Three points can make a world of difference to a team regardless of what level they’re operating at – something Preston Athletic boss Craig Nisbet can vouch for after claiming his first in charge of the Panners last Saturday.
Two goals from Jordi Belope in the second half completed an impressive turnaround against Garry O’Connor’s Selkirk at Yarrow Park. It was the East Lothian club’s first win since a 2-0 home triumph over East Kilbride back in October.
After waiting so long, Nisbet has noticed a real difference around the Pennypit already. “I could see the change in attitude at training this week,” he revealed. “It was night and day. There was no moping about, nobody with their heads down, it was all a bit more proactive with a buzz in the changing-room. They were having a bit of a laugh as well having enjoyed their weekend rather than having to field questions about ‘how’d you get beat this weekend?’ so you could see the belief as well. It’s the same with the committee; they’re working really hard behind the scenes to get things done and if we can do the job on the pitch then that makes things wee bit easier for them.
“It was nice from a personal point of view as well. It’s been very stop-start as that was only my second competitive game proper since I came in. I know I was in place in time for the Edinburgh Uni game but I wasn’t there so it’s really only the second time I’ve been in the dugout. I’ve still to experience a home tie! It was good, particularly as I know a few of the Selkirk players so that added a wee bit of a personal touch to it.”
Nisbet has been working hard to reshape his squad since replacing Colin Jack in November, and he believes the qualities the new players bring are now becoming evident. “They’ve brought experience and a willingness to listen,” he explained. “It’s guys that I know and have worked with before so they know the way that I work. They’ve played around the periphery of this level but have never really had the opportunity to play together in this type of environment. Some of them are just excelling due to the fact that they’re enjoying it; they’re buying into that we’re trying to do. There’s a massive focus on working extremely hard off the ball as a team to compress the space, to force teams to make mistakes rather than invite teams on to us. I’ve always been an advocate of playing on the front foot but I’m under no illusions that there’s some teams in the league that are a level above. East Kilbride, Edinburgh City, Spartans and Cumbernauld to a degree are the four teams I’ve watched that I’ve thought are a wee bit ahead of everybody else at the moment. We don’t have the superstars that some of them have but we’ve a core of 10-12 boys that know exactly their job and how to do it.”
Tomorrow brings another trip to the Borders for “Nizzy” and his charges to face Gala Fairydean Rovers, and he anticipates a stern test. “I’m expecting a tougher game,” Nisbet said. “I was expecting a tough game at Selkirk too and it was a war of attrition on the surface but the surface won’t be in question this weekend. I know Nobes [Gala boss Mark Noble] quite well and they’re a good footballing side who play from the back, but we’ll go with the same game plan and take the game to them.”