Ballinamallard 0-4 Rovers - Robertson's reaction
Dave Robertson says Tuesday night's friendly against Ballinamallard United gave him a good idea of what his side needs to work on ahead of the beginning of the 2017 SSE Airtricity League season. Rovers were 4-0 winners over Ballinamallard at Ferney Park, with goals coming from Kieran Sadlier, Mathew Stevens, John Russell and Mikey Place.
Speaking afterwards, Robertson said playing a team in the middle of their season gave his side the physical contest they require.
"It was our second outing of pre-season. It was a good contest. It's always good to play teams in the Irish League because they are obviously mid-season," he said.
"They're match fit and they're sharp. Not only did we get what we need out of it football wise, we also got the physical contest that we need. It gives us a good gauge of where we're at and what we need to do ahead of the opener against Limerick."
And while Robertson was pleased to see his side score four goals, it was the impact of his younger players that delighted him.
Ed McGinty, John Mahon, Mikey Place, Mark Hannon and Jack Keaney all finished the game. This, Robertson says, was more important than the number of goals scored.
"It's always about how many goals you score and how many you don't score but you're right it's not, it's not near our priority at this stage. It gives us the opportunity to play a number of young players. Young Ed McGinty, John Mahon, Jack Keaney, Mark Hannon, Mikey Place, they've come through the system. All playing tonight with new signings and senior players, it's great."
Robertson also praised the impact of midfielder John Russell, who scored a stunning goal to score Rovers' third of the game.
"Russler has come back and he's come back almost like a new signing because it's the first pre-season he's done in two years. It's evident in the last two games just how good he is and just how big a part he's going to play for us this season. Where we're at at the minute there are lots of positives to take but we still have a lot of work to do."
He was left gushing too by John Mahon, who he says has really impressed since joining up with the senior squad.
"He's done excellent. He's one I've been aware of for quite a while, I've spoken to John and his parents on a number of occasions. Pre-season is always an opportunity to introduce the younger players into it and really embed them in, how we want to play and what the expectations are of him. Listen, I love him. He's a proper old fashioned centre-half who loves to make headers, loves to tackle, puts his body on the line to keep clean sheets. Sometimes in the game, the fundamentals get lost. Centre-halves sometimes want to play out, step in with 40 yard diagonals and do Kruyff turns on the edge of the box. The fundamentals are a defender has to defend and that's what John Mahon brings to us. For a lad of his age he has really impressed."
Chris Kenny will be returning from Oman in the coming days, while both Craig Roddan and Gary Armstrong are currently recovering from injuries. Robertson is happy with how things are progressing, but he still wants more.
"I'm very happy with how the new signings are settling in and how the squad is coming together. We have Chris Kenny returning, he's been in Oman with the Irish Defence Forces. There's still additions and it's still coming together but where we're at we're happy and comfortable but we still know we want another 15-20%."
The performances of the squad as it is has left Robertson impressed with his squad, and he feels he will need two further additions to bolster his squad further.
"With me being so pleasantly surprised by what I've seen so far I think a centre-half and one more addition will probably be enough for us to have a strong, solid squad and one that we will hope will improve on what we achieved last year."
Rovers take on Galway United at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday evening in their third pre-season game, and Robertson says this will give him a good idea of how Rovers fare against league opposition.
"It will give us a sense of where we're at, in the game and what we need to do. We've discussed it with the players. Theere's a couple of tactical things we still have to get right. We're pushing closer to 90 minutes for the majority of the group. As long as the majority of the group get at least three 90 minutes between now and the start of the season then our match fitness and sharpness will be there. It will give us an opportunity just to tinker with and fine tune the tactical elements of what we're going to need for the opening games of the season."