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MANAGER: I had to make brave decisions

6 August 2016

Keith Curle with reaction to the Portsmouth game

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the away draw at Portsmouth shortly after full time at Fratton Park.

“I was really impressed with the determination shown by our players,” he said. “I thought we very quickly saw a buy-in from the players to what we wanted to do. They’ve shown they can regroup and face challenges and I have to give a mention to the Cassius Camps we did in the summer. 

“Everybody had to do their job during that and then they had to go and help somebody else. That’s exactly what we got from them today. We had to climb mountains in the second half, but we got there.”

On the slick move which brought the opening goal of the game, he said: “We had a game plan and it was working. We felt we could cause them problems down the sides of their centre backs and we had Shaun Miller’s pace and movement working in behind them.

“We used that approach to get to open them up and Reggie [Lambe] got his reward. That was extremely pleasing to see. Unfortunately we didn’t get a second goal when we had eleven men on the pitch and, if we had, it could have been a completely different afternoon.”

“I was disappointed with the goal we conceded because I thought that gave them an air of arrogance,” he commented. “I think they thought we were going to roll over after that. The team has proved today that it has a bit of fight in it. We saw a lot of pride in the players who were wearing the shirts and that was pleasing.

“As I say, the red card meant we had to have a complete rethink. It was horses for courses. We knew we had to try and stifle them and make their play predictable, and we had to accept that we would have to concede ground with having a man sent off. 

“The plan at the start was to get in their shorts and get in their faces as quickly as possible. We needed the plan B of defending and protecting our box, and we had to readjust within that to deal with the balls which flashed across our area. I did that by putting another defender in the middle of our area and that allowed our full backs to go out and engage higher up the pitch.”

And on the decision to shut the door completely as the second half wore on, he said: “Alarm bells were ringing when three or four balls were flashed across the six yard box. They only got on the end of one, and that went narrowly wide, but it was a concern. They were creating problems for us in wide areas and we had to stop that.

“I had to make a brave decision by deciding to play none up front. I knew I could be criticised for not trying to win the game but I can tell you that a point at Portsmouth when you’re down to ten men is pleasing.

“I did what I did to try to protect the players and even they looked across at me to see who was supposed to play up front. The answer to that was no one because my game plan was to absorb everything they had by putting an extra man in there. I knew that if we were lucky we could catch them on the break. 

“My gut instinct when watching from the sidelines was that I needed another defender in there to plug a few of the holes. I get paid to make those decisions and if I come off that pitch thinking I should have done this or that, then I don’t think I’m worth the money I get paid.”

The manager revealed after the game that he’d spoken to the match referee about the controversial second booking given to Jamie Devitt which brought his dismissal with just 28 minutes on the clock.

“I didn’t want to get involved in a row with the referee but I did want to make sure I was able to speak to him,” he said. “I asked him if we could have a quiet word in the tunnel at half time and he was excellent, so I don’t have a problem with that. Out of professional courtesy I won’t divulge what was said in that conversation. I understand his interpretation of the incident even though I wholeheartedly disagree with it. 

“New legislation will mean we get decisions going for and against us this season because it is very difficult for officials in terms of when common sense can be applied and when the laws of the game dictate they have to act.

“The booking for Mark Gillespie is an example of that. Their player put the ball down, Mark moved it – which we think he is entitled to do – and he was shown the yellow card. I don’t think that’s right but the referee’s interpretation might be that he was trying to gain an advantage. 

“We won’t be able to appeal the sending off because it’s two yellow cards. That means Jamie will miss the game on Tuesday night.”

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