Date: 19th February 2018 at 1:43pm
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Head coach Dean Smith declared himself fully satisfied following Saturday’s victory over Sunderland.

Heading to the Stadium of Light for the tie, Smith has hoped to see us get back to winning ways after three games without victory, and he knew we did that in some style against Sunderland with a fantastic first half performance.

Speaking to the Official Site as he met with the media following the two nil win that saw first half goals come from Kamohelo Mokotjo and Neal Maupay, a delighted gaffer explained.

‘It was a good win. Whenever you come away from home, score two goals and keep a clean sheet it’s a good win. I thought first half we were outstanding, that’s as good as we’ve played for a long time. We looked young, vibrant, energetic. We showed lots of skill and quality, and the only disappointing thing was it was only two goals by half-time. In the second half I thought we were poor. I didn’t think we played as well but we showed another side. We showed a little bit of doggedness and, as I say, it’s always good to come away with a clean sheet.’

With a bright start and a strong opening 15 minutes in particular that saw Mokotjo open the scoring 13 minutes in, Smith went on to say that our determination on the day to make our mark left him pleased with how the side enacted the gameplan.

‘It’s something that we spoke about, we wanted to start on the front foot. I don’t think the pitch helped the game in terms of the way we want to play and get it flowing. It was a little bit bobbly so you probably had to take an extra touch at times. The intent was there from the off. I think we forced three or four corners in the first five or six minutes. That’s what we wanted to do, what we set out to do and we got a really good well-worked goal from an unlikely source.’

Reflecting on the goalscorers, he went on to say.

‘It’s great to see Kamo on the scoresheet, it was a good finish from the edge of the box. After that I thought we looked very good and created numerous chances, and probably our final ball lacked a little bit. Certainly on the transitions when we broke, we could’ve scored more. It’s great that Neal Maupay has got another goal as well. He played the lone role up top today and did well. So it’s pleasing that with that first half performance we have managed to keep that clean sheet second half as well.’

With the hosts coming more into the game in the second half and making more of a match of it, Smith admitted that blunted our attacking intent more on the day but he was pleased with our defensive efforts in the second period.

‘They made two substitutions at half-time, just to give them renewed energy. We obviously were aware of what happened at Bristol City last week, with Bristol three-nil up and Sunderland getting back. We felt there were other goals out there for us and we’ve had chances but we’ve given away too many chances in the second half as well. Clarkey had to defend well against the boy out on the right, he was a handful all game. We’ve got to be better defensively and probably on the ball. What happened in the second half was that we gave a lot of cheap balls away, a little bit of technique with the pitch and a little bit of poor decision making, but we certainly held the line well and kept a clean sheet.’

There was of course praise for the fans with 1200 making the trip.

‘They were brilliant. There was a lot of noise coming from them all game, and it was great to see the players out there after the game celebrating with the supporters. It’s a long way up here but it makes it all worthwhile when you’re travelling home after certainly a very good performance in the first half and three points.’

With Birmingham City next up on Tuesday evening, Smith also felt the players could take plenty from the Sunderland showing into that one to register back to back wins again with us now only six points from the Play Off spots.

‘It gives us a boost. I spoke to the players before the game, three games ago we were two points off the play-offs and three games later you are eight points off. It’s a big week because it’s three games in a week. It’s a good start for us but Birmingham are a tough team to play against. I watched them last week at Aston Villa, and I’m not sure of the score today at Millwall but they will be a tough nut to crack. We have to make sure we recover well and get ready for that battle.’

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