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Clarke's message after first game

20 December 2014

New boss reacts after Watford defeat

New manager Steve Clarke had a clear message for his players and the supporters after his first game in charge at Madejski Stadium.

Steve saw his team go down 1-0 to Watford, and would have noted his team as the driving force throughout much of the match, only for Almen Abdi to give the points to the ten-man Hornets.

We could have been 1-0 up inside a minute when Glenn Murray volleyed off target, while Nick Blackman and Murray also had clear second half chances with the score at 0-0.

So the result arguably did not match the flow of the match, and Steve's post-match message had an upbeat tone as he commented, "I told the players after the game that they have to be disappointed with the result, but not to be disappointed with their application and how they played.

"It's the same for the supporters, I thought their reception was brilliant, and since I've been here the welcome and the general feel has been very good. All I would ask them tonight is, don't just look at the result, look at the small steps we've made and the positives. We're trying to build and make sure we're competitive at the right end of the table.

"I also said to the players, there's a little negative spiral at the moment, so we didn't get the bounce of the ball, and when it's going well it will come, we just have to knuckle down.

"Watford will be in the top six, if they get it right then maybe even in the top two, they are that good. Today we showed we can match them but we just didn't stick it in the net."

After only meeting the players for the first time on Thursday, the boss was still buoyed by seeing some of his ideas bear fruit. "We've had a couple of days together, they understood the principles we tried to put into them, they understood Watford's shape which is slightly different than most and has caused a lot of teams problems.

"At eleven against eleven, we were good, had chances, by and large we restricted them to longer shots so I was happy with the control of the first half.

"Then in a strange way the sending off helped them because it cemented their game plan of counter-attacking. The second half was always going to mean that the first goal was crucial, and it fell for them when we'd missed a few chances, so that was the disappointing thing.

"Then it became a bit of a scrap, and when you're on a negative moment it becomes a bit more difficult for the ball to fall for you. We got in good positions in forward areas but without scoring, so were susceptible on the break.

"Then at 1-0 you can panic, players try to get it forward, the crowd want the same which is right, they want to see it in the box.

"We stuck big Jake on for the last few minutes, he won about five headers, they all fell in the box but not to us and that's the way it was. It can become a bit desperate at 1-0 down."

The boss made one sub late in the game, and explained, "I was looking on the pitch and I had all my experienced goalscorers already on there. If you're looking to nick a goal, you don't take your goalscorers off. I'm normally a coach who uses three subs so today was unusual for me, it was a physical game so it's difficult to bring young lads on when you look at the options I had."

Steve now looks forward to getting more work in on the training pitch, commenting, "In this league if you can get momentum you can get up the table quickly, but it's the same in reverse.  So now I'll have four days on the grass to work with them, including Christmas Day, they won't be getting that off!"

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