, you’ve got to be ruthless in both boxes.
“That’s probably the difference tonight, they were a bit more streetwise than us, we were just not as ruthless as maybe we could have been. And that’s the disappointing thing.”
The former Republic of Ireland international agreed it’s a lesson he and his colleagues need to learn quickly.
“One hundred per cent, we know that as a team,” he added. “We’re very pleasing on the eye, we play good football, we can dominate games. Like I said, it’s just getting that little bit more of a ruthless streak in us.
“From everyone, not just the front lads. Up front, at the back, throughout the midfield, we’ve got to be a bit stronger because when we have the ball, you can see in most games, we can dominate for long periods.
“On the turnover maybe we just need to be a little bit more ruthless in getting the ball back and getting back into our shape and making ourselves a bit more difficult.
“But listen, we’ve not been like that all season. We haven’t conceded many goals like that, we’ve been quite resilient, quite solid.
“But when we’re playing a team that’s up there, you maybe need to have that little bit more ruthlessness that we didn’t have tonight.”
No one needs reminding that the Blues are still to beat only Accrington of the teams in the top 10 this season, having defeated only Fleetwood and Gillingham, both 1-0 away, of the 10 teams that finished above them in the last campaign.
In addition to Hull, Town have lost at Doncaster, 4-1, Lincoln, 1-0, and Sunderland, 2-1 so far this season.
But Ward insists the Blues are capable of taking three points from one of their fellow challengers.
“Of course we can,” he said. “If you look at all three of those games, I don’t think we were outplayed or overawed in any of the games. Like I said, maybe there is that stigma that we can’t [beat the top teams] but of course we believe we can, we just maybe have to learn from the games where we’ve not won.
“Credit to Hull, they had a good away performance, but you wouldn’t say they came and outplayed us or out-footballed us but they were just more ruthless and that’s the bit that we need to get into our game.
“From last year, the lads have said the same, we maybe struggled against the top six. It’s something we need to work on.
“Starting Saturday we need to show against a decent Charlton team, who are going to be up there, we need to bounce back, we need to reflect on what we didn’t do right in the games we have lost because in a lot of the other games we’ve done well.
“But those games, we have to have a look at ourselves and look at how we approach them and how we turn the record around and get a result against one of these teams.”
Following the Addicks’ visit, the Blues have away trips to Oxford and Plymouth but Ward dismissed the suggestion that that makes Saturday’s match an even bigger fixture.
“Every game’s big,” he insisted. “If you’ve got aspirations of getting promoted, every game’s a massive game, no matter who you’re playing.
“The three points against Shrewsbury is the same as three points against Hull, against Portsmouth. It’s important we react.
“When you lose a game it’s massive that you show character that bottle that you can come back and get a result after it, and that’s what we need to do. We’ll recover and we’ll get ready to go again.”
Asked what it was like in the dressing room, the Dubliner said: “Everyone’s disappointed, we’ve got what we needed to say off our chests after the performance. And we move on, we learn from it, we’ve got a lot of good young players in that dressing room, a lot of lads will strive to go on in their careers, there's real talent in there. Anything we can do or any little pointers [we can give].
“There’s no pointing fingers, we’re in it as a collective and that’s the most important thing. And as a team we know the performance tonight at times was really good, but there were a lot of areas, especially in both boxes, that we can do better.
“The more the younger lads learn, and we’re still learning as senior pros, you’ve got to pull it all together and that starts Saturday again.”
Quizzed on whether it was an open forum with everyone getting their say, not just the more senior players, he added: “We’re all in it together, it doesn’t matter whether you’re 19, 20, 30, 31, 32, we’re in it as a team, everyone’s striving for the same thing. Everyone wants this club to get promoted.
“So, whether you’re playing well, you’re not playing well, you’ve had a good game, it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got an opinion, you say it and everyone takes it on board.
“And that’s the way it should be at a club because, like I said, we want to get promoted so if there’s anything to be said, it’ll be said and then you move on and you go again. We reflect and we go again and we show our character on Saturday.”
Reflecting on the current injury situation with Jon Nolan (groin), Gwion Edwards (hamstring), James Wilson (knee), Teddy Bishop Ankle), Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes (both knee) all sidelined at present, and with Freddie Sears having suffered a hamstring injury last night, Ward said: “That’s been tough, it’s not an excuse but it has been tough, we’ve lost a lot of key players, even as far back as Cole and Flynn.
“We’ve lost a lot of key players, we’ve got players coming back now, Nors [James Norwood] I thought was really good tonight, looked really sharp, looked back to himself. We’ve got Aaron Drinan coming back, Kane Vincent-Young’s not too far away hopefully.
“Listen, losing Teddy and Nolo for this game was a big blow at the weekend, but we’ve got a strong enough squad, that’s not an excuse, that’s something that every team is going to have to contend with this season, especially with games coming thick and fast.”
Does he believe the young players in the squad are mentally tough enough for a League One promotion battle?
“They’ll have to be,” he responded. “They’re learning on the job, so any experience that they have, I’m sure they’ll all take something from tonight’s game.
“I feel that we’ve got a really mentally strong group, a good mix of youth and experience and, like I said, they’re learning. A defeat like that, as a player you reflect on it and it can only make you stronger and I’m sure that will be the case for a lot of us tonight.”
Looking ahead to December and the return of up to 4,000 fans to Portman Road for the visit of Portsmouth, Ward believes that will give the Blues a boost.
“Brilliant, yes, Fingers crossed,” he said. “We’ve missed the fans in here. I’ve obviously not played in front of anyone, even family members being able to come to the games. It’s been tough with your family not being able to come and cheer you on and support you.
“So that’ll be a real lift and I’m sure whatever numbers we can get in here, they’ll be loud and they’ll get behind the team because we’ve missed them and you need them in your home games, especially games like tonight. You do miss them.”
Ward is aware that there is negativity among the support, particularly after Tuesday’s result, but accepts that that comes with the territory and he hopes fans will stay behind their side.
“Listen, that’s the nature of playing for a big club, and we are a big club in this division,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we will give it our best to get promoted, we will work as hard as we can and having the fans behind us will be an extra man for us really.
“I would hope they’ll stay with us as long as possible. We know we need to play better and react but let me tell you the lads are hurting in there tonight and we want it as much as anyone.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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