Keith Curle with his thoughts on the Mansfield Town gameManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the latest serving of fantastic entertainment at Brunton Park on Saturday afternoon.
“Looking at the score line you would think it was comfortable, but when the board for six minutes of added time went up, and there were a couple of skirmishes around our box, I did start to worry,” he said.
“That was probably based on what had happened with the Exeter game the week before, because this is a place which can have late goals. Fortunately we didn’t panic and it ended up that we went on to score another goal for ourselves.”
“In terms of how the game went, and I’ve said this a number of times before, sometimes teams can score too early against you,” he added. “You’ve still got time to go on and do something about it and the good thing is that we know our players have a game plan. They don’t fold or hit the panic button and they approach things with real focus.
“We know we’ll face different challenges within the game and we will never let that change the way we do things. There’s a style of play we’re trying to implement, but there are variations within it. We see things going against us as a challenge and the way to meet that is head on. That’s the way we like to do things.”
The team announcement revealed that the same starting eleven which had played so well at Grimsby on Tuesday night had been given the nod again, but he admitted that it hadn’t been an easy decision to make.
“I nearly tinkered with it,” he told us. “I think this is the first time I haven’t used two orthodox strikers at home, and that’s something I’ve been pondering since last Tuesday.
“I had a sleepless night on Thursday thinking about it. I got up early on Friday morning to go for a walk in the freezing cold, and that was to clear my head. It was only at that point that I finalised my game plan. I relayed my decision to the staff and we came up with the methods we felt would get us a good foothold in the game.”
“What you have to bear in mind is that Mansfield are a very difficult team to play against,” he commented. “They get a huge amount of encouragement from the manager on the sideline, because that gives them extra belief. I thought our fans played a massive part because they got on to Paul Raynor and Steve Evans straight away.
The focus from the terrace was on upsetting them and getting a reaction. Obviously when a manager is involved with the crowd his focus isn’t on his own team. That makes it a ‘very well done’ from me to our supporters.
“Our staff did really well because they made sure I didn’t get involved in any of it. I’d asked them to make sure that was the case before kick off, even though you have to bear in mind I like both Steve and Paul. They’re very enjoyable people to be around and very professional. All they’re trying to do is maximise every advantage they can find.
“As soon as the whistle blows, they change, because they want everything to go their way. I’m the same, but what I can’t afford to do is lose my focus, and I’m pleased that we were able to keep sight of what we needed our players to do.
“What we came up against was a group of players who knew their jobs. We had to make sure we competed with that so that we could earn the right to do what we needed to do to give them problems. I’ve watched a lot of footage of their games and since Steve has gone in teams have tried to beat them at their own game. That will never work. We went out to match their honesty and endeavour so that we got the right to play. The pleasing thing is we did that.”
Having seen striker Charlie Wyke bag his first career hat-trick, he said: “He’s a good player. He came to us at the right time and he’s one who has a really good understanding of the game. He needed to be playing competitive football and scoring goals, because that’s what he’s all about.
“The test for him under us was to push himself on to the next level where he would be starting regularly and scoring goals. His goal return has been very good and he’s earned the plaudits he’s getting.
“I think we bought him for a nominal fee and he was a good bit of business. There was a career for him to grab hold of, if he wanted to, and he’s worked extremely hard at his game to improve.
“He’s got his hat-trick and Danny Grainger was part of that. He’s shown an understanding that the striker was on two goals and, let me tell you, there would have been a fight in that 18-yard box for who was going to take it if Danny hadn’t stepped aside. I call that real professional courtesy – mind you, I wouldn’t have let him have it!”
On the absence of big striker Jabo Ibehre, he said: “Jabo missed out through a slight displacement in his back. It’s nothing major and we know we’re a small squad, so he was deemed not fit to play or be involved.
“I listened to the medical advice and he’s one who will be reassessed next week, so this was an opportunity to give him the rest time he needs. He’ll be looked at again early in the week and we’ll take the advice we’re given once we see how he is.”
Speaking about the pitch inspection, which was called early on Saturday morning, he said: “The pleasing thing is we have good lines of communication at the football club. Our club secretary had spoken to our ground staff at 8.15am and, at that point, there was a genuine concern.
“That information was passed on to myself, and the relevant staff, and I spoke directly to Dave Mitchell who told me he was confident. He knew it was going to have time to thaw and the referee was called in at 11am to have an early pitch inspection.
"The ref had doubts, but Sarah [McKnight] and Dave persuaded him to come back at 12.15am, to leave us as much time as possible to get it on. You have to thank him for listening to that. In the end the pitch was excellent, and that’s well done to everybody who was involved.”