Following Sunday’s victory over Loughborough, Sam Richardson remains confident that Manchester can qualify from the FA National Futsal Super League Group ‘A’, despite a poor start to the campaign.
It was the second 8-4 win in a row for the North champions, who kept their faint hopes of progression alive at the National Cycling Centre.
“Of course, it’s good to get a few wins on the bounce,” said Richardson, “particularly as I’ve felt some of the initial results didn’t mirror our performances. The best thing is that our younger players are starting to step up, take more responsibility and are getting some reward.
“We’ve set a relatively high standard for ourselves over the years and we don’t like losing games, but we recognise that we’re in an inevitable and necessary transition period so I’m proud to see us remain competitive, whilst maintaining our playing style.
“The commanding away win against Baltic and the way we stepped up our game when we needed to against Loughborough is where we take our confidence.
“We’ve lost a lot of players this season and have missed three key players from last season, but the encouragement comes from remaining competitive and bedding the youngsters in. Short term, the results have disappointed, but in hindsight, taking everything into perspective, the Club should be stronger for it.”
The next three weeks will be pivotal to Manchester’s Grand Finals dream, starting with a do-or-die clash with Oxford Lions on Sunday, followed by a trip to University of York and a humdinger to round off the group at home to Helvecia.
“We’ve shown we have what it takes, but all three games will pose different challenges,” continued Richardson. “Although we have an outside shot, we’re actually focussing on what we have been doing in the last couple of games; giving the younger players more time and working on specific things to take us forwards longer term.
“The pressure is all on the other teams to try and beat us; we’re out to enjoy the games and play to our strengths and see where it takes us. We have a good blend of experience and potential, and it looks like we have a great foundation to build upon.”
Academy graduates have played a major part in the season so far and will only have benefitted from the North title victory and stern tests against top opposition in the Super League.
Confidence and belief is high in the camp following back-to-back, morale boosting wins and Richardson heaped praise on the youngsters who have made enormous strides in the first team.
“To be honest, they have been the best thing to come out of this season,” admitted the Club’s all-time top scorer. “We’ve been forced into asking them to do more in the first team that we’d planned.
“But they’ve been absolutely fantastic in their commitment, willingness to learn and are taking more responsibility for their performances, which is one key thing that is driving their development.
Despite a third North title in four seasons, Richardson has been hampered by a niggling injury, but insists he is now back firing all cylinders.
“I’ve been frustrated with bruised toes for a few months,” admitted Mr Reliable. “I’ve only recently begun to start shooting properly, so I feel that I haven’t been able to contribute as much as I’d like.”
Written by @ChrisWildgoose
Photos by marctaylor.eu