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MANAGER: Face the challenge

18 May 2017

Keith Curle on the Exeter City away game

Manager Keith Curle spoke to us ahead of tonight’s play-off semi-final second leg against Exeter City which will see the victor progress to a Wembley final at the end of this month.

“I don’t think anything that’s happened in any of the meetings between these two sides so far gives anyone an advantage psychologically,” he said. “Ultimately it’s just another game. Both teams know each other inside out but the pleasing thing is we aren’t bad away from home.

“We’re heading to Exeter knowing exactly what we need to do. It’s a great little stadium with a noisy fan base behind the goal and they know what to expect from us. We’ll take good numbers and our fans will make themselves heard. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”

“I think Exeter are probably fed up of us this season,” he added. “They’ve given us their best shot and we’ve always come up with an answer. Credit to our players for that. I’ve said this before but I’ve got a lot of time for Paul [Tisdale] and the way he does his job.

“Likewise I think he’s very respectful of us. He knows we’re a team who can score goals and he knows we’ll give his team a real game of it. We’ve tended to go behind when we’ve played them this season so it would be interesting to see the mindset if it was us who got the first goal.

“I think most teams in this division have seen the never-say-die attitude we have and with that we also have good players and good ability. We’re a danger in open play and from set pieces and we’ve been working on all aspects of that.

“We’re aware of their strengths and we’ll continue to be mindful of them. With the mobility and agility they’ve got it can be very difficult to shut up shop against them, but our mentality as a group is that we want to go and score goals. We like to get on the front foot and we like to attack. That won’t change.”

On what type of game we can expect this time round, he said: “I think the players these clubs have will only ever try to play in one way, so I’d gamble on seeing more of the same. There’ll be times when we can use two or three different formations and, as ever, goals do change games.

“There won’t be anyone in our dressing room who will go there taking anything for granted. We’ll be playing the game and not the occasion, but we know there’s a lot riding on the result. We’ll have a game plan but I still want to see players expressing themselves.

“People are talking about this so-called psychological advantage but I don’t think any of that comes into it. We’ll compete, we know that, and we’ll see this is another situation which is a challenge. The players are used to me saying that and they face them all head on, because that’s what we demand of them.”

“The pleasing thing is they demand that of themselves as well,” he told us. “We had a couple of the stakeholders who went into the dressing room after I’d finished my debrief on Sunday and they were shocked at the level of criticism the players were directing at each other.

“Some of them were going at each other hammer and tongs because they knew they could have done things better. People are told when they’ve done something wrong but there’s no sulking or hiding away. It gets left in the changing room and they get on with their jobs when they come back into work.”

“It all boils down to one game now,” he told us. “It’s level pegging so effectively it’s a knockout situation. A massive part of this week has been about getting the players going again and another big part of that is making sure we keep the energy levels high, physically and mentally.

“They’ve responded and they’re ready to go out and do a job. They’re coming up against a very good side but they don’t fear that. They’re looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to seeing what they will do on our behalf.”

If the game should go to penalties he outlined what he’ll be looking for from those who step forward.

“They practice them if they want to,” he said. “It’s not something I do with them because I used to take penalties and I know you can’t replicate the real thing on the training pitch.

“You do give them a bit of advice on it but you find that those who want to take them will be very quick to put their hands up. That’s what you want to see.”

And on the last thing he’ll be saying to them before kick off, he said: “It’ll be a simple address from me. It’s another challenge – enjoy it, play with a smile on your face and face that challenge.”

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