United boss Keith Curle spoke to us about what will be another very tough away trip as the Blues head to Newport County this weekend.
“We’ve looked at how they’ve been playing and they’re a decent side,” he said. “We know we’re going to have to deal with willing workers and runners who like to use the ball in the final third.
“They have a couple of players I know well, because I’ve either signed them or tried to sign them, and I know they’re a team which will look to get the crowd going by trying to play high up the pitch.
“It’s a very buoyant club and they have a group of fans which is ready to get behind their team. The players work off that and they try to intimidate visiting teams. We can match that, and we’ll look to play our game, so we go there feeling confident.
“If we can get the game turned our way we think we can cause them problems. If it is a competitive game our players know they can’t afford to take a backwards step. That invites pressure when you’re up against a team that likes to be confrontational.”
“They’re a high energy team and they like to get the ball forward to people in dangerous areas,” he continued. “They like to put the ball in the box and they are very creative with their set piece manoeuvres.
“If you look at how they’ve scored their goals, I think something like 66% of them have come from set pieces. That’s because they make sure they deliver the ball with quality. They don’t just lump it in, they target weaknesses.
“They look to get first contact, so they’ll be competitive in both boxes. Part of my job is to make sure we prepare properly for that, from how we travel to the food we eat, to the rooms we stay in, so that there will be no excuses once we cross the white line.”
The playing surface at Rodney Parade was a much-talked about subject last season, but work in the summer has brought an improvement in performances which has helped the club climb into a much healthier league position this time round.
“From what we’ve heard and seen we know the pitch is vastly improved from last season,” Curle said. “Looking back to last year, some people said it was a leveller, but I’m not so sure.
“I think the state it was in certainly didn’t help their opposition, but it didn’t help them either. They had a battle to avoid relegation, but this season they’ve picked up good results and I’m sure the pitch has helped with that.
“They’ve invested time, energy and manpower on it, so it should be more aligned with playing a better style of football than having to first and foremost get the ball out of the mud.”
And Carlisle go into the fixture in a good run of form, with just one defeat from their last eight games as confirmation that they’ve become a very difficult team to beat.
“We go down there feeling confident,” he commented. “We’re missing Jason Kennedy and Nicky Adams, but we still have a very competitive squad. We can use a variety of approaches and formations and we can still put square pegs in square holes.
“Danny Grainger took a knock last week, but he did the right thing during the game because he was feeling it a bit. He came off the pitch to give it a chance to settle and to give himself the best chance of being available this week.
“He’s responded to treatment, so we just need to make sure he’s fit and able to travel.”
And there in the stands on Saturday will be, as ever, the very vocal Blue Army as they once again look set to travel in numbers.
“It isn’t just about the numbers,” Curle said. “It’s about how they represent our football club. We’ve made a lot of friends on our travels, as a club, because of the way our fans are so respectful on the terraces.
“The supporters away from home have been phenomenal and the noise they make on our behalf is superb. That’s why we like to acknowledge them at full time, because their efforts really are appreciated.”
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