Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the high-scoring away draw at Newport shortly after full time on Saturday afternoon.
“We come away feeling a little bit frustrated,” he admitted. “When you take the lead twice and score three goals away from home you would expect to get more than the point.
“Their free kicks were very good strikes, both in the corners, and they were taken with very good technique. I was slightly disappointed with the award of them because for a robust, physical team they seemed to go down very easily.
“They know they have good delivery from set pieces and they enjoy getting the ball into dangerous areas. Today they managed to put them in the corner of the net, but the referee was encouraged and sucked in to awarding silly decisions.”
“I think we pointed out before the game started that set pieces would play a part today, and that turned out to be the case,” he continued. “They look to get the ball forward quickly and they look to land on it and keep it alive.
“It’s a game plan that works effectively for them. We played to it too much for my liking in the first half. I don’t think we did enough in that first 45 minutes having had enough opportunities to play.
“We didn’t keep the ball well enough and we weren’t progressive in the final third at all. We were getting rid of it too quickly and we got caught out of possession, with spare men in deep areas, without realising that first if all we had to get the ball.
“We spoke about that at half time because their strength was running off players in midfield and getting into the box. Sometimes an opposition’s strengths can become their weakness so, in the first minute of the second half, we had players running off their men. Richie Bennett won the header and Luke Joyce got the goal because of it.
“Same thing again from the next set piece when Kelvin Etuhu waited for it to break his way. He got a good connection and left the keeper with no chance. Having gone 3-2 up with Tom Miller’s goal it was disappointing again to concede another free kick in what was a dangerous area.”
Speaking more about the lift the Joyce equaliser gave the team, he told us: “It opened the game up and I thought both teams were going for the win. We changed our formation slightly a few times because I wanted to throw some pace into the mix.
“We’d been zonal marking, which worked for the large part, and we had runners working in their channels to give them plenty to think about.
“I thought they looked leggy at the back later in the game and that’s why we tried to get at them as much as possible. We got some great deliveries into the danger area and it was a great attitude and response from the players.
“They were disappointed with the scruffy goal they’d conceded just before the break and the danger of the timing of it was that it could have left everyone feeling deflated. When we sat them down we told them that it would a long and horrible journey back if they didn’t give everything they had to get a result.”
And on the formation used to start the game, he told us: “If it’s done properly it denies the opposition as much possession as they would like. It gives us the chance to play the game from a solid platform against certain types of team.
“Overall the players met the challenge head on, having lost the early goal, and we’re pleased with that. As I said, we’re disappointed with the goals we conceded and some of the free kicks given against us were very weak.”
Keeper Jack Bonham was the man to make the last touch of the game as his full length save denied Newport what would have been a last-ditch winner on the day.
“It was a world class save,” he commented. “We know he can do that and I know people will look at the free kicks and ask questions, but they were extremely good free kicks.
“He’s here to learn and I’ve told him before that if a goal goes in over the top of the wall it’s my responsibility, so I’ll take that. Dolan has hit two good free kicks and I think Jack has done everything he can do to stop that. His starting position was good, so credit has to go to their lad for the way he struck them.”
A notable absence from the travelling squad was Danny Grainger, who missed out having picked up a niggle at Gillingham last weekend.
“He has a slight strain in his side that was impeding his movement,” he explained. “He told us on Tuesday that if we’d had a game that night he wouldn’t have been able to play.
“If that was the case I didn’t want to be pushing him for a game today and then another one on Tuesday. It hadn’t settled enough for him to come with us on Friday, so we took the decision to give him more time to get settled and back up to full fitness.
“He’s been given exercises to do by Dolly, so we’ll see how he’s feeling ahead of Tuesday before we make any kind of decision on him.
“Tom Miller came in and gave us another dynamic and another threat as well. He’s good in the air and he got his goal, and he helped us to defend our 18-yard box. He’s shown that he’s been chomping at the bit and that he wants his chance, and he’s determined to take it when it comes.
“Jamie Devitt is the same. These lads know that as and when they’re called upon they’ve got to be right. They all want to be involved but the focus on a Saturday is always on the starting eleven. All of these lads have been excellent in their approach.”
“We’ve got ourselves on a good little run now, but we still feel it could have been better,” he said. “This is a difficult place to come and a lot of teams who go behind here will struggle. We dug in, took the game to them and got the minimum we deserved from it.
“It’s good that we’re hard to beat but we want to turn these draws into wins. The confidence will really start to flow once we put a run of victories together, be that in the league or with the cup games thrown in.”
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