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MANAGER: It's fine margins in games like this

26 February 2017

Keith Curle with his reaction to the Portsmouth home game

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Saturday home defeat against Portsmouth.

“On reflection the conditions didn’t help either team, but I think they were more than happy to come in at half time at nil-nil,” he said. “They knew they had the wind with them after the break and that does give you an advantage because of how difficult it is to clear your lines.

“Having said that, we had the better chances in the second half. Jamie Proctor had a free header in the middle of the goal from a great cross from Luke Joyce. There was some great play within that chance, with the way we played out from the back and created an overload, and you won’t get a better opportunity to score than that.

“Jamie was moaning at half time that he hadn’t been getting the quality of ball into the box he needed, because he felt he had the beating of the two defenders. He got his opportunity and he’s bitterly disappointed that he didn’t put it away.

“The first thing Jamie did when he came into the dressing room at full time was apologise because he knows that scoring a goal at that time can change everything.

“As a coaching tool that could have been used as an example of a phenomenal way to play football if it had ended with it being in the back of the net.”

“We’ve said it before, goals do change games,” he added. “Just after that chance we had a good pull back from John O’Sullivan to Reggie Lambe, and you’d have to say that the keeper made a match winning save. If those had gone it would have been a completely different story.

“Unfortunately we didn’t score when we had the impetus and they scored to get themselves in front. The second goal hurt us, and the third one was a debacle. We were dismantled because we lost our two centre backs and that meant we had to reshuffle and reorganise.

“The skill sets change when something like that happens because you lose the physicality and dominance in the air, not only in general play but also at set pieces. They didn’t carve us open but they did get the break either side needed when they got the first goal.”

“I think if you take two centre backs out of any team within half an hour of the game starting it will affect them,” he commented. “I don’t think many teams in this division would be able to reshuffle and still be relatively comfortable against a very good attacking team. That shows the strength and belief we’ve got that we were able to do it.

“With Michael, he felt something in his calf so we had to take him off the pitch as a precaution. Shaun needed five or six stitches but I’m pretty confident we can bandage or patch that up and get him back quickly.

“We were already missing Shaun Miller because he had a slight injury to his knee. He wasn’t involved today as a precaution and he’ll be having a scan on Monday. If that’s a positive result we’ll hope to have him back and involved for Tuesday and Saturday.”

“People will look at the score line and think we’ve rolled over, but it was far from it,” he insisted. “We’ve had another slap in the face and the important thing now is how we react to it. Another thing we keep reminding people is that there will be twists and turns over the remaining games for every team.

“The message inside the dressing room is that they have to keep doing their jobs, individually and collectively. We’ll address the lessons to be learned from this game and we’ll make sure the players take a look at what happened to them today.

“Nobody in that dressing room likes getting beat but there are positives to take out of it because we caused a good team some real problems. It’s another situation where we need a reaction and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Speaking about the decision not to award United a penalty when Evans appeared to handle the ball in the first half, he said: “I thought it was a penalty. They’re saying it wasn’t because he went to head it, but he missed it, so the ball hit his hand. Sometimes you don't want people to think, you just want them to do their job.

“Their interpretation is completely different to mine, and to that of Paul Cook and the players. I was speaking to Paul and he said it was a stone wall, cast iron penalty. How it wasn't given was bewildering.”

On the number of fans who turned out to see the game, he commented: “That was excellent. They’ve seen two competitive teams go for a win and they know that within the score line there’s another story to be told.

“Hopefully they’ve enjoyed the experience and they’ve seen the effort and commitment they will get from their players. The belief in what we’re doing is still there. It’s fine margins in games like this and we know we have to earn the right to get those fine margins to go our way.”

And on meeting United’s guest of honour for the day, former-Blue Tony Hopper, he said: “I was able to speak to him before the game and what a gentleman and character he is.

“He’s seeing what’s ahead as a challenge and he’s very positive. His wife and children were here today and you can do nothing but sympathise with the man. It was an absolute pleasure to meet him.”

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