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MANAGER: We had to fight for every inch of territory

17 January 2016

Keith Curle with reaction to the Barnet away draw ...

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the 0-0 away draw at Barnet on Saturday afternoon.

“Statistically Barnet are the second best home team in the division so we’ve done well to come here and take the lion’s share of the possession,” he said. “Obviously I was aware of Barnet’s home record but I’m not sure if the players were. It was one of those things we chose not to talk about with them.

“This was a game where it was about the players doing their jobs, individually and as a team. We needed to make sure they understood their roles and responsibilities at the same time as making sure they still had the freedom to play. 

“The condition of the pitch didn’t merit free-flowing football and it meant we had to fight for every inch of territory. The dominance we had in the game showed good signs of where we want to be, but we didn’t really create the number of clear-cut chances we wanted to.”

“There are some smiling faces in the dressing room because they were challenged and tested and they stood up to it,” he added. “I spoke to the players before the game and I warned them there was going to be a physical test and a mental test. I wanted us to take on the challenge of how Barnet play and then force our way of playing on the game.

“The reason we went with Bastien [Hery] is because we wanted to get back to the way we played at the start of the season. Pitches and conditions have meant we’ve gone more direct recently but he’s the type of player who wants the ball in all circumstances. He’s prepared to get on it, pass and play, and he’s under strict instructions to affect the game. I thought Luke Joyce had one of his better games beside him so it’s been very useful for us.

“It was good to have Jason Kennedy back because it was also his kind of game. He did what he always does in midfield and he had a very solid game. There was a bit of a concern with Jabo [Ibehre] before kick off because he told us he had a tight muscle. That meant he didn’t start at full fitness and he needed a bit of time to get himself warmed up.”

And on the starting place for Hallam Hope, he said: “I thought he was lively and bright. He has the type of movement where he can come off people and it’s a natural thing for him to do. It was a bit of a gamble to start him but he’s an athlete and he looks after himself. 

“He’s still probably a yard down on where he needs to be but he showed us a glimpse of the pace he has when he past two or three players in the second half. There’s more to come from him and I thought it was a good opportunity to get 60 minutes or so under his belt. I’d like to think we can keep him longer term and he’s hopefully going to be part of our plans for the rest of this season.”

“I think both managers will be happy with the level of effort and we’ll both agree that a little bit more quality could have made it more of a spectacle in terms of chances created,” he commented. “We knew their set pieces could cause problems but we also had a couple of opportunities where, on another day, we could maybe have nicked it. 

“We’re still a little bit rusty, if I’m being honest. There was good momentum to our game but the lay-off over Christmas, and the distraction of what happened with the flood, has probably left us with work to do to get ourselves really going again.

“We’ve played fairly well on the road this season and we’re also mindful of the fact we have a couple of games in hand. We’re still in striking distance and we want to get back to Brunton Park as quickly as possible so we can start to really pick things up again.”

Speaking about the challenge which left Danny Grainger with cuts and bruises on his chest and arm, he said: “Some people will say it’s a typical winger’s challenge, but I thought it was a shocking challenge. I asked the fourth official about it and he said the player was committed to getting the ball. 

“If you raise your foot to throat height, with your studs showing, then it can be labelled up in a number of ways as a red card. It was definitely a challenge which could have merited more than the caution it got. I made some challenges in my career with honest intentions and I would hope their player made a genuine attempt to get the ball.”

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