United boss Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Carabao Cup round two game against Sunderland on Tuesday night.
“When I walked into the dressing room at full time I told that the players that if they’re going to lose a cup tie then that’s the way to lose it,” he said. “When you’re up against a team of the stature and calibre of Sunderland you have to be brave and we gave a very good account of ourselves.
“Our organisation and discipline were very good. On another night we could have caused them a few more problems and ended up in round three because at no point were we out of the game. Sunderland have obviously got good players who can handle a football and that’s why we needed to make sure we had discipline about our play to try and nullify their threat.
“The players took on board the instructions we gave them and they understood their roles individually and collectively. We created some good opportunities and goal mouth scrambles and we put them on the back foot.
“What you find is that the higher up the levels you go, the more of a ruthless streak you develop, and Sunderland had one chance in the second half and scored one goal. That won them the game and that’s how clinical teams at the top level are.”
“There were occasions when we needed to turn it into a League Two encounter and I thought we made them wobble,” he continued. “We had a good opportunity just after we equalised and if that had gone in we’d have been in a strong position and mindset. I’m very proud because the players have represented myself, the shirt and themselves very well.
“Ultimately the supporters have seen their team try to do the right things and we were very competitive. Unfortunately we’ve found that luck deserted us and our name isn’t on the cup this year.
“The pleasing thing to see was that we had over 8,000 fans here on a Tuesday night and the vocal support they gave the players was excellent. They saw their team go up against a good club, with a good manager, and we gave them a good test.”
“Anybody who came here as a neutral will have seen two teams who like to play football,” he commented. “We had to cope with some of their dynamics and movement but we did that very well. We weren’t disgraced and we didn’t look like we were playing League Two football.
“On balance, and on another night, the win would have come our way. We asked a lot of Richie Bennett tonight and arguably you’d say he’s a player who keeps stepping up levels and I’d say that he’s got another step in him if he keeps progressing.
“In my opinion he’ll go again and I’m certain he can go and play in League One. He wouldn’t look out of place in a team that suited his style of play at a higher level than that. He’ll cause problems for any defender.”
On how the squad will combat the feeling of disappointment, he said: “We’ll look back at the game but all you can say after a performance like that is well done to Sunderland. They kept their shape and that one bit of quality made the difference for them.
"We gave them a run for their money and you could tell they were worried because they brought their big guns on to try to get the job done for them.
You’d like to think that most of them will come back because there’s a feeling that this club is pulling together now ...
“As I say, the fans stayed behind to clap their team because they’d enjoyed the spectacle of what they’d seen. You’d like to think that most of them will come back because there’s a feeling that this club is pulling together now.
“We’re a club that isn’t without direction and focus any more and everyone wants success. We want our fans to be part of that. We’re looking to improve the match day experience and we’ll keep striving to make that the case so that our fans want to come and support their team.”
“I respect Simon [Grayson] a lot and he showed us respect with his team selection and the changes he made to try to stop us from building up a head of steam,” he told us. “The players now will have the disappointment of not getting through but the focus has to switch quickly to Lincoln City on Saturday.
“The players who need a rest will have that and the others will be in to carry on with the work they need. I have to say they’re a fantastic group because when they come in to work you can see they’re enjoying what they do.”
On some of the individual performances, he said: “I thought the spine of the team performed well. Jack Bonham made some good saves and his distribution is getting better and better.
“Tom Parkes and Mark Ellis look like they’ve been playing together for a number of years. We’ve spoken about Richie and we know his goals will come. He’s adjusting and he’s on a massive learning curve.
“He’s integrated well and Barrow have got to take a lot of credit for that. He’s a very quick learner with good understanding, and I know he’ll start hitting the net. That’s the same with Hallam Hope, Shaun Miller and Sam Cosgrove.”
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