Manager Keith Curle with his reaction to the Notts County game
United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to United’s first home game on the road – the 3-0 victory over Notts County at Deepdale.
“First and foremost I have to say thank you to everyone in Preston and at Preston North End for helping us to get this game on today,” he said. “They’ve opened their doors and welcomed us and it’s been good for us all to see how a Championship club operates behind the scenes. You can see why they’re enjoying success here because they are a very well run club.
“It’s been a difficult time for Carlisle but the football community has come together to help at a time when a club is in need. Hopefully we’ve made a lot of new friends with the way we’ve conducted ourselves and it goes without saying we’re very grateful for what all of the staff and officials at Preston have done for us.”
“It is unusual to be playing your home game almost 100 miles away from your base, but we’ve got into the players these last few weeks to create a new mindset,” he explained. “We’re a team that scores goals and we’re known as the entertainers, so we’re treating it like we’ve been invited to take what we’re doing on a road show.
“We’ve tried to make sure the football department stayed in focus as much as we possibly could, and I think that showed. The level of professionalism showed in our performance and I thought every one of our players played for the shirt and for their city.
“The players have reacted positively to what is a negative situation and the people of Carlisle have responded to that. We’ve played some really good football and the challenge now is to make sure it continues.”
“I’ve mentioned the word challenge again but that’s how we view everything we do this season,” he added. “We’re embracing the fact that we want to improve and we’re meeting everything it takes to do that head on. There’s an expectation that our players will compete in every game they play and they’re giving us that at the moment.
“Everyone has been buoyed by the support we’ve received by a community which has been devastated. Our fans are looking to us to give them a lift and we feel a certain amount of responsibility to do it for them. Around 3,000 of them made the trip and the atmosphere they generated was fantastic.
“We could hear them all the way through and there’s a real sense of unity growing. The supporters are appreciating the effort they’re seeing and they’re jumping on board with what we’re trying to do. They made it feel like home for us and that’s important. All we could hear through the afternoon was their voices, and that’s just phenomenal.”
“The good thing is that we think we can take the way we play our game to any stadium,” he insisted. “The principles are in place for how we want to do things and it doesn’t matter which players are selected to play, they all bring their own understanding of their roles and responsibilities to the mix.
“We saw today that we were without Luke Joyce and Alex Gilliead, but we still approached the game in the same way. Both of them have slight strains and we didn’t want them to risk making things worse for them.
“I’ve said all along that we want players who are at 100% because the nature of this game is that you can’t be slightly off the pace. There is strength in depth in this squad to cover any injuries and knocks we get and that’s a good place for a manager to be. It’s a group where there is definitely more to come and the desire to improve is embedded in all of them.
“The difficulty I have now is how to fit Alex, Luke, Tom Miller and Hallam Hope back into the eleven because they’re all coming available again within the next week. It looks like it’ll be a sleepless Christmas night – not because I’m waiting for Santa, but because I have to pick the team from a very string group to do the job at Accrington.”
Looking at the key moments of the Notts County game, he said: “I have to say, I thought our goalkeeper was different class. He saved two of their very good chances excellently. That kept our noses in front and I thought we managed things perfectly after that.
“We knew we had to be strong, because they have players all over the park who can put the ball in the back of the net, but we nullified their threat and we managed to strike at the other end.
“Another important factor was the fact we got a good start. We had a big, physical presence up front, and we knew that would cause problems, and we had other players working off that who were a goal threat.”
On the level of improvement seen so far this season, he said: “The easy comparison is to look at what we were going through at this same stage last season. There’s a feel-good factor and confidence around the place which wasn’t here then. That’s something I can work with.
“We brought Jabo [Ibehre] into the team as someone who would help us to add something different and he’s been rewarded for the work he does with his goals. He’s just one of ten outfield players who are determined to do their own job well. Having that gives you every chance of staying in games and of being competitive.
“We’re constantly looking at the players we have, and those we still need, because we want to keep the momentum going. A few offers have gone out to players on short-term contracts and we’ll be tidying all of that up next week.”
And looking ahead to Boxing Day, he said: “Accrington was a performance last year which caused us a lot of heartache. It was a day where we told individuals to take responsibility and to make sure they were accountable for everything they did on the pitch.
“It was taken on board and it has now spread right through the football club, to every area. The level of performance we get will show us where we’re at in terms of how far we’ve come.”