Hartlepool United caretaker manager Antony Sweeney talks tactics and the hard work paying off with 2-0 win over Barnet
It’s the small details that are making a big difference for Antony Sweeney and Hartlepool United.
The caretaker manager claimed his third straight win and clean sheet since taking temporary charge as Pools strolled to a 2-0 win over 10-man Barnet at Victoria Park on Saturday.
Sweeney revealed he had done a lot of homework on the opposition, as he has for all three sides he’s faced so far.
But unlike the previous two matches, Pools’ gameplan worked seamlessly against Barnet as they dominate from start to finish.
“It’s really pleasing,” admitted the 36-year-old.
“There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into not just delivering the sessions but actually trying to think of sessions that replicate what you want from the players and what you might come up against on the weekend.
“There’s lots of hours of thinking and tweaking to deliver practices and I felt we had a really good week this week but it means nothing until the Saturday and I thought the players delivered the weeks training to a tee.
“I thought the players got the balance right. Barnet still carried a threat with 10 men and if you go too gung-ho trying to get the third goal you risk conceding and then you’re in a different game.
“You know what it’s like when you’re 2-0 up and concede a goal, the momentum can change very quickly regardless of whether it’s 10 or 11 men you’re up against.
“I thought the players were really good in being patient, dragging Barnet and demoralising them at times as well.
“The last thing you want when you’re down to 10 men is running about from side to side without touching the ball. You really want the ball to come to you so you can counter attack and get men forward but we completely took that away from them.”
As a manager you always run the risk of focusing too much on the opposition and not enough on yourselves, but Sweeney seems to have found the right balance so far following his flawless start in terms of results.
The United legend’s attention to detail and approach is believed to be something that has led the club to seriously consider him for the permanent position. They’ve been very impressed by Sweeney who has managed to surpass expectations both on and off the pitch.
And it’s that attention to detail that helped Pools weather an early onslaught from Barnet as they won a succession of corners inside the opening few minutes.
“It was as close as a 90-minute performance as I could have asked for really,” Sweeney said.
“They started really well and I listened to an interview from their assistant manager Junior Lewis where he said that Barnet had watched all of our set plays so I had an idea that they might try something a little bit different and you can’t predict what that might be.
“I said to the players just to be alive and ready for something off the cuff and I thought their routine was very clever and on another day they might have scored to set us back.
“I think from about four or five minutes in when we found our feet after weathering that really early storm, I thought we became comfortable and it didn’t feel it on the sideline but I think watching the game back, it was a good performance.”
When Sweeney was thrust into the caretaker position little over a fortnight ago he was a novice yet to manage a single senior match. Now he’s since won all three of the games he’s managed without conceding a goal.
It’s a run that may have even helped Sweeney convince himself that he could take the job on permanently.
“Today has given me more confidence a lot more than the previous two games,” he continued.
“We send scouts to watch games and they bring back the report and try to put that into practice and it doesn’t always work and sometimes team selections surprise you.
“Barnet have played 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 for the majority of the season then they come here and play a 4-3-3.
“We prepared the players for both formations because they played 4-3-3 in midweek.
“You still wonder if your plan is going to transpire into the game and when it does, it just gives you that sense of satisfaction that you are watching the right things and you have got an idea of how you want to go about things.
“Most importantly, it shows that you have got the players to execute that game plan.
“On paper, it looks like a dream start, has it felt that way? Absolutely not!
“I’ve been moaning about the first two games because I know how quickly football can change and I know what is a good performance and what’s riding your luck which is why I was concerned after the first two games.
“I’m less concerned now but I’m not naive enough to think that everything will be plain sailing from here because it won’t be. I just hope we carry things on for a little bit longer.
“Whether it’s me or anyone else sitting here, we’ll have our ups and downs, we’ll have to be resilient at times and have to bounce back from defeats and poor performances.”