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MANAGER: The players needed a reaction more than anyone else

Keith Curle with his thoughts on the FA Cup victory over Gillingham

20 December 2017

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to a very good performance and deserved victory over League One side Gillingham in the Emirates FA Cup second-round replay at Brunton Park on Tuesday night.

“This was a performance we needed,” he said. “We keep giving the players what we feel is good information and the penny is starting to drop now.

“The lads needed to give us a reaction more than anyone else needed it, and they can feel really pleased with what they did in this game. Looking back to Saturday, something we talked about was about how important it was to put the ball in the back of the net when you have dominance in your play.

“I thought we started the game very well tonight and we were brave in the way we played out from the back. We were trying to move them around and make spaces, and we caused them problems with the dynamic movement of our front two. I thought their link-up play was superb.

“An example of that was the second goal. I thought it was excellent because it was good combination play and good movement. Hallam Hope’s movement for that goal was absolute quality. It was instinctive and predatory, and he made sure he got on the end of an exceptional ball in from Richie Bennett.”

“The pleasing thing is that the two-goal lead was merited,” he added. “We nullified their threat and we tested them. We had a game plan within a game plan, and it was evident that we needed that as soon as they made their substitutions.

“As we know, goals change the mentality of players out on the pitch and we scored two very good ones, which put us in the driving seat.”

On the first goal, which started with a tackle from Gary Liddle which handed possession back to the Blues, he said: “That’s down to giving your players the licence to go out there and play. I’ve said it before, but there’s a backbone in that changing room that we know we can call on.

“Today we needed that backbone because of where we let ourselves down in the second half at the weekend. There’s been an element of discontent because of the result on Saturday, and we understand that it does happen.

“We went into Saturday’s game having been unbeaten in eight or nine games, and within that we know we could have won one or two of them. If there is a bit of unease on the terraces, as there has been, it’s when you have to show your backbone. In the end it was a good performance and, if you play that way, results do come.”

“Part of the conversation we had after the Port Vale game was me reminding the players about the demands I put on them. I want my team to play out, and if risky passes don’t come off, I will take all the blame.

“Clint Hill made a mistake on Saturday, and I take full responsibility for that. Today he was excellent, and that’s something he can take full responsibility for.

“If things go wrong, blame me, because I can take it. I’m trying to implement a style of play that gets us on the ball, moving it around and taking the opposition out of their zones so that we can create chances. Different games have different weaknesses and threats for us to pay attention, but we have a group who can do that.

“I know team selection can be a talking point and that everybody will have their favourites. I’m sure a lot of people will have looked at the starting line-up and chosen who they would have gone with.

“I don’t get influenced by anybody else when I make my selections because I pick the team to win us games. If the result doesn’t go our way it means it’s my responsibility. I’ll take that because I’m a person who also wants to be successful for this football club.”

One negative from the night was the goal conceded, which came just after the restart with Carlisle looking to take a complete grip of the game.

“Statistically there’s an element of the first 10 or 12 minutes after the break where we’re letting goals in,” he commented. “I don’t like that. It’s a spell of the game where we’re our own worst enemy, and it’s something we need to work on again.

“The players are aware that it’s happened too often and the coaching staff are working hard to make sure the concentration levels and tempo are there to help them to stamp it out. They started to get too much play at the start of the second half and they were getting too many balls into the box.

“They had a spell where they were pulling us apart. We worked with the players before the game and they knew that if the Gillingham formation did change, we would go back into a 4-4-2.

“From there I still wanted us to be brave enough to go and catch them on the break. The players took that information on board and they understood what was required of them. Ultimately it allowed us to kill the game off.”

With Luke Joyce and Kelvin Etuhu not included on the night, he said: “They were unavailable for selection, but one door closes and another door opens. It’s a competitive squad and there are players waiting to step up.

“Those who did acquitted themselves really well and they were a credit to themselves and their club.

“Shamal George as absent because he’s gone back to Liverpool for treatment. Unfortunately, Morgan [Bacon] was out on loan for the game down at Gillingham, so it meant he wasn’t permitted to play in the replay. He’ll be available going forward.”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Keith Curle on iFollow United now.   

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