Keith Curle with reaction to the away draw at Exeter
United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the 2-2 away draw at Exeter.
“We come away feeling pleased overall on a day that had a lot of distractions,” he said. “We showed good character, determination and willingness and I thought we looked a threat going forward. Exeter is a difficult place to come because Paul Tisdale has instilled a way of playing here which everyone buys in to.
“I was pleased enough with some of our creation but I think we needed just a little bit more in the final third. There were a few occasions where we could have made different choices in front of goal.
“There is willingness and desire in that dressing room and goals will come. The players are frustrated as well because they want to win games by two or three goals and make it comfortable. You do see a little bit of nervousness creep in if they don’t get the first goal but they’re learning and developing all the time.”
“I thought Charlie [Wyke] took his goal exceptionally well,” he added. “His willingness to work was through the roof in this game and he earned that moment.
“A great bit of improvisation from a short corner presented Luke Joyce with a chance to shoot with the outside of his right boot and it was a nice toe poke into the top corner. Hallam then showed good desire to get on the end of it and force the ball over the line.”
“I have to say that I am disappointed with both of the goals they got,” he commented. “Their first one was just one of those things, but we then had a back header from Tom Miller which put their lad through.
“I have to say the player you want in your goal in those situations is Mark Gillespie. He was big and brave and you could describe it that he dropped us in the poo, and then got us out of the poo.”
On the 65-minute enforced break due to a safety incident, he said: “As I say, there were a lot of distractions on the day, particularly at the start of the game with the threat of the fire.
“Exeter handled the situation very well because supporter safety has to come first and foremost. It was a complicated situation an the referee took his time to make a decision, which was the right thing to do. John Nixon was contacted by the Football League as they wanted to know if there was any risk or fear of injury to the spectators. We were able to tell them it was being handled very well.
“You then wonder how it will go after the restart and I thought we came out of the blocks very quickly. We looked the more dominant force and we looked like a side who wanted to go for the win.
“That was after we hadn’t started very well but, and this is me making excuses, the travelling is taking its toll. The lads have been faced with some massive trips and they’re going to get some rest now. That will be mental and physical rest because it’s been a tough period.
“Nine games in 29 days has been a real challenge and the amount of travelling has stacked up a bit. We need to refresh the group now and we know that if we can get one win against somebody around us we’re right back on the edges of it all again.
“The players have been exceptional in the way they’ve attacked the last month or so with the length and amount of journeys they’ve had to face. They’ve been competitive in all of those games so they’ll get a bit of a reward with some time to relax.
“There’s room for a team to come with a late push and there’s no reason why it can’t be us. The season has to start now for us to make that push. We haven’t quite been able to get the wins we need in the run we’ve had. It’s definitely still on and we won’t give it up.
“We know we need to win games and we’re looking to do that. We ended the game with very attack minded players on the pitch and wins will come if we keep trying to force it like that.
“We’re in the top half of the table and I won’t shy away from the aim we have of wanting to get into the play-offs. If that doesn’t happen for us we won’t be too far away. That in itself is improvement because I certainly haven’t forgotten where this team was a year ago.”
On the place in the starting line up for this first time since September for Steven Rigg, he said: “He has a great work ethic. He’s been saying himself, he needs to be scoring again, and that’s the final thing he needs to bring to his game at the moment.
“He got on a great cross from Danny Grainger and he showed good movement and understanding as he tried to pop it into the bottom corner. On another day he puts it inside the post and we’re in the lead.
“I keep saying, I get paid to make decisions and I went with a selection I was comfortable with. Players know why they aren’t involved and they’re all on board with that. I’m lucky in that I’m able to manage from within so I am able to make choices on the likes of Jabo Ibehre and Michael Raynes. Everyone has to be ready because I will always pick a team I think will win us the game.”
And on the knock which took David Atkinson from the field of play, he said: “He collided with the other lad who caught him with his knee in the back of his leg. That stiffened up on him but we’ll have time to let it settle now we can take a good look at it.
“Antony Sweeney was out on the grass training and running this week and it’s been good to see him back out there. We’re almost up to a full quota again and that’s testament to the good work done by the medical staff.”
“I think we have to give a massive pat on the back to the supporters who came down,” he concluded. “They will know their players gave a committed performance. They had to be patient, with everything that went on, but they stuck with us and I think they’ll go away pleased overall with what they’ve seen.”
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