Keith Curle with reaction to the victory over Plymouth
United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the victory over Plymouth which secured the club’s league status at the end of a difficult season.
“There are a lot of pleasing things and a lot of positives about that performance,” he said. “Obviously the result is one of them, but the level of performance and understanding from the players showed us the penny is starting to drop. We had players who knew what their individual roles were within the framework of the team.
“The confidence levels were high and that comes from players consistently making good decisions. Having said that, I needed half time to come because I knew we needed to improve. I felt there was an opportunity for us to play more football than we’d been playing in the first half.
“We didn’t retain the ball well enough before the break. We were giving it away way too cheaply. That was because we had players who wanted to get the ball forward too quickly and at times when that option wasn’t really there.
“I keep telling the players that if they can’t get it forward then look to do it another way. Go and knock on another door and don’t just give it away needlessly. There was a massive improvement on all of that in the second half and we kept the ball really well.”
“We caused a very good team a lot of problems,” he added. “We had to change positions, because we had to shuffle the pack with the substitutions we had to make, and we looked natural with all of it. Plymouth have a real goal threat and I thought we nullified them well.
“I spoke to the players afterwards and I said the level of frustration I have is because I know what’s in this changing room. I know it’s been in this changing room from day one. The frustration I’ve had is getting it out of them on a consistent basis.
“People talk about the change of formation I’ve used recently and they ask why it wasn’t done earlier in the season. In the back of my mind was when we went three at the back at Mansfield and we were 3-0 down after 20 minutes. That stuck with me and it hurt me.
“We’ve brought different personnel into the squad since then and they have a different type of character and a bit of belief. They have a willingness to play the game the right way and that means they know they have to do their bit. The more the team develops and grows the more we see players who are earning the right to go and play.
“The season is ending too soon for me now. The building blocks are there, the work is being done and we’re starting to see the benefits of it. It’s been a very good working environment this last week or so and we want to keep it that way going forward.”
“Part of the education process now isn’t only to educate the players,” he explained. “It’s also to educate the supporters on what we’re trying to do.
“We came out and kept our discipline and shape at the start of the game and I could hear people behind me in the Paddock telling me weren’t getting close enough to them. Sometimes you have to concede territory and make sure you don’t panic. By doing that you nullify their attacking threat by making it fizzle out.
“Bear in mind I can hear all of the statements that come from behind me and I do understand where they’re coming from. But it’s all about picking the right time to be confrontational. I thought the players did what was asked of them very well and they got the result because of it.”
On the match winning goals from Gary Dicker and Billy Paynter, he said: “I don’t care who gets the goals. Somebody has just asked if I realised the two players who have kept us up are the ones I fell out with.
“That’s all gone. It’s old news. They’re professional players and we have a fantastic professional relationship with every player in that changing room. The first goal came at a good time but I thought we were unlucky just before that when we hit the post. As I said, I wanted half time to come because I wanted to get the players in and get a bit more belief into them.
“I see on a daily basis how well they can use a football. What we didn’t get all the way through the first half was passing the ball and moving on. That’s another part of the progression I want to bring so we do get that from them for the full 90 minutes.
“I think Billy [Paynter] needed his goal. There are a lot of things in Billy’s game I like. Strikers need goals and that’s what gives them confidence. The willingness, endeavour, gamesmanship and know-how of the Billy Paynter we saw today was exactly the Billy Paynter I tried to sign for Notts County. His finish was superb and not many would have been able to do it as calmly as that. He has that and he knows he needs to show all of us that on a consistent basis.
“He will tell you himself, things haven’t been going his way but he’s been prepared to knuckle down and get on with his job. He’s been prepared to draw a line in the sand, as I have, because we have had the greater aim of needing the club to stay up. Part of that is having the players do their job and for me to make sure I’m doing mine. The more people you get doing their jobs, the more chance you have of being successful.”
And on having achieved the remit of keeping the club in the Football League, he said: “The next thing for us to do is to build on the foundations we have. We want to create a unity which will help us to get success, so if we only aim for mid-table next season we will end up scrapping around the wrong end of the division.
“That means we have to aim to win the division. Everything we do now has to be geared to trying to win this league next season. I like challenging the changing room so the next challenge has to be to see if we can go and win the next two games. Then the challenge is to do what everyone wants us to do next season.
“Make no mistake about this, there are players in there who are playing for contracts. They need to impress on a daily basis and in the games we have left. They’re fighting for contracts because this football club needs good players.”
“I think the main feeling I have right now is obviously relief,” he told us. “I know there are some fantastic people at this football club who have been put under a lot of pressure because of the results on the pitch. That’s our media people, our lottery, our ticket and admin staff and our financial staff.
“The last few games have been an opportunity to show them and everyone else we’re doing our bit. There’s a feel-good factor around this club and the city when we do our job and win games. The people who aren’t involved in the changing room side at this club are desperate for us to do well. It’s a relief for them to know we’ve got league football next season.
“It’s the same for the fans. When they’re singing like they were today it’s because they’re getting what they want. I want us to give them more of what they want.
“I think it’s important to get a winning culture at the club and we can kick that off with wins over Stevenage and Hartlepool to round this season off properly.”
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