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INTERVIEW: There's a quiet confidence within the dressing room

9 August 2016

Keeper Mark Gillespie on his stunning Portsmouth performance

Keeper Mark Gillespie made it into the League Two team of the week and picked up a host of man-of-the-match awards following his performance at Fratton Park on Saturday and manager Keith Curle was quick to praise his efforts when he spoke to the press at full time.

“I thought Mark was excellent,” he said. “He knows he’s being challenged for the number one spot and he’s gained confidence from it. He’s an excellent professional and a very focused individual who wants his career to progress. 

“He had a stumbling block for eighteen months where he had an injury which stopped him from having runs of games in the team. He got over that last season and it was a massive plus for him. 

“His working relationship with Simon Tracey is now based on improvement and we’re getting that, as we saw from what was a textbook performance.”

Talking about the game ahead of the Monday morning training session, Gillespie said: “We got off to a dream start but the circumstances of the game changed once we went down to ten men.

“There was an hour to play when that happened and I think we’d have taken a point at that stage. Overall it was a good start for us away from home and it’s something for us to build on. 

“We executed our game plan pretty much as we wanted in the first 20 minutes and that’s what the manager is looking for. He wants to see that we can carry out his instructions and we did that by going one up against one of the best teams in the league. 

“We showed the other side of our game where we can battle and scrap, and that meant we went on to grind out a point. We defended in numbers, kept our concentration and discipline and we kept the play in front of us for long periods. I think it was a fantastic point to pick up away from home.”

Speaking about what the group will take from the performance, he said: “I think there’s a quiet inner confidence within the dressing room. Results over pre-season didn’t always go our way but I think everyone knows we have some good players here. 

“There’s always a bit of an unknown with the first game of the season and we had to go out and prove that we could perform. We’ll take confidence from it but we know we can and will improve even more.”

The game plan had to change with just under half an hour played when midfielder Jamie Devitt was shown a second yellow by referee Graham Salisbury.

“It was harsh to say the least,” he commented. “It’s obviously disappointing but the referee is going to make decisions and you just have to get on with it. It helped that we had something to cling on to and we knew we didn’t really have to go in search of a goal. 

“We wanted to sit and protect our lead and we did the same to get the point. Everyone is really pleased and it’s definitely a point gained in my opinion.”

“I was delighted with my performance,” he said. “I made a few good saves, particularly late on in the second half, and it’s always nice when it earns the team a point. The lads came under a bit of pressure but they gave their all and it was good to be able to contribute.

“I came away feeling disappointed from the same ground last year but I’ve managed to put that one to bed now. Obviously there was a bit of stick and banter from the home fans but I think you’re going to get that.

“They accuse you of time wasting, and things like that, but I think football fans understand how we all try to play the game. It’s a great crowd to play in front of and it’s a good club. Hopefully we’ll be in a position where they are one of our main rivals for promotion this season. It’s a brilliant place to play football so it was all done in good spirit.”

Speaking about his developing relationship with new arrival Max Crocombe, he said: “He’s a really nice lad and we hit it off quickly. I enjoy training with him because he’s brought a high tempo and intensity straight from the off. 

“We’re getting on well and it looks like it’s going to be a good relationship with us pushing to get the best out of each other. I don’t think him coming in made much of a difference to my performance levels at the weekend at all, to be honest. 

“My focus all the way through pre-season has been to make sure I was playing and to keep my performance levels as high as I could. I’ve managed to get off to a decent start even though I’ll always be disappointed if it isn’t a clean sheet. 

“I’m sure Simon Tracey will be on to me every day to remind me that this has to be the standard for the rest of the season. That’s something I’ll strive for even though I know I won’t always be worked to that level.”

“We’ve got three home games in the space of a week now and we’re all looking forward to being out there in front of our home supporters,” he concluded. “The games coming up are tough with different types of challenges in each one. 

“We’ve got the squad and the players to deal with it and hopefully we’ll start against Port Vale by seeing more of the ball as we look to win all of the games coming up.”

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