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INTERVIEW: I'm going to have to say I meant it

16 May 2017

John O'Sullivan on his goal against Exeter

Midfielder John O'Sullivan turned to the bench and mouthed 'I meant it' as he wheeled away in celebration having scored United's second goal during the Exeter City play-off semi-final first leg on Sunday.

But his assertion was met with a disbelieving shake of the head and a laugh from boss Keith Curle as he urged the players to get back at it and to push for at least one more goal.

“I’m going to have to say I meant it!" he insisted. "I put it in an area and it went in - if that means I meant it or I didn’t mean it, I don’t know. I knew the minute I kicked it that it was going in and if you watch it back I actually start walking away because I just knew.

“Football is a weird game. I spoke to my mam and dad before the game and we all had a feeling that I was going to come on and score. I don’t know what it is but my mam said that when the TV cameras come I always turn up.

"When I’ve played on TV before I’ve scored a few goals but I don’t care who scores as long as it goes in. As long as we get the results, that’s all I care about."

“The scenes at Exeter last week when Proc [Jamie Proctor] scored were great and it was the same again when Shaun scored the equaliser ," he commented. "It will be even better on Thursday when someone scores the winner.

“We’re in the tie, it’s half time and we’re level. We’ll be going down there to get the win on Thursday and hopefully get to play at Wembley."

His heroics came just 15 minutes after he'd replaced Jamie Devitt and he revealed that he'd been itching to get onto the pitch and play his part.

“To be honest it was frustrating having to watch from the sidelines,” he said. “We were 3-1 down against a team I felt we dominated in the first half. We knew we were better than we showed, so it was frustrating.

“The character and determination in this team is unbelievable. We never gave up and we maybe could have got another goal at the end. We’re happy to be going into the next leg in the position that we are."

“During my time in football I’ve never seen a team with character like we’ve got in this dressing room," he told us. "The willingness to win is there every day, even in training. We’ve got players in there who've done it before. We can have a game of head tennis in training and we all want to win. Even when we lose at head tennis we all get annoyed.

“If we were 10-0 down we would still have that belief that we could come back and get something. I’m not sure whether the way we’ve come back in this game gives us any advantage because it’s a play-off game and a one-off.

"We haven’t lost in three games against Exeter this season and we believe we can win on Thursday."

Speaking about the overall performance, he said: "We came in after the game and we were arguing with each other because we know what we’re capable of. We’re happy with the result because of the way the game went, but we aren’t happy because we wanted to win.

“We wanted to give the fans a win in the last home game but I think they’ll take what we got at the end. We’ll go into Thursday fully believing that we can do the business."

“When they got the goal just before half time it was like an exact repeat from the game ten days ago," he added. "I said before half time that if they scored it would have been mad, that’s football for you.

"For some reason we just have something over Exeter and no matter what score it is we have that belief that we can come back. We have the players and the quality to do it."

And it was fellow substitute Shaun Miller who grabbed the equaliser not long after O'Sullivan had bulged the back of the net.

“Shaun was itching to come on and I said to him when we were warming up that I thought he was going to score," he said. "He came on and scored and George [Waring] came on and put a shift in. Everyone that came on showed the quality we have on the bench. JK [Jason Kennedy] didn’t even get on even though he’s one of the top scorers in the team.

“Even when it was at 3-1 I don’t think any of us were thinking that the game had gone. It’s the play-offs, anything can happen, and I still remember that Watford-Leicester game a few years ago. That one is a lesson for anyone."

Next up, of course, is the second leg on Thursday night.

“We’re hungry, we’ve got the momentum and we beat them there last week so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again," he said. “There is a real desire within the group. The manager does a lot for us on and off the pitch and we want to do well for him and repay him. We want to try and get to Wembley for the fans as well.  

"There won’t be any nerves. They won’t have as many fans as we did tonight and we know what they’re about after playing there last week. We’ll have a great following even though it is on a Thursday. We have full belief that we can beat anyone and we’re two games away from where we want to be.

“On a personal note I’ve been a bit frustrated during the last few weeks because I haven’t been starting, but I think in the last two games I’ve come on and, like all of the lads, made a difference. We’ve been playing really well. I’ve stayed focused and done my training and hopefully I’ve paid the gaffer back a little bit."

And his final word was for the fans.

“They were excellent and we hope they can come on Thursday, cheer us on and we can hopefully all go to Wembley," he said. "We aren’t thinking about Wembley yet, we’re concentrating on Thursday. We’ve got a tough week, we’ll recover and look at our tactics before we go to Exeter full of confidence."

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