• Sam Byrne

"That identity has to remain" - Challinor on Bolton win, Raikhy, Collar, more

Image credit to Mike Petch

County boss Dave Challinor has called on his players to ‘front up’ on their fitness heading into the National League outing at Woking on Saturday, after his side produced a mammoth effort to overcome League One Bolton at Edgeley Park in FA Cup action on Wednesday evening.

Coming from 0-2 and 1-3 down in the first half, Challinor’s men produced a stirring, breathless fightback to take the tie to extra time before grabbing two goals to seal a memorable 5-3 win in the first round proper – and the former Hartlepool boss has asked his players to “be completely honest” regarding their fitness as attention swiftly turns to the long trip to Woking this weekend.

“There is scope to change things around (for Woking). I spoke to the players last night about being honest. As much as they can be brave and want to play every minute, there’s a bigger picture at play,” said Challinor.

“If you look at where we are currently, we have a quick turnaround with three massively important games coming up in quick succession and nine points that we want to win.”

“In order to do that, we need to have everybody out on the pitch at a hundred percent, or as close to a hundred percent for as long as possible. That identity and intensity that we saw against Bolton has to remain, because that gives us the biggest chance of success.”

Challinor also took the opportunity to provide an update on the fitness of midfielder John Rooney, who missed the replay win through an injury which the Hatters boss explained was exacerbated in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bromley in the National League.

“John is a bit sore. He had an injection following the injury (against Bromley), and he needed 48 hours rest for it to settle down. We’ll see how he is on Friday. It’s a long-standing problem that just hasn’t settled down.”

“We hope the treatment he’s had this week will do the trick. If not, then we’ll have to look deeper into where he’s at, but the advice we’ve been given suggests that John should be okay.”

Rooney was replaced in the starting line-up by former Hamilton Accies man Will Collar, who has now featured in all three of Challinor’s games in charge of the club so far, having previously struggled for minutes under former manager Simon Rusk.

Collar earned widespread praise for his performance on the night against Ian Evatt’s side, and – although replaced in the second half after suffering from cramp following a frantic evening – Challinor reserved a mention for his midfielder, whilst challenging the 24-year-old for more.

“Will is someone who’s suffered as a result of not playing. He doesn’t really back his ability much – or, at least, not in the manner which he should. He’s a really good footballer.”

“He’s a little bit safe, which you can understand from someone who’s working their way back into the team. With the ability he’s got, though, he needs to be playing forwards more, and with minutes under his belt, he’ll do that.”

“It was always going to be the case that he couldn’t last the full game on Wednesday, but I thought he grew into the game. Even the twenty minutes or so that he played in the second half was much, much improved on his first half – because he was, and is, growing in that belief of what sort of player he’s going to be for our team moving forwards.”

Another midfielder who looks to have come in from the cold under Challinor is Aston Villa loanee Arjan Raikhy, who started the season brightly under Rusk before finding himself outside the squad on a regular basis after being replaced in the first half of a 0-3 home defeat to Yeovil due to illness.

Challinor had challenged Raikhy to “stick his head above the parapet” in the build-up to the Bolton replay and introduced the teenage midfielder in the second half at Edgeley Park.

The highly-rated nineteen-year-old went on to assist Ollie Crankshaw for County’s fifth of the night in the last minute of extra time, with Challinor claiming the youngster “has a chance” to make an impact at the club.

With games continuing to come thick and fast as Challinor refocuses on County’s bread and butter of the National League, however, the former Fylde boss did suggest reinforcements may be coming at Edgeley Park.

“Arjan did really well. He’s young, he’s energetic, he presses hard, and he has ability on the ball. He has a chance here. In terms of what we’re going to demand from players in that area of the pitch, in terms of closing men down and being mobile, he certainly does those things.”

“Hopefully, over time, we’ll see more of that from him. It’s hard at the moment, because I’m making decisions based on perceptions in training and things like that.”

“I hope we’ll have a chance to see a lot of these lads in a game shortly, as we are trying to arrange a game for next midweek where everyone will have an opportunity.”

“From there, I want to be able to make a call on whether what we want is already in the building or whether we need to strengthen. I think we’ll be a lot clearer about where we are as a side after that.”