Poppies boss Cox wants his players to 'relax'
Paul Cox has called on his Kettering Town players to “relax and enjoy the journey” after they battled out a goalless draw with fellow strugglers Curzon Ashton at Latimer Park.
Having suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since Cox took charge, many had labelled this clash as a ‘must-win’ for the Poppies as they bid to secure their Vanarama National League North status.
In the end, there could be few arguments with the final outcome as a tough playing surface and a swirling wind made life difficult for both teams in a game of few chances.
The draw saw Kettering drop a place to 18th in the table but they are now six points clear of the relegation zone as they look to secure another season at Step 2.
But Cox felt his team “looked a bit tense” and he insists they don’t need to put unnecessary pressure on themselves.
“I think a draw was a fair result,” the Poppies boss said.
“We looked a little bit tense and I heard a lot of talk about this being a must-win game but I never felt that way because there are still another 15 to go.
“Don’t get me wrong, if we had lost then it might have changed the dynamics a little bit.
“I just felt there was a bit of anxiety from us and it’s the first time I have seen that from the group.
“They may have been trying a bit too hard but there are no easy games and I think both teams will probably go away and think a point each is fair enough.
“It seems like we have been competing with teams in the top six or seven in the last few games and it’s a different dynamic than when you come up against a team in and around you. It’s a different kind of pressure.
“I look back at it and I felt we played in the final two thirds of the pitch like we had the world on our shoulders. I want us to make better decisions and take a few more chances.
“It’s nice we were solid and kept a clean sheet. But we don’t need to play with any anxiety.
“We didn’t do that when I first came in, it was a joy and it should still be that way now.
“There was a lot of build-up to this game, there were a lot of ifs, buts and maybes but I have never looked at any of my teams and said ‘this is a must-win game’.
“I want the boys to not feel any pressure, to relax and to enjoy the journey.
“There will be tough games but that’s what you should be enjoying. All the hurdles that are put in front of us, we have to embrace them.
In the end, though, I think you have to give both teams credit.
“The pitch has changed again, it’s a bit firmer but really uneven and there was a wind swirling around.
“I probably picked a side for the conditions to be honest. We knew it wouldn’t be a great spectacle but we have dug in and worked hard.”
The Poppies are back in action on Tuesday night when they play league rivals Brackley Town in the semi-finals of the NFA Hillier Senior Cup at Latimer Park.