Keith Curle with Checkatrade Trophy match reactionManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Tuesday night Checkatrade Trophy home game against Mansfield Town.
“Obviously what going out of the competitions means now is that there are no more distractions,” he said. “We’re pushing on with the league campaign and the focus now is to get this football club promoted. I’m disappointed that we’re out of the competition but you have to say it was a fantastic strike from the lad who scored the winning goal.
“Overall there were some pleasing things and other things we still have to use as a learning curve. I thought we started very well and we had them on the ropes through the opening exchanges. We created two very good opportunities and it’s always a concern when you don’t take them.
“We showed good character to get back in the game having become a little bit hesitant in our play. After that good start we started to see the formation we wanted to play wasn’t working, but within that we did create some great chances. Jamie Devitt, Alex McQueen and Shaun Miller absolutely cut through them but we didn’t put them away. Being honest, they didn’t have a clue how to deal with us in the first ten minutes, but we missed those golden opportunities to put the game out of sight.”
“The way we allowed them to score their first goal was very disappointing,” he commented. “Goals do change games and it was a simple free kick into the box. We were outmuscled which allowed one of their lads to have a free header at goal. That’s got nothing to do with preparation or formations or anything like that. That’s about the man you’re looking after having more desire to get to a ball than you have. It was weak defending and if you don’t defend your box you’re going to cause yourself problems.
“Some of our decision making was calamitous in the build up to their second goal. Once you’re two goals down you need to change things round a bit, so that’s what we did. We went back to a back four and we started to get more balls into their box and, once it was back to 2-2, you felt there was only going to be one team to win it. I always believe we’re going to score goals and, on reflection, it was the early chances we needed to take.
“Unfortunately we made more poor decisions when we had the right players in the right places, but that happens. We’re striving for improvement so we’ll look at all of the key situations in the game and we’ll learn from them. The players understand that if they don’t improve they won’t be playing, and that’s why we’ve been on the run we’ve been on, because they all want the best for themselves and the club.”
“Tonight was an opportunity for some of those players who haven’t been playing regularly to get 90 minutes under their belt,” he told us. “They needed to be involved in competitive football, so that box has been ticked. Ideally you won’t ever have to make five changes but we had a bigger picture in mind with our team selection. Those players have got to now try to force their way into the reckoning by performing to the levels expected.
“They need to work harder than the lads who are playing so that when they do get an opportunity they’re able to take it. There are bits and pieces from what I’ve seen that I’m happy with because you have to take the plus points out of games, even when you’ve lost. Nobody in this football department likes to lose, but we don’t get off the bus just because it’s happened.”
Speaking about a first appearance of the campaign for Kevin Wright and Alexander McQueen, he said: “The best way to integrate players into the group is out there on the pitch. They’ll both have been nervous but it’ll have done them the world of good.
“Alex started very well but a lack of game time and understanding meant that he didn’t pick up on the fact that a player will come and mark you when you’re causing him problems. You have to deal with that and start to run him away to give him another type of problem.
“Kevin has got dynamics and he set up the second goal by causing a little bit of mayhem. It’s a huge step for the lad and there’s more to come from him. Both of these lads have a month to impress, but they’re good bodies to have in the building.”
On the absence of Jabo Ibehre, he said: “He’s getting close. He’s training with Dolly and Lee Fearn and we’ll see where he is on Thursday morning. Hopefully he’ll be back on the grass with us, but what we don’t want to do is take a gamble and lose, because that would mean we’ve lost a very good player.”