Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the disappointing home defeat at the hands of Coventry City which brought an end to a run of three straight victories for the Blues.
“I thought we lacked quality in the final third this afternoon and that was disappointing,” he said. “I don’t think there was a lot in the game and if we’d scored first it could have been a different story.
“It seemed like when they cleared the ball it went to their centre forwards and it stuck, which meant they were able to build attacks and momentum. We didn’t seem to have that starting point.
“With the levels of performance we’ve had and the results we’ve been getting I think the starting 11 had earned the right to start today, even though we’ve got players who have played a lot of games in a short space of time.
“If I’d changed it and we’d got a negative result it would have been a bad decision, so I wanted to give them the opportunity knowing I had game changers on the bench.”
On the bad habit of conceding a goal within minutes of the second half kicking off – that’s four in the last five games alone – he said: “The word frustrating isn’t doing it justice. It’s doing my head in.
“We need to think about being more defence minded because all the opposition does after the interval is put the ball in and around your box and hope for mistakes. They got that off us because we didn’t clear our lines and we didn’t mark men who needed to be looked after.
“When you have good possession of the ball, that’s when you can fan out and make the pitch bigger. When you’re out of possession you’ve got to make sure you’re covering each other.”
“The manner of the goal was a poor one, but it was down to the conditions,” he said. “Clint [Hill] lost the flight of the ball in the wind, it was a complete misjudgement, but I didn’t think our shape prior to that, when we gave the ball away, was right anyway.
“We weren’t narrow enough, we didn’t have any decent covering positions, and if you give a striker of that quality an opportunity like that in the box the likelihood is that he’ll take it.”
“When the flight of the ball was lost, that was when we needed a covering player,” he added. “If you don’t have that, somebody needs to be giving you information so that you know you need to get something on it.
“It was a scrappy game, and arguably you could say it was never going to be free flowing or entertaining. When it’s like that you need to stay in games and earn the right to play.”
“Once we’d gone behind I didn’t think we moved the ball quickly enough to cause them enough problems,” he commented. “The tempo of our play was quite methodical, and it was as if we were trying to ease our way into it.
“We needed to increase the pace of things and I thought we were moving the ball better in the latter stages of the second half. There were runners from midfield, but we lacked the continuity in our play. We were slightly disjointed in most areas in this game.
“Coventry did the horrible side of the game better than we did and when they had to go long, they went long. They kept a decent shape and they looked to feed off our mistakes.”
There were huge appeals for a penalty ahead of the break when a shot from Hallam Hope appeared to be stopped by a hand, only for the referee to wave play on and turn the protesting United players away.
“I thought it was a good save from the lad,” he said. “In my book if you’re raising your hands in that area of the pitch then you have to say it’s an unnatural position. As far as I could see, the ball made contact with his hands.
“Having said that, I don’t feel we did enough to test their target. They were the same because I don’t think they caused us too many problems in open play. There’s an element of disappointment in the dressing room because we know we can do better than that as a group.
“There was a spark missing, and whether that comes from players playing three games on the spin, I don’t know. Sometimes you need to freshen things up, which we tried to do when we brought Kelvin Etuhu and Shaun Miller on.
“This is where we need to use the squad because it is a quick turnaround of fixtures. There’s plenty of food for thought and there will be changes simply because of the shortness of the rest period.
“We have players who are chomping at the bit and this is a chance for them to step up and stake their claim for staying in the team. The mental preparation for Monday has already started. They’ve been left with my thoughts following that game, but the focus is already moving to Monday and Mansfield.
“We’re staying away from Carlisle over New Year’s Eve because that means we’ll be able to monitor the mindset of the players, which I feel is important.”