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MANAGER: We could have made life harder for them

2 March 2016

Keith Curle with reaction to the Orient game

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the 2-2 home draw with Leyton Orient on Tuesday night as we asked whether he was proud, frustrated, pleased or disappointed with the performance.

“I'm all of those things,” he said. “It's a cliché but it was a definite game of two halves. We didn't take our opportunities when we had them but I thought we kept a good defensive shape in the first half. However, we could even have caused them more problems than we did. 

“We could and should have been more positive in possession and I thought we caught them when they were still on the bus. They looked a bit leggy and I don’t think they wanted to be here. That was certainly the impression they gave me. 

“We could have been two or three up and if Charlie [Wyke] had scored his chance I think they would have been on to damage limitation. In the second half they went 2-1 up and they could then easily have gone 3-1 up. Credit to the players, they stuck at it and got us something out of the game in the end, but there’s a level of frustration because the expectations are rising all the time.”

“I knew they would have to change things in the second half because there was no way they were going to be happy with what they’d done,” he commented. “They looked toothless until they changed their approach. They changed their shape and went a bit more direct in the second half and they were winning first contact with their big lad.

“We’d given our players the information they needed during the break but we didn’t deal with it. That's frustrating because if we had kept the foundation for 20 or 25 minutes at the start of the second half they would have pushed more men forward and we could have caught them on the break. 

"We told the players at half time they needed to be better than we were. We weren't incisive enough in our passing and some of our decision making on the ball was poor. We had people in space that we could give the ball to but we chose the wrong options.

“Unfortunately we conceded two very soft goals. One of them was a stereotypical second division goal where a ball is lumped forward and the leading goal scorer in the division is given time to shoot. We know we’ve got to be able to defend the first ball better and you can’t give players who are playing with that kind of confidence time and space.

“The second goal was pathetic and rubbish defending. We took the wrong options and we weren’t able to spot danger.”

“I have to say, we then showed fantastic character to get ourselves out the mire we had put ourselves in,” he continued. “There’s an attitude within the group that if we’re facing adversity we will not give in. We’ll do everything we can to take the game to the other team. 

“Having said that, we had the lead in the first half and we weren’t aggressive enough to turn it into a real advantage. We had Alex Gilliead in a position where we thought he would cause them problems but we needed to give him the ball more than we did. We needed to be tenacious and aggressive in our forward passing and, if we had been, we could have made life harder for them.

“We did have chances to add to the tally and I thought Charlie Wyke did everything right until he got to his last touch when he was put through. That was too big and it gave the keeper an opportunity to come out and close him down.” 

“I spoke to the referee about the foul on Steven Rigg just before half time,” he confirmed. “He said it was more a coming together than it was a foul. I actually thought the free kick we took the lead from was a penalty. It looked like it was inside the box to me. It was a definite foul because Jason [Kennedy] was about to pull the trigger. 

“In the end it didn’t matter because it was a fantastic strike from Macaulay [Gillesphey]. We had a quiet conversation with him when we were walking off the training pitch on Tuesday morning to congratulate him about his new contract offer at Newcastle. 

“I mentioned that he was in the side now and playing regularly, and that it would be nice if he added to his first goal. He came back at me with the comment that he felt like he was going to score tonight. Sure enough he’s smashed one into the top corner for us. We’re pleased for him but he’s another young player who is learning his trade and there is still much more to come.” 

Speaking about the post-match team talk, he said: “My ex-partner used to tell me that I have the ability to let people know when I'm not happy without saying anything. After the game today I took some advice from my staff.

“I'm usually very honest in my address to the players after the game but my staff advised me that tonight wasn't the time to tell them what I thought. I'll watch the DVD and I'll make sure the players get told in a level-headed manner the good points about our performance in the first half. 

“I'll go back to my ex-partner, you don't know you really love them until you have an argument. You let it calm down but then you think you want to go back. I feel like I've had a row with the players, but on Thursday I'll want to make up because I know there’s quality in that changing room.”

On his injured players, he said: “I’ve been told that Tom Miller, Danny Grainger and David Atkinson will all be training on Thursday with a view to being available for selection on Saturday. 

“Things can change, and if they aren’t available it won’t be for the want of the excellent work done in getting them fit and ready to go again by Lee Fearn and Neil Dalton behind the scenes.

“Charlie Wyke collided with the post and he couldn't get the feeling back in his leg quickly enough. Dolly will patch him up and get him back out there and I'm hopeful he'll be available for Saturday.

“Antony Sweeney will be another ten days or so and that’s disappointing for him. With Brandon Comley going back to QPR we’ve lost that little bit of tenacity, but we’ve got other options in there at the moment. There are areas of the pitch I want to improve on. 

“Dan Hanford took a knock on Saturday which gave him a dead leg. He hasn't been able to get the movement back into it so we drafted in young Morgan [Bacon] again. We were lucky in that we had Mark [Gillespie] waiting to step straight back in and continue his performance levels. Knowing the animal, if there's any chance of Dan being fit for Saturday he will be.”

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