First-team manager Danny Grainger says he’s ‘immensely proud’ of his Reds side which went toe-to-toe with League Two’s Morecambe last night.
On the Lancashire coast, the Shrimps snatched a 1-0 win in a largely evenly-contested game, thanks to Cole Stockton’s strike.
However, Reds impressed everyone inside the Mazuma Stadium with spirited and brave performance, that often saw them on the front foot.
It’s undeniably a great feat for a side who’d only finished work mere hours before kick-off and facing off against full-time professionals who are five divisions above.
Speaking after the match, Grainger said: “I’m immensely proud.
“I say I’m very proud, but it comes as an expectancy with this group.
“The quality they show, week in, week out, on good pitches, bad pitches, whatever’s in front of them, they always rise to the challenge.
“I think that’s another challenge tonight.”
Just over 12 months ago, we made strides against teams in higher leagues and are repeating similar steps this summer.
But after weeks of gruelling pre-season – more of which is still to come – the boss has noted a factor which has improved, saying: “Last year at Barrow, after an hour we sort of blew up and that’s when their fitness really kicked in and showed.
“Whereas tonight, even when Morecambe almost changed their full XI, the tempo of the game went up and we weren’t as dominant, but we kept going right until end so credit to the lads!
“Even with the scoreline, I’m still immensely of what the boys have done tonight.”
As much as Morecambe had depth, with only one player completing the full 90 minutes, so did the fellow coastal outfit.
Utilising his 18-man squad, the manager expressed its importance in the long-term.
“When you look at the squad now, there’s two in every position and that’s what we need,” he explained.
“Ruddy [Steven Rudd] and I have said from day one, we won’t win any trophies with just 11 players, we’ll need the full squad.
“The depth in the squad showed tonight and I think when we brought anyone on, we didn’t think ‘He could hamper us or he doesn’t know his roles and responsibilities.’
“It’s boding well. We spoke after the Carlisle City game that we keep upping the gears each game.”
“That was another gear tonight and we go into two tough training sessions on Thursday and Saturday, having no game.
“We’re then looking forward to Cleator Moor and Lancaster City back at Borough Park next week!”
Finally, young goalkeeper Mikey Watson got five minutes in the dying embers of the match.
The Delevopment Team ‘stopper has been involved in four of the five first-team fixtures so far and is well in Grainger’s plans.
“Mikey’s a player I’ve known for a long time now,” he revealed.
“He was in my academy when he was younger and went to Queen of the South from there so he’s a player that I think a lot of.
“I’ve told him that he needs to be looking at the way Jim plays and the way he goes about his business so that he can sort of model himself on him.
“He’s got similar stature and it’s a great opportunity for him to keep getting involved with the lads.
“When people like Jim and Goose [Dan Wordsworth] talk to him all of the time, it makes his job easier.”
We’ll be hearing more from Danny before next week’s two friendlies.