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MANAGER: Important for the dressing room

4 March 2015

Post Cheltenham match reaction from Keith Curle

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Cheltenham victory on Tuesday night.

“We’re obviously delighted with the result but it was a nervy game,” he said. “It was made even more unspectacular because of the weather conditions. The fact it was also two teams who are where we are added to that as well.

“It was freezing cold, there was a blustery wind and it was in no way ideal for getting the ball down and playing expansive football. It’s one where you have to tough it out, and it’s about putting the ball in the right areas at the right times.”

“I think winning the game the way we did, with a clean sheet, was very important for the changing room,” he added. “They know that if it’s a horrible game, they have got to see it through. We rode our luck a little bit at the end when their player put his header wide, but we probably deserved that to go our way. Patrick Brough lost his man for a second, but he’ll learn from that. 

“He knows he’d have been met with a hostile dressing room and my heart was in my mouth for a moment. Having said that, he put in an excellent performance and he deserves a lot of pats on the back. He needed a performance, because Danny [Grainger] is back from suspension, and the only way you can answer any questions asked is out there on the turf.

“We saw a lot of hard work, soul searching and honesty right across the pitch and, again, it was just what they needed. It gives them the belief that if it is ugly, we can win ugly. We’ve had a lot of conversations recently about who is going to be the spark. Was it going to be a tackle, a shot, a block or a commanding header? 

“We got all of that from the kick off and the goal came at exactly the right time. It was a great ball in from Patrick and it was then well reached by Antony Sweeney. Charlie [Wyke] followed that up with a poacher’s finish. He needed that goal because hasn’t enjoyed not being on the score sheet these last few weeks. Steven Rigg is the same but he has nothing to worry about. His work ethic and understanding of the game is growing every day. 

“The response from the fans to Antony Sweeney for his part in the goal was excellent. I think he epitomises what’s in that changing room. It’s a never-say-die attitude which won’t always be the prettiest on the eye. He’s a fantastic professional, a very honest person and he’s someone who will empty the tank week in and week out.”

“I think we have to acknowledge just how bad the conditions were out there, at times, and how well we handled them,” he commented. “It was never going to be a free flowing sexy match at all. We had to be prepared to go toe-to-toe and come out on top against the person each player was playing directly against. 

“I think it probably went as we predicted. If you need to roll your sleeves up and get dirty, get on with it, and we did. We knew we were going into this on the back of four defeats but the pleasing thing was that we’d competed in every one of those games. All we had to do was carry that on. 

“Being honest, I think the Shrewsbury game did knock the changing room. That’s to be expected, but it’s put to bed now. We’ve got the win and it’s the sign of a team with the foundations in place when they do it the way they did in this one. Situations like this are about togetherness and finding out who is with you. 

“Talk is cheap, because people will say they are on your side. It’s not until you’re in there that you find out who stands where. The fans are definitely doing their bit for us. You could tell they knew it was going to be a horrible night. We needed them and we’ve seen that it is a lot easier when they’re behind us like that.”

On the recall for keeper Dan Hanford, he said: “He’s a confident lad and he showed that in his performance. I got a text and a phone call on Monday night to tell me that Raphael [Spiegel] had been up with a sickness bug. I don’t know if that was something he might have eaten, so I didn’t want to risk playing a player who wasn’t 100% fit. 

“Dan has been chomping at the bit ever since he lost his place to come back in, and there’s nothing better for him than to have kept a clean sheet. He knows he now needs to build on that. I want my job to be made harder by having players battling for places in every position. He did what he had to, he kicked it well and he’s reminded us why we extended his contract.”

“Troy [Archibald-Henville] played again tonight and that’s a case of us all trying to play our part in managing his situation,” he explained. “We’re all trying to help him play as many games for us as he can. It’s working because he has played more games this season than he has done in the previous two. That shows we’re getting things right and I think it’s a proven fact that we concede fewer goals when he is in the team.”

“It was good to have Billy [Paynter] back on the bench,” he told us. “I’m not going to tell you everything was fine, because it wasn’t, but we’re professionals and we’re grown ups. You draw a line in the sand and you move on. 

“He was never going to be fit enough to start but he’s been on a steady fitness regime. Ideally we would have played a bounce game for him, but he’s been training with the group and he has trained well. He earned his right to get back in to the 18 and his game time will come. It’s the same with Gary Dicker. He’s a good professional and his time will come as well.”

And on making first year professional Kyle Dempsey the youngest player to captain the club, he said: “I made my decision on this on Tuesday afternoon at the pre-match meal. I asked all of the staff, if they had their choice, who would they pick. None of them went with Kyle. 

“He took the news in typical Kyle Dempsey fashion. He was absolutely excellent. He led by example and a character like his was what we needed. It was a game for digging things out and showing no fear at all. He has that in him in abundance. It got a reaction from everyone, because he flourished and relished in it, and that’s exactly what I intended to happen. It shows what I think of him to give him that responsibility at such a young age. 

“What we do now is let the group enjoy this result because they’ve been under a lot of stress and pressure, both from themselves and from everyone around them. They will move on to a gentle warm down on Wednesday, then Thursday is a back to full work day. The focus will be on Exeter from the moment they walk through the door.”

United Player subscribers can see a series of video interviews with Keith Curle now. Click HERE to go to the Player platform. Follow the same link for more information on United Player, and to subscribe.

Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.

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