Keith Curle with his reaction to the Newport home gameManager Keith Curle gave us his thoughts on the important home win against Newport County on Saturday afternoon.
“We started the game as well as we have at home for a while and there was good fluidity, penetration and rotation in our play,” he said. “We had a run of good deliveries into the box and all we needed was the icing on the cake of a goal. I’d probably say I was disappointed to come out of that first ten minutes or so and not be two goals up.
“If that had happened I think the game would have been dead and buried and we’d have had an enjoyable afternoon. That just isn’t the way it goes at Brunton Park because we don’t like to do things the easy way, do we?
“The reaction and character shown by the players and the supporters when we went behind was excellent. We stuck to our beliefs even though we’d had a knock and that was important. You could tell the fans appreciated what we were trying to do and the players stuck to the game plan which meant we carried on giving them big problems.”
“If you take their keeper out of it I think that was a four or five goal victory at least,” he commented. “Take the one set piece they had out of it as well and I don’t think they looked like scoring. With that goal we always go man-for-man and we don’t zone mark, apart from at the far post and the middle of the goal.
“The thing is that Gary Liddle got a header on the cross and it went straight onto the lad’s forehead. He didn’t know anything about it but he’s put it in the top corner. We’ve had some knocks and challenges as a footballing group but we’ve responded to them, and that was a situation where we had to see a positive reaction again.”
The second half brought another visible increase in tempo from the Blues and we wondered what had been said in the dressing room during the break.
“We had some stern words, but that’s how I operate,” he told us. “I’m honest and very direct and also very demanding. I had a word with Jabo Ibehre and I told him I felt there was more to come from him. He went out after the break and there was a bit of venom in his approach play and his demeanour because he’d just had a roasting. That shows that whoever you are, if I think you aren’t doing it I’m going to tell you because I need to see a reaction.
“The good thing is that he’s on fire at the moment. He’s got that hunger and he wants to score goals. We like good players and we like Jabo. There’s a work ethic within him where he knows what he needs and he also knows what I want from him. With his age and experience you can still get a reaction out of him and that’s the type of hunger I want around the place.
“People don’t want to play against him or Jamie Proctor at the moment and if needs be we can bring on George Waring or Shaun Miller. The squad is very competitive and we have good options.
“We’ve got big players coming back at the right time. Nicky Adams got a good amount of minutes and that will have helped him. Macaulay Gillesphey is back and putting in solid performances and we have players who are growing in confidence as each day goes by.
“The way we play is about pressing the ball high up the pitch. We want to retain possession and know when to be two, three or four at the back. The squad we have means we have options and we can play a number of ways, which is always going to be a good thing.
“Before the game today we had 15 minutes of clips where the focus was on us and the good things we do. From passing, to saves, to blocks, to chances created and scored, we fed that into the players to keep the belief up. It was all about creating a positive frame of mind.”
Another highlight of the day was the opportunity to thank the fans for their support once the full time whistle had blown.
“I think some of the players got criticised for not going out last season, even though we did,” he told us. “What happened then was that I addressed the players after the Oxford game and by the time we got back out everyone had gone. There were more players and family than there was fans who stayed behind.
“We tried to do it as quickly as possibly on Saturday to show our appreciation because we have a lot of time for the people who pay to come and watch us. We’re trying to create unity as a football club and part of that is that we want to embrace our supporters.
“We feel the same pain and frustration as they do when things don’t go our way but what I don’t want is for me to be a good manager if we win a game and a bad one if we lose. It’s more than that.
“There’s a bigger picture because for this club to fulfil the potential that’s here we need to be embracing new ideas and making it a welcoming environment whereby we’re not scared to face criticism and change the way we do things for the better.”
And on Newport County, who go into their final game of the season next week looking to secure their EFL future, he said: “I think the manager, the coaching staff and Lennie Lawrence have done a magnificent job. They’ve been phenomenal and they’ll know they’ve got to take care of their own business now. I know they’ll go into the last game of the season looking for a win and I do genuinely wish them well.”