City full-back Jon Otsemobor got his birthday weekend off to a flying start on Saturday – and the fact that the manager was still speaking to him merely added to the defender's delight.
Otsemobor celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday fresh from grabbing his first-ever goal in a City shirt in the sixth minute of Saturday's crucial home win over a seemingly-doomed Colchester United.
It was just the kind of start all concerned had wished for as Otsemobor ducked and dived his way into the U's penalty area before lifting a fierce drive over Dean Gerken. Pace, power and an excellent finish – the goal just proved again that there's more than a half-decent player there. As Roeder would be the first to admit.
It's just a case of getting him to come out to play on a regular basis and, in fairness to the one-time Liverpool youngster, free from the nagging Achilles complaint that has dogged his season.
“I've been quite critical of Jon – and he knows that within the dressing room,” said Roeder, who has tried both Matthew Bates and Juan Velasco in that position this year to, basically, no effect through either fitness or form.
“But as I always say to the players, when you don't do well the time to worry is when I come in and say nothing – because then you're history.
“While I'm still positively criticising you to make you a better player, you know I'm still with you,” explained the City boss.
“And Jon, at times, hasn't done as well as he's capable of doing and I sometimes get frustrated with him. He's got a lot of attributes that go to make a very good footballer – power, pace and he passes the ball with the inside of his foot as accurately and as hard as anyone that I've seen. It's a really good technique that he's got there.
“And today, without doubt, was the best performance since I've been at the club; his best 90 minutes. I thought he contributed, apart from the goal, to lots of good things in our play. And the goal was fantastic – great pace. And I'm really pleased for him. He can go home and enjoy his weekend because of his performance today.”
And the fact, of course, that it was his birthday yesterday.
Otsemobor wasn't the only one enjoying a “pat on the back” for their weekend's efforts with Jason Shackell also in his thoughts.
At 2-0 up and cruising, the last thing anyone needed was for someone to gift Colchester a way back into the contest. Cue a horrible back header from Shackell that enabled an alert Kevin Lisbie to nip in, round a stranded David Marshall and roll the ball into an empty net.
Given the magnitude of Saturday's contest, it was not Shackell's finest hour. He had, after all, been hauled off after an hour at Bramall Lane last weekend in the midst of Sheffield United's 2-0 win – a result that came complete with two, gift-wrapped goals.
This weekend and the second 45 minutes were close to the player at his best as he barely put a foot wrong under the manager's testing – and tested – gaze.
“The culprit, if you want, is Shacks [Jason Shackell] who was dreadfully disappointed at half-time,” revealed Roeder, as he looked back at the latest addition to City's collection of soft, soft goals conceded.
But with Gary Doherty about to disappear with a slight back strain, the City boss had little option but to keep faith with the 24-year-old ex-Canary skipper.
At 2-1 up and with the teenage Alex Pearce now alongside him, he could ill-afford for Shackell to drop another clanger – or, indeed, to mull too long on the gift that he had handed the League One-bound U's. Fortunately for both manager and player, he picked up the gauntlet laid at his feet.
“I pulled him to one side [at half-time] and I said: 'Shacks, you're now going to tell me how good you are by how you play in the second-half. Are you going to crumble or are you going to stand up to whatever they throw at you in the second-half and play well after making a mistake like that?'
“And I thought that he had a flawless second-half. He was very, very good. And that was important for Shackell to come through that second-half – and for me to see it as well.
“Because it was a real error that gave them an opportunity to score and, as I say, he went out in the second-half and whatever Colchester threw at him he dealt with it really well. So that's a pat on the back for him.”
As for Doherty, his exit was – in theory – purely pre-cautionary. “He's injured his back and we took him off as a pre-caution rather than risk making it worse for 15 minutes and then not being available for the game next week against Bristol City.”
He has, of course, still got Pearce to call on as the on-loan Reading youngster continues to get regular mentions in managerial despatches.
“Alex Pearce was very unlucky to lose his place in the team,” said the City chief, with his decision to go with the Shackell-Doherty combination being just one of a clutch of big calls that went right on the day.
“I thought he did well at Sheffield United last week when he came on, but I just decided today that I'd go with the partnership of Doherty and Shackell; both are our own players and also played a big part in that good run that we had. It wasn't any slight on Alex's abilities – or performances of late.
“He was very unfortunate not to start and I thought he was very good when he came on in the second-half. Alex Pearce I'm full of admiration for – I just know that he's going to have an excellent career at Reading. As I've said to you before, he's a 19-year-old with an old head on young shoulders. He's a man already and I wish I could keep him.”