Keith Curle with his reaction to the Crawley away drawUnited boss Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the all-action away draw at Crawley shortly after full time on Saturday afternoon.
“As you can imagine, there are a range of emotions you go through with an afternoon like that,” he said. “I’m very angry and frustrated because we can’t have to score four goals away from home to win a game of football. We’d overcome some sloppy goals conceded to get ourselves in front, only to let it go right at the end, and that’s always going to hurt.
“I thought we started the game well. We created opportunities and we looked comfortable, only to have to deal with being two goals down from nowhere. Their first was a speculative shot which gave them the lead and the second a penalty which was down to poor defending.
“Both goals were a blow but we knew we had to keep believing in what we were doing because we also knew we could pick up some momentum if we got a goal back. I thought the front two deserved their goals. They gave their centre backs a torrid afternoon and we did enough to be comfortably in front if we’d put more of those good chances away. However, and I will repeat this, you can’t have to score four goals to win away from home.”
“Having got the two goals we’d given Crawley plenty to think about at half time and I thought we started really well after the break,” he continued. “Once we got in front it was just a case of wrapping things up because they weren’t causing us any problems. Our shape was decent and people were doing their jobs, but I was aware that they had a height advantage and that they were going to start putting people into our box.
“We looked to counter that with the changes we made but what you don’t want to do, when you know a team is going to hit the ball into the area at every opportunity, is start to gift them opportunities to get good quality balls into the box.
“We gave them those opportunities by giving away undisciplined free kicks which meant the ball was going to be punted high and right at us. That shouldn’t happen because you’re looking for people to be accountable and responsible within their job roles.
“If every player does their job, as they had for most of the game, you see it out and you get the victory you’ve worked for. If you don’t win first contact and do everything in your power to clear the ball you hand the other side chances to score, and that’s what we did. They got their point from a free kick where they won first contact and moved men off our markers.”
Speaking about the goals conceded, particularly since the turn of the year, he said: “It goes without saying that we need to tighten up at the back. I’m responsible for these results because it’s my job to win football matches. I’m accountable for every decision the players make out on that pitch. They are out there under my leadership and guidance at the end of the day.
“But let’s make no mistake about it, these players are playing for their careers. Even if they’re sat there with a year’s contract, they’re playing for their careers. For this football club to move forward we need people who are going to make fewer mistakes.
“Part of my job now is to look at the people we have and the roles and responsibilities we expect from them. Are we at a stage where we’re leaving people behind because of what our demands of them are? They’ve proved over a period of time that they’re able to make good decisions and that’s what took them to the upper reaches of the division.
“At the moment we aren’t getting that level of performance consistently and we all have to take responsibility for that. What we won’t hide away from is that the number of goals we’re conceding is embarrassing. It’s been that way for two seasons now and that means we may need people in there with different skill sets.”
And having dropped to tenth spot with results elsewhere going against the Cumbrians, he insisted that there was still a job to be done which could yet yield rewards.
“The focus before the game was on the fact that we needed one draw and two wins from the remaining fixtures and that hasn’t changed,” he told us. “The draw has come today and now we need two wins. Newport have had a good bank of games and a positive result today, and we know we need to beat them to give ourselves an opportunity to go to Exeter with everything still to play for.
“Who knows what the end of this story will be? It’s been a fantastic journey with a disappointing ending so far. Within that you can say that our team and our season have been decimated by injuries to key personnel.
“No matter what happens we’ve had too many injuries. I’ll have to look at that at the end of the season because we can’t afford to have it all peter out again. I need to assess if it’s down to the training regime and, if it is, I need to address it.
“If we take Mike Jones as an example, he was the catalyst for what we wanted to achieve and he’s missed a big chunk of games. Jason Kennedy is the same, as it was with Danny Grainger, Jabo Ibehre, Nicky Adams and a number of others we could go on and mention.
“We also had to sell a goal scoring striker who would have won us games, but there’s still a positive feel about the changing room. If we get the two wins from the last two games it will be over to us to take that momentum through the play-off matches which follow.”
The disappointment felt by the manager at the way the game ended was mirrored by the players as many of them fell to the floor in frustration as the final whistle blew.
“I know the players are disappointed,” he commented. “Nobody likes losing or drawing games at this stage of the season when we’re going for victories. What I will say is that showing their disappointment after the game doesn’t con me.
“Putting it simply – just do your job, because that’s what you get paid for. Doing that over a 95 minute period shows more to me than showing your disappointment to the supporters or the staff at full time. I can pull a sad face, but I’ll do my job. I don’t want sad eyes from the players, I want them fulfilling their roles and responsibilities every second they are out on that pitch.
“There are two games left so there’s no point in falling out with people now. What is needed is for all of us to keep going and believing in what we’re trying to do. We’re still in there and if we get those two wins we’ll still be involved.
“This is a real challenge now but I don’t walk away from challenges. I know where this football club was when I came in and it wasn’t set up to be at the top half of this division. There are still changes to make and we still need improvements individually and collectively.
“We had fantastic support yet again this afternoon and they stayed with the players even when we were behind. There was a belief that we would get back in it. What I say to our fans now is come and back us next weekend because this is when we need you.
“As a group we need to play the game and not the occasion next Saturday and we need to create an environment for the players to go out and perform. With that we need our fans to be our extra man. I know they’ll do that for us.”
On the absence of Kennedy, Adams and Tom Miller, he said: “Jason didn’t travel because he’s still going through his rehabilitation programme. That’s the same with Nicky Adams.
“He was on the bench with us but I felt the game would bypass him if we put him on for the last 15 minutes. We’re managing the situations, as we are with Tom Miller and his rehab, and it means we’ll be close to a full quota of players going into the last two games.”