Keith Curle with his reaction to the St Albans City gameManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the dramatic FA Cup encounter at Clarence Park on Sunday afternoon.
“I wouldn’t say it was the kind of performance we could enjoy,” he said. “When they’ve scored after four minutes you start to think it has all the makings of a typical cup tie.
“We gave them a leg-up with the early goal and that was one of the things we’d talked about before kick off. We’d done all of the planning and preparation but we then went and gave them a head start.
“You don’t expect your keeper to get beaten from that distance, and we’d warned the players that St Albans were going to do things differently. Credit to them because they did that and the lad took a chance and it went in for him.
“I thought St Albans were fantastic in the way they applied and conducted themselves as a team and as a football club. They made us feel very welcome and it’s another situation where we’ve made a lot of new friends. I’d say that as a football club they’re going in the right direction.”
“In terms of the game, it was a test for us but we’ve shown again that there’s resilience about the group,” he commented. “We made it an uncomfortable afternoon for ourselves and there are quality levels we still need to improve on and decision making situations we still need to fine tune.
“We’ve given goals away cheaply and we don’t like doing that, and that came down to not picking the right options at the right times. I spoke to their manager [Ian Allinson] before the game and you can see he knows his players and how he wants them to perform.
“They have some great characters in the dressing room and there’s a focus within his group on being successful this season. They came into it with confidence and that’s the beauty of the FA Cup. It’s also why you get cup upsets.
“The opposition can raise their game and St Albans did exactly that. Not only that, but they did it very well and they gave a very good account of themselves. Their belief in their pace, movement and style of play made it a really difficult afternoon for us. We had to deal with it and there were periods of the game where we did very well.
“On other occasions we got into good areas but we didn’t move it on quickly enough. Ultimately it was a professional performance and the longer the game went on the more we looked like a threat.”
“There are obviously lessons to learn,” he agreed. “We’ll analyse the goals we conceded and we’ll review the game in its entirety to find what we can take out of it. We’re on a learning curve as a group and any information or criticism we give is done with honesty.
“It has to be commented on – I thought we were very lucky to still have ten outfield players on the pitch at one point. There was the Michael Raynes challenge after he’d already had a yellow card, and we did expect to see another one. Again, these decisions go for you and against you in different games and that ends up being the beauty of the cup.
“We decided to take him off because it was one of those days where the lad was getting in and around Michael and it was causing him a problem. That’s when it comes down to making a decision as a manager which is the best one for the team. We changed things round at the back and I thought that helped us to get on the ball more.”
“As I say, we made life hard but the fitness and professionalism came through and I thought we could have scored more goals in the end,” he concluded. “Saying that, when they were one up they had a great opportunity to add to it. That would have made life interesting.
“We’ve reminded ourselves with the way things went that we are by no means a finished article, but we’ve come through another difficult challenge.”
On the decision to play Mark Ellis at right back, he said: “Tom [Miller] had been up all night with a migraine. He had the sickness bug which Shaun Miller had suffered with earlier in the week so it was an opportunity for Mark to come in and do a job for us. He’d earned the right to be in there with his performance against Crawley.
“Joe McKee had that same sickness bug so he didn’t even travel. We’d given Shaun Miller a day off which gave him time to recover, and was able to come back into the group on Thursday, but Joe picked it up a day later and was still under the weather from it. We didn’t want him around the others in case there was a chance of it being passed on.”