Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Boxing Day home victory over Accrington Stanley shortly after full time on Tuesday evening.
“We showed good dominance in the first half without getting the goals on the board to make it a comfortable afternoon,” he said. “That seems to be us at the moment. If you look at the Forest Green game, and this game, we’ve had total dominance in the first half and would have been worthy of a two or three goal lead at half time.
“Accrington packed the defence well, but we had good dominance and good direction in our play and we were causing them problems. On another day we would have made different decisions in the final third with our last pass and we would have had a much more comfortable afternoon.”
Having not had things all their own way, particularly after Stanley grabbed an early second half equaliser, he commented: “We showed good resilience and good understanding. We took one on the chin with the penalty, but we didn’t panic.
“We didn’t have the same fluidity in our play but we put that down to them changing their shape and putting an extra man in midfield so we couldn’t play through them. We try to make sure we have a plan B, and it isn’t a bad plan B to bring Shaun Miller and John O’Sullivan on, who both caused problems.
“Accrington were having a bit of dominance with their energy and dynamics on the left hand side and we were able to put Kelvin [Etuhu] on to nullify that as well. Even though we’ve got a small squad, which is stretched at the minute, we’ve still got very good dynamics within it to cause teams problems.”
“Some of our approach play in the first half was very good, and that doesn’t just happen by accident,” he added. “That comes with confidence, belief and understanding, and the fact that we’re playing to the players’ strengths.
“As a team I thought our performance was very good. Accrington are a difficult team to play against, they spoiled the game very well and they’ve got good pace and movement. They’ve got a little bit of knowledge and know-how at the back and they can cause teams problems.
“The end result is obviously excellent. We didn’t get things all our own way, but I thought we were a threat and we caused them problems. They had flashes of what they can do, and some of our own decision making caused problems for ourselves, but Jack Bonham stepped in to deal with things as and when that happened.
“He had a fantastic one-on-one save, with great timing of a tackle, and that came from a situation we made a mess of ourselves. But overall there were a lot of things for us to take from the game.”
Speaking about the quality of the build-up and execution of the first goal, notched by Jamie Devitt, he told us: “That goal doesn’t happen without a great ball from James Brown. He put it into the channel for Hallam [Hope], and people will be asking whether it’s a ball they like to see.
“It’s a ball that can hurt defences, even more so if you’ve got a centre forward who can retain possession, then bring people into play like Hallam did. We’ve got supporting players who are willing to go beyond the centre forwards and it was a fantastic finish from Jamie.
“He said that he tried to do the same again for the chance which came later in the half, but the ball took a bobble. Dave Mitchell will be getting a letter in the morning because we can’t have bobbles at Brunton Park!
“Jamie is indicative of what we’ve got in the squad. There are good players who haven’t been getting game time. They can either come and see me and tell me they want to leave, because they aren’t playing, or they can fight for their place. They can still come and see me, and we can have good conversations, so I can tell them what else is needed. Fortunately that’s what we have in the group at the moment.
“I’ve got an open-door policy and I’ll speak to players and try and make them happy, but I pick teams where I get productivity with an end result. That has been a crucial factor, because when players haven’t been playing they’ve been working very hard. They haven’t sat back and sulked, they’ve worked hard, which means when they do get their opportunity they know that mentally and physically they are in tip-top condition.
“As we’re talking now, the players who haven’t played in this game, or who didn’t play the full 90 minutes, are outside topping themselves up. They’ll have different programmes to the players who have played the majority of the game, and it comes down to how they adhere to that.
“What you can’t do is get out on the pitch and be unable to perform to your standards or your levels. You can’t take three or four games to get up to speed once you get into the team, you’ve got to hit the ground running, which is what Jamie Devitt has done.”
United suffered a wobble at the start of the second half when it appeared that Stanley were edging on top having brought the scores level courtesy of a Billy Kee penalty.
“The defending for the penalty was disappointing because there were some basic errors in there,” the manager said. “I don’t mean that so much in terms of the defending of an individual, I mean we had opportunities to get the ball in behind them and nullify their threat.
“Even if that comes down to putting the ball over the top and making them make decisions - it might go out for a goal kick or a throw in. I think we had three opportunities to do that before the penalty, but we came up short.
“It’s something which has been identified and we’re working on it, because we’ve got the skillsets to put those balls into good areas. Some of our good play came from putting those balls in. To the untrained eye they might look like long balls, but if they’re long balls into good areas, with the right personnel in those areas to collect the ball, it becomes a very good pass.
“As soon as they scored that penalty I did think of what Neil Warnock always used to say, which was that a team can score too early. We’ve got the mentality whereby they scored a goal, clipped us on the chin, but they didn’t knock us out.
“It gave us a kick up the backside and I was pleased with the reaction, both on the pitch and from the terraces. They changed their shape and personnel, and they closed the gaps where we had been causing them problems, and there was a period where we didn’t adapt quickly enough. We had to rectify that, and we did.”
We’ll have more from the manager on stunning goals, formations and keeping players happy on the official website in the lead-up to the Coventry City home game.
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