Keith Curle on the Cambridge defeatManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Cambridge home defeat shortly after full time on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m not going to hide behind anything or try to mask anything about this,” he said. “It simply isn’t good enough. I feel let down that the players didn’t turn up. On the whole I’ve always been the first person to say well done when we’ve been good, but there’s nothing complimentary to come from this one.
“We can look for refereeing decisions to blame and other excuses, but we aren’t going to hide behind any of those. There’s nervousness about the group at the moment which comes with being where we are in the table. That’s to be expected, it’s part of it, but it shouldn’t mean that we don’t perform.”
“I feel particularly sorry for the fans,” he commented. “They’ve paid good money with good expectations and the players have let them down massively. The easy thing for me to do would be to protect the players by drawing a veil over the inadequacies of the performance.
“I’m not going to do that because I won’t accept a performance like that from one of my teams. They just didn’t turn up individually or collectively. It wasn’t good enough as a representation of this club or how I want things done. The support we get from our fans deserves much more than what they got today.
“We had more than enough ability and experience out on the pitch and we know they’re good players because they got themselves into an excellent position in the table by doing the right things. What we’re seeing now is a nervous approach from the group and we need to get rid of that. They’ve given us a performance which was nowhere near good enough for where we are in the division and for where we want to get to.”
Speaking about the message he left the players with after full time, he said: “We need to go back to basics because we’re going to have to fight and scrap for everything. I didn’t think we were competitive or aggressive enough and we didn’t demand enough of each other.
“We looked dismantled and it didn’t look like we were all on the same page at all. I need a reaction and a massive response. I’ll say it again, we have good players in that dressing room and they can be a very competitive team. There’s a level of frustration from me and my coaching staff that this happened, but I’ve dealt with all setbacks in my life and my career by meeting them head on. I expect this group to do the same.
“We’ll be in tomorrow [Sunday] and we’ll analyse it with honesty. We’ll look at individual performance levels. With nerves people can end up playing the occasion and not the game, but we need to be better than that. We need to make sure we know our jobs and roles and then go out there to do them.
“They now have to be brave and that’s the challenge I’ve put down to them. They need to come together and put this right. When we got to top spot it was because we were getting the ball wide and creating scoring opportunities. At the moment we’ve lost that fluidity to our play. We’ll have a roll call in the morning and we’ll formulate a plan for Tuesday night.”
Without looking for excuses, we asked the manager for an update on the current injury situation.
“We are thin on the ground in bodies and we have been picking up injuries and suspensions at the wrong time, but that should be an opportunity for other players to step up,” he insisted. “In a game like this, where they don’t take that opportunity, they have to look themselves in the mirror and ask why.
“When it’s like this it does mean it’s difficult to get continuity and we had one player [Jamie Proctor] who shouldn’t even have been on the bench today. It was a gamble for us to have him on the bench.
“Fair play to the lad because he wasn’t even in the squad yesterday, because of the nature of the injury. He had some anti-inflammatory tablets but he’ll be seeing a specialist at Bolton as this goes on. Medically he wasn’t fit to play but there was an opportunity, should we need him for 10 or 15 minutes, where he said he would do his best to give us that. It’s testament to him that he took that approach.”
“With Mike [Jones] he’s struggling,” he revealed. “He went off with an injury following a collision which the officials said didn’t happen. The assistant referee was stood two feet away from it and he didn’t give a foul. That is one I really couldn’t believe.
“We have been punished for poor decision making, we acknowledge that, but some of the decisions given against us by officials bewilder me at the moment. I thought the second penalty decision was fair enough, but the first one wouldn’t have been given anywhere else on the pitch.
“The sending off is one where I think he’s tried to shrug the lad off as he was trying to get up. It was deemed as striking an opponent, but I’m not sure about that. James [Bailey] tried to smack his hand away to get him off.
“That was his explanation, so I’ll have to view it again because that means it will be another player who will be unavailable, and we could do without that right now. My initial thoughts are it was a cheap sending off.”
“It looks like he’s suffered the same injury as he had before with his ankle. We’re hoping it will settle down but, if it doesn’t, we can probably say goodbye to him for the rest of this season.”
“We had to get Jabo [Ibehre] off when it looked like he’d injured his hamstring,” he added. “If that is the case he could be missing for a number of weeks, but we’ll have to wait and see. Jamie Devitt has a thigh strain, and he’ll be out for three weeks, and Macaulay Gillesphey has a medial ligament injury which we think will take him out for three or four weeks as well.
“We’re being dealt a poor hand at the moment but you don’t sit and complain about it. You dig in, you get the basics right, and you make things go your way. We’ve been decimated as a squad and we’re feeling it.
“We’ve seen for the first time this afternoon that the dressing room is nervous. That’s the same with our supporters because they’re desperate for us to do well. The players are the same. They want nothing more than to get this over the line and finish in the top three.”
Speaking about the lack of goals at the moment, he said: “Goals have been lost from the squad with the transfer of Charlie Wyke and the injury to Jason Kennedy.
“We’ve lost fluidity from our play because of the injuries to key players which have meant we haven’t been able to develop continuity in a style of play or team selection. As I say, we’re decimated as a group in terms of bodies available. This is where we find out what we’re about.
“The players have been left in no doubt that they’ve let me and themselves down. Only they can put that right and, as their manager, I’m going to demand a reaction.”