Keith Curle with his reaction to the Bristol Rovers away game
Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the away defeat at Bristol Rovers on Saturday afternoon.
“It was tough going for both teams,” he said. “We were without six first team players and that did make us look a little bit disjointed. As I’ve said before, goals change games and it went from us trying to win it to having to go all out just to get something out of it.
“We got through their early period of pressure, as I thought we would have to, and I think both teams would have settled for 0-0 at half time. We looked like we were coping but we lacked a cutting edge and a bit of quality in that final third.
“Fair play to Bristol Rovers because it was a dogged performance from them. They got their first goal at an important time and we didn’t really have the quality we needed in the final third.
“I didn’t really think we got going at all. I think if you took five or six of the regular starters out of any team in any division they would struggle, and that was the same for us. If you’re missing key personnel it’s going to make life difficult.
“Things can be disjointed when a number of changes are forced on you but, having said that, we have a squad of players we still believe could have done much better.”
“One of the changes was forced on us at 11.30 this morning and that does dismantle things a little bit,” he explained. “We’d worked through Thursday and Friday on shape and responsibilities so another late change did have an impact on that.
“However, it also shows the honesty we have in the squad because Jason Kennedy came to me and told me he didn’t feel well at all. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to give me 100% and he wasn’t prepared to let the team down in that way. Make no mistake, he wanted to play, but not at the expense of giving us a below par performance. I respect that because he showed a very professional approach and he made the right call.
“The other late one was Hallam Hope. He had a fitness test on his ankle on Thursday but he didn’t quite come through it. He got through a large percentage of it but when it came to the final part of it - the twisting and turning - he wasn’t able to do it comfortably.
“We’re mindful of the fact he isn’t our player and we’re being guided by his parent club, Bury, so he will now do his work under them to make sure he recovers as quickly as possible. The frustrating aspect is that it was a really innocuous challenge at the end of the Plymouth game and we thought it had settled. That wasn’t the case and we took the decision we didn’t want to make him travel when he couldn’t do the full range of movement.
“It’s frustrating for him because he’s enjoying himself here. He’s getting regular game time and he’s playing in an environment which suits him. It’s in the hands of the powers that be as to whether or not we can get him to stay and we would be pleased if that could happen.”
Looking back at the performance as a whole, he said: “We had good understanding of our roles but we came up short in the final third, and that was the difference. The decision making in attacking situations let us down, but there are still positives we can take out of the game.
“We had a good foothold until they got their first goal. I wouldn’t call it a break, but they caught us a little lopsided. They moved it quickly and we were always struggling to get a block on the shot. Other than that there was nothing in it at all.
“Bristol were very dominant for the first 25 minutes or so. After that it was very close and either side, with a little bit of luck, was going to edge in front. We were a bit toothless going forward but we had enough good situations and set plays to have made something of them.
“It didn’t look as if we’d been working on set pieces but I can assure you we do. There were opportunities to hit dangerous areas but we chose not to take them at the time. We want to be better at our execution of set plays because much of what we did today wasn’t good enough. That was disappointing.”
“The other disappointing factor is that I don’t think we did the horrible side of the game well enough,” he commented. “I thought Bristol came out on top of the midfield battle. They won too many second balls for my liking and they were able to dictate the pace of the game with ease.
“It’s a game of football we didn’t win because we didn’t compete well enough across the piece. We didn’t earn the right to get the luck which can often swing it in your favour. We were disrupted with injuries and illness but to use that as an excuse would be disrespectful to the players who were out there for us today.
“I firmly believe we had enough to cause real problems for Bristol Rovers in the squad we had available but we were disjointed in midfield on too many occasions when we had possession. We prepared excellently but the conditions meant we were going to have to earn the right to play. We didn’t stop them anywhere near enough and ultimately that’s why it didn’t go our way.”