Keith Curle with reaction to the Emirates FA Cup Everton game
Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Emirates FA Cup home game against Everton on Sunday afternoon.
“Conceding the goals so early was a slap in the face and it meant we immediately had to think about a plan B,” he said. “It’s never going to be easy if you give a Premier League team a two goal start. That isn’t the scenario you would want from a game like this but the pleasing thing was that the players didn’t melt or fold.
“Everton Football Club are a team full of phenomenal footballers. There is a massive gulf between League Two and the Premier League. We gave them a couple of goals head start and let them play the game at their tempo. That meant we were in for a long afternoon.
“There’s no doubt that early goal settled them down. It made it difficult for us to turn it into a typical cup tie. They had an air of arrogance about them because they had their noses in front and we all know that goals change mentalities and games. We had a few shots and skirmishes and, if one of them had gone in, who knows what might have happened.”
“Their first goal wasn’t even what you could call intricate play,” he commented. “There was no pressure on the ball and the wide man just turned and ran in behind. They have players who not only pass the ball, but they move as well. It was a failure from us to react to danger.
“There was a little bit of nervous tension and that meant we got caught flat-footed and it can make you feel heavy-legged as well. The pleasing thing was that, as a collective, the players didn't fold or melt. We knew if we could get a goal back we could make it an uncomfortable cup tie, but it wasn't to be.
“We set out to try and contain and frustrate them. We could have played a 4-4-2 or tried to match them with a 4-3-3, but they've got better players than us. That's why they're Premier League and why you can't play them on a level playing field. We had to try and do something different.”
“Being beaten 3-0 by Everton is not a disgrace in any way, shape or form,” he insisted. “When they went 2-0 up the game was over for them, because Premier League teams know how to kill games off. They have players like Ross Barkley and he is a quality, quality player.
“He is a dynamic midfielder and even coming off the pitch our lads weren’t quick enough to catch him to ask him for his shirt! The simplicity of how Everton play, him included, is something for us to learn from.
“We tried changing things at half time to try and give ourselves more of an attacking threat. We went a little bit more open and expansive by putting two wide men on. Even with that, Everton were still able to play the game how they wanted to play it because they are a fantastic football club. The way Roberto and his players conducted themselves in the build-up to the game and on the day was very professional and it was a pleasure to compete against them.”
On team selection, he said: “We had seven players unavailable and if you take that out of any team they’re going to struggle. Having said that, I think the lads acquitted themselves quite well.
“Bastien Hery has a hamstring injury but we’re hoping he will only be missing for two weeks. He came off with that when we played York last week. Luke Joyce is injured, as is Danny Grainger, and we’re nursing a few other knocks and injuries.
“That gave Brandon Comley his chance to make his debut and I thought he was excellent. He was tenacious, competitive and he can handle a football. He showed good energy levels, he was very combative and I enjoyed how he rose to the challenge. It was really good as a first game for the club.”
Speaking about watching his side play in front of a packed stadium of fans, he said: “A lot of credit has to go to a lot of people who have worked behind the scenes to get the game on. To have had 17,000 people inside Brunton Park is a phenomenal effort.
“It’s only 58 days ago that we had the disaster of the flood and it’s amazing that we have now hosted Everton. It shows how far this club has come in a very short space of time. It’s a very welcoming environment and we hope that all of these fans will want to come again. We’ve managed to stage an enjoyable spectacle and that’s something everyone at the club can feel proud of.
“I got the players together after the game and told them to enjoy and absorb the atmosphere because they did exceptionally well to get us into that position. They need to push on and try and replicate it to see if we can get crowds like that again at Brunton Park. We know where we are, we know what we're about and where we want to get to.
“We've got games in hand and there was a real impetus about us as a group when we were up to fifth and chasing third spot. We've got games coming up very quickly so we'll get our feet back on the ground and get settled. We've got a very grounded and focused group but they're hurting and disappointed because of the start to the game. We learn from it and we move on very quickly.”
The United boss was quick to condemn the alleged reports of racist abuse which followed the first goal of the game.
“The referee came over to speak to both managers and he said that he’d been told that some comments had been made,” he said. “One of their players had heard it and he spoke to the referee, who then got a message to the fourth official. An announcement was made over the tannoy system to let people know that it wouldn’t be accepted at Brunton Park.
“It isn’t what we want to be associated with at this club or in this stadium. It also isn’t wanted anywhere inside football or society. We will do everything we can to identify who it was and it will be dealt with from there.”
And on the last day of January transfer window activity, he said: “I’ll be on my phone as soon as I’ve finished here. I’m trying to bring in one permanent, and two on loan, and I know contact has been made with clubs today.
“The detail of that was kept away from me so that we could concentrate fully on the game, but I’ll pick that up again immediately. Hopefully the news will be positive.”
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