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MANAGER: We have to be forward thinking

28 March 2016

Keith Curle with reaction to the victory over Bristol Rovers

United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the thrilling 3-2 home victory against Bristol Rovers on Easter Monday.

“It’s always pleasing as a manager or coach to win a game of football with lots of key elements of what you’re trying to bring to the team on show,” he said. “I thought the way we started the game was excellent. 

“We had the air of arrogance back and that’s something we’ve been working on in training. We’ve demanded that the players get on the ball and show bravery in training and we found a lot of spaces in that opening 20 minutes.

“I think the important thing today was how we started the game. It was reminiscent of how we started the season. The players had an air of arrogance about them and they passed it around well. They were forward thinking and they were able to find pockets of space. 

“We caused them problems to the extent that they made two substitutions early in the game to try to nullify our threats. Credit to them for doing that because they started to cause us a few problems once they’d made their changes.”

On how the coaching staff had prepared for the game, he said: “We sat down and analysed Bristol Rovers because we knew they would be full of confidence. Our preparation wasn’t so much about how we could stop them, but about what we would bring. 

“We wanted to make it a game about us and what we did. It came down to the fact that we had to cause them problems by the way we played the game. I thought we did that because we ticked a lot of boxes. 

“The tempo and range of passing was what we asked for and we looked a decent side. Once they switched to a narrow midfield you could see why they have had success. That caused us to reshuffle the pack, but I do have to say that I’m disappointed with the goals we conceded.

“They didn’t tear us open too many times but they probably had more goalmouth action than we did. The difference was that our finishing was exquisite.”

“Another thing we wanted to do was use the fantastic playing surface we have,” he told us. “The pitch is phenomenal. The confidence the players get from playing on it is something for us to build on. 

“It’s completely settled now and we haven’t had the same level of covering of grass at the away venues we’ve been to because of the time of year. You need a style of play to go with that and that’s why we’ve had to adapt at some of the away grounds.

“Some of the play in the opening 20 minutes was exceptional. Their first goal rocked us a little bit and I got myself a little bit agitated because on some occasions after that we started to slip back into bad habits. 

“We were looking for the easy option and to pass it back, when we could have been going forward. I don’t want that because for us to be successful we have to be forward thinking.”

“Overall we did just that and that was against a team which had won its last six games,” he commented. “They realised very quickly we were tearing them apart. However, I was disappointed with the goals we conceded. 

“Different decision making at key times could have changed that but, overall, we dealt with them even though they did still look menacing and threatening. The good thing was that we matched them and we also looked a real threat.

“I had a little bit of annoyance with certain players at times because they took the easy option. They didn’t maintain what we were trying to do. We spoke about the importance of forward thinking and movement because it’s very easy to go out and stay safe by passing the ball back. 

“Your stats look good because you’re getting touches on the ball. I don’t want stats like that. I want forward passes and movement, and if you do need to go sideways it has to be with a purpose.”

“As I say, with some of the goals we’ve conceded recently it’s left us asking ourselves what we were thinking to allow them to happen,” he continued. “The pleasing thing is that the players have given me everything they’ve got despite that.

“There’s a competitive edge to the squad because with 26 or 27 players available it’s an achievement to get into the match day 18. That shows how the club have backed me and it gives us an opportunity.

“We have options now. You could roll off five or six different formations I can now put out with confidence. We can do that by putting square pegs in square holes and it means we can pit our wits against other managers with a quality squad of players.

“They’ve taken some criticism along the way but they’re coming back and doing the work they need to do. The first thing you do as a manager is set your team out to win. If you can’t win you want to try to make sure you don’t get beat. If you do get beat it has to be having done the right things. We adopted those three key elements against a team that were flying and ultimately we got our reward.”

“The pleasing thing is that the beginning part of the game was us getting back to where we were at the start of the season,” he concluded. “I see a game like this as an advert for Carlisle United and what we are trying to bring to this football club. We are a work in progress but the players are very much on board with what we want to do.

“The players know they’ve missed opportunities in terms of picking up points in recent games. The good thing is that they’ve kept their belief through that. We’ve created a positive environment and that does help. I still say if we get into the play-offs we will go up.

“We’re chasing the pack and sometimes it’s nice to be a chaser. There are going to be more twists and turns but I know the players fully believe it can be done.”

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