Keith Curle with Stevenage match reactionManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the record making victory at Stevenage on Saturday afternoon.
“It was very hard fought,” he said. “Tactically it panned out how we thought it would. We needed a break in the first half, which we got with our goal, and that gave us something to build on.
“I thought we looked organised and we had slots identified where we wanted our players to be, both in and out of possession. We did that side of things really well. There was half an eye on what we thought they were going to do and we knew we were going to have to frustrate them.
“They’re a team that likes to play football and they have a young manager who wants them to play in the right way. We stopped them and we forced them to start going long and direct. We have a back four who are tuned in to that so it was a job well done. On top of that we always felt we could get something in the final third and, ultimately, it all came together for us.”
“Them getting back into the game when they did could have been a problem,” he admitted. “The pleasing thing is we found that it didn’t affect us. They put some balls into the box but we dealt with them very well.
“We knew we needed the second goal because they had options to try different styles of play. I didn’t think they had anything to cut us open in the first half and we did look like a very well organised team. A slight criticism is that we went a little bit too deep at times but we didn’t give the centre forwards an area to work in.”
Having been pegged back by a hotly disputed penalty just before the half time break the manager also admitted that he felt he needed to offer some words of caution, and a few incentives, to make sure the players got back to doing what they’re best at on their return to the field of play.
“We got into the dressing room and I spoke about the fact the focus had to move away from the officials, and from who might have said or did this or that,” he explained. “It had to get back to being about what we do.
“Sometimes you get people hiding behind the fact they want to feel sorry for themselves, or they want to talk about what they feel is bad luck. We’re not into that, so very quickly we had to get back to looking at where we thought we could cause Stevenage problems.
“That’s why I told them that if anybody got booked for dissent in the second half it was an immediate £500 fine. If you get booked for dissent it means you haven’t been able to listen to instructions, you’ve lost your discipline and you’ve been affected by somebody who isn’t in a red and white shirt.
“I made it clear that if they wanted to show a lack of maturity and get affected by events other than their own performances then I wouldn’t be happy. The pleasing thing is we saw good strength of character and a level of professionalism which was needed to see the game through.”
Speaking about the first half strike which gave United their lead, he said: “Jason [Kennedy] scores goals, but there are a lot of other things he does as well.
“He’s prepared to get into areas of the pitch others don’t want to be in and he’s always alive and a threat. He’s arrived at the right time and he’s been in an area where he’s been able to put the ball over the line, and all of that after others had already tried.
“That doesn’t happen by accident. You have to have the willingness to back yourself, gamble and put the yards in. He did that for us, as he does in every game, and that’s why his goal tally is ticking along at the moment.”
The win, of course, took United to 14 league games unbeaten and a new club record – one which will be extremely difficult to either match or beat.
“It’s a phenomenal achievement,” Curle conceded. “The credit has to go to everybody involved with this football club. The staff at the club work tirelessly to make sure our football environment is able to function how we want it to and in the manner we perceive is the best for us.
“I know I’m not an easy person to keep happy because I do like a moan and a grumble. That can rub people up the wrong way but it’s done for the right reasons. I need to be successful and I want people around me who have that same level of desire and passion.”
Speaking about the late substitution of club captain Danny Grainger, he said: “He felt his groin tighten and he said he couldn’t turn and sprint. I said, ‘Danny, you haven’t been able to turn and sprint for the last twelve years mate, so you should be fine!’
“He’s done the right thing because we’ve told all of the players we don’t want them to be a soldier and stay out there just to make it worse. If something isn’t right we want them under the guidance of Dolly quickly.
“It’s too early to say where he’s at with it but I know he’s in good hands with our medical team. I hadn’t actually realised he’d picked up a booking during the game - he didn’t get booked for speeding, did he! That’ll mean it’s his fifth, so he’ll have a suspension to serve.”
And on the absence of defender David Atkinson from the match day squad, he told us: “He got a slight tear in his calf in training on Monday.
“Hopefully he’ll be back on the grass with us in two weeks or so but, again, we’ll take the advice of our medical people so that we know we’re doing it all properly.”