Keith Curle with reaction to the Oxford United game
United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the away defeat at Oxford United on Saturday.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with the players in the dressing room after the game, but I’m not the type to throw tea cups or who says things just for the sake of saying them,” he said. “I will always give thoughts, opinions and information, but I’ll do it in the right way.
“The players know I’m not happy and they know why I’m not pleased about the things they didn’t do in this game. Today was a day where we had to do the ugly side first and foremost so we could get a foothold in the game.
“If you don’t do the first part of that you don’t get the chance to do the second. You end up having no flow to your play and you give yourself problems.”
“I thought we were lucky to go a goal up because they started better than us,” he told us. “Oxford did do the ugly side of the game. Fair play to the players because they kept a clean sheet through the first 15 minutes.
“We could have been two or three down because we had to defend a lot of corners through those early stages. That’s not where you want to be when you’re away from home.”
“We got our goal through a dangerous ball into the box, and that was something we highlighted that needed to be done,” he commented. “We went in front against the run of play and we thought it could be the springboard for us to start doing the ugly things properly.
“There was a hope we would get to half time ahead and we could reorganise from there. That didn’t happen for us and we didn’t really get going at any point in the game. We did have players missing but I wouldn’t use that as an excuse. The performance levels just weren’t there and that’s something we need to address.
“Sean O’Hanlon has been in a great run of form and he’s become consistent, reliable and dependable. It would have been the type of game he would have relished, had he been available. It isn’t about individuals today though because we didn’t do the basics or the horrible side of it right as a team.
“Sean will be back on Friday and Courtney Meppen-Walter is getting there now as well. Danny Atkinson has come in and he can play at right back or as a centre back. Paul Thirlwell has been training well, and he can do that role, so we’ll have options to get us the job done on Friday.”
On the length of the post match debrief, he said: “I spoke to the players initially then I let them get changed. I then spoke to my coaching staff and I decided to get some of the players off the team bus, and back into the changing room, to have another sit down and chat with them.
“It was playing on my mind that I didn’t want them to leave here without them fully understanding the things we didn’t get right. I didn’t want them to be able to watch DVDs and clips of goals and come up with rhyme and reasons for a below par performance. I also needed to know that they understand what is needed from us as a collective with the situation we’re in.
“It isn’t about interplay and expansive football. It just isn’t the time for that. They need to do the ugly side of the game so they earn the right to play football. That’s something we didn’t do and it has to be put right.”
And on the absence of midfielder Anthony Griffith, he said: “He was away on international duty with Montserrat and that was one I decided to keep under my hat.
“I dealt with it at the club and we kept it to the playing staff that he was going away. Part of the agreement I had with him was to allow him to go on two training camps and play in two fixtures for his country.
“I gave him the clearance to go away again this week but, with the injury situation and things like that, I decided not to give a heads up to the opposition that he wasn’t available for us. That’s why we kept the information in my office and we asked the player himself not to mention it as well.
“We’re all trying to gain an advantage and the fewer players I have available the easier it is for the other team’s staff to predict how I will line up. It’s not meant in any way to be disrespectful to the media, or our fans, if I keep things quiet because what I’m trying to do, with everything I do, is give us the best chance I can of getting the points on a match day.”
“We did that today in our preparation but the execution out on the pitch was nowhere near good enough,” he said. “We have an opportunity to push on and go again on Friday and what’s required will be highlighted even more before we get to that game.
“It’s possible that we didn’t ramp this one up as much as we should have for the players. We’ve spoken about that and I take it on board. We know the lads can step up because they were three games unbeaten prior to this. What we did in those games wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. We need that back.
“I’ll be saying it to the players day in and day out that we’ve got to do the ugly things properly. Everyone will be sick of hearing it because it has got to sink in. The easy thing to do is for us to try to play the attractive side of the game. That’s fine the further you go up the league. We don’t have that luxury so we’re going to have to earn the right to get our points.”
“Let’s make no mistake, every player who earns a wage at this football club will have a part to play,” he concluded. “They have all got to make sure they’re ready to go and that they’re doing the mental and physical preparation that’s needed.
“Another thing that has come out of the conversations we have just had is that I need to be more demanding of the players. I take responsibility for not ramping this game up enough for them. That was done purposely because of what I’d seen in the previous three games.
“I’ve learned lessons today from this group so I’ll be reminding them with every chance I get about what we all need to do to see this through. I need to go back to basics so that I make sure they all know what this job requires and how they can go about completing it.”
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