David Clegg Reports The Views Of Assistant Coach, Martin Gleeson, Ahead Of Sunday’s Final Pre-Season Friendly Against Hull
If the majority of the Salford fans who travelled to The Shay for the second of our pre-season friendlies, against Halifax, last Sunday, were surprised at the resilience, fortitude, and determination shown by our, hosts, that could only be matched by the satisfaction felt by our coaching staff, at the thorough testing through which the Red Devils were put, over the eighty minutes.
Assistant Coach, Martin Gleeson, gives us a full explanation of this view, “That was just what we, as a team needed, at this stage.  Halifax were tough and uncompromising in the way they stuck with the arm-wrestle throughout, matching us set for set.  That was far more worthwhile for us than if we had scored early points, and then run away with the game.
“A match like that is also a whole lot better for us coaches, as there are more things that present themselves for us to pick up on, and then  work on, with the players.  There were certain areas which we had improved upon from the previous week, at Rochdale, but also there were some areas, particularly in attack on their line, where we looked a bit rusty.
“Halifax’s defensive system was a little different from those more common in Super League, but we didn’t pick up on that early enough, so many of our plays were not best suited to breaking that down.”
Nevertheless, we did win, and there was a whole range of areas in which we had performed well, in order to have done so.
Martin identifies some of these, “Our kicking game, especially into the corners, was good, as was our bringing the ball away from the line, all of which meant that Halifax were forced into having to start their sets close to their own line and then try to make hard yards downfield, from there.”
With only one try, early in the game, conceded, the coaches had also been satisfied with the defensive effort of our squad, which must have gone someway towards building some element of frustration in the home side’s ranks.
“We had decided to concentrate on our defence for this particular game,” he confides.  “Our goal-line-defence has been good for a good while, now.  It’s just that over last season we had to do too much of it, so the fact that, on Sunday, we ensured that we played the majority of the game in the right part of the field was probably the most pleasing aspect of all.”
With their concentration, in this game, on defence, it is perhaps, not so surprising that the attack was a little less effective.
“The players had not been given a game plan for either of these first two games,” he confides, “nor had we done any scrutiny on either of the oppositions, so there were no specifics on them to pass on to the players.  That will not be the case with Hull, this weekend, though.”
As a former U19s Academy coach, Martin obviously has a keen interest in the development of the younger players in the squad whom he coached there, back in 2015, and was happy to give his assessment of their latest performances.
“Jake Bibby is developing really well, and showed both strength and clever footwork,” is his considered opinion.  “Josh Wood showed really good aggression when he came on, and while Ryan Lannon looked really great with the ball in hand, he does need to develop his off-the-ball work, further.
“All of them are now starting to push the more experienced players for their positions.  There was no sign of a drop off in performance when they came on, while Matty Wilkinson, being a year younger now has this season to step up to the plate.”
Kriss Brining has really caught the eye since arriving here, and indeed scored the decisive try at Halifax, while young Dan Murray certainly put himself around, when he came on in the second half.
“Dan showed noticeable improvement from the game at Rochdale.  They all need just to keep improving and putting themselves into Ian Watson’s selection group,” is his advice.
With the visit of Super League opposition, in the form of Hull, on Sunday, it will herald a much more detailed approach to the game.
“We will give them a mini game-plan, with options possibly to change it,” he asserts.  “Hull will definitely be turning out a first team against us, which will be a big leap up for us but is what we want.
“They will be the equivalent of Wigan, our Round 1 opponents.”
One further change, this week, he informs me, is that the various combinations will be staying together for longer, and this will lead to the likelihood of greater consistency of performance, throughout the game, unlike Rochdale where there peaks and troughs.
The acquisition of a small number of extra players has probably inspired many of us to be most hopeful for the coming season, and Martin clearly reflects those views.
“We’ve strengthened the pack considerably, with a number of additions, and this has led to much greater competition for places there,” he claims.  “Kris Welham brings us a style of centre we have not previously had, as all our other centres have different styles of play from one another.”
With a drop goal removing any lingering doubts about last Sunday’s result, it not only showed the importance of endeavouring to win every game to the players, it also pleased the coaching staff.
“That drop-goal was good game-management,” Martin insists.  “You cannot replicate that situation in training, so to be there in an actual game was important for the players to recognise both the position, and how to break the deadlock.”
So the Red Devils go into their final friendly not only with two victories from two outings, but also as recent winners of the Colin Dixon Memorial Trophy – a prize especially dear to those at the club who had the privilege, and pleasure, of watching the great man play in the Salford shirt.
Hull Fixture Match Officials
Referee – Mr R Hicks
Touch Judges  – C Kendall, P Brooke