Keith Curle with reaction to the Exeter away gameManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the exciting away day victory at Exeter which took his side into the play-offs and double-header against Saturday night’s opponents.
“I thought we had areas of dominance throughout the game but they’re a very good team,” he said. “We went into this with an understanding of their emotions because they’re there - they’d already made it.
“We wondered if they’d be at full tilt and I think there’s more to come from Exeter. They can have more intensity about their play and because of that we need to make sure we’re right when we play them.
“I thought we had that and we showed character and willingness to do the right thing. We had an air of aggression and quality about us which made life difficult for them. We got slapped a couple of times but we showed resilience and the response was very good.
“I’d have to say we had the ascendency going up to half time and we looked comfortable. I’ll always be disappointed with the goals we conceded because that’s the way I am. The first goal came against the run of play and goals change games.
“Physically we weren’t strong enough up front or at the back to deal with some good movement from them. It was a good finish from Reuben Reid but we got the right response to that and we stayed in the game and earned the reward of the penalty.
“On the balance of play after that we were on the front foot and causing them problems. I was really disappointed when they got a corner and we allowed the first contact to expose us because we didn’t stay with our runners and they got a header at the back stick. The team talk was changing by the minute as the game was ticking away and, to be honest, I knew I was going to have to earn my money at half time.
“Certain players weren’t doing enough for us because they were playing the occasion and not the game. I’d say that 85% of my half time team talk was about getting a reaction out of Jamie Proctor and Jabo Ibehre. I thought they both came out and they were unplayable.
“I’d go as far as to say Jamie was shocking first half but he had a 20-minute spell in the second half where he was unplayable.”
“There were others who had to be told in an honest and professional manner, and they put it right and delivered for us. I got in people’s faces because I wanted more and I demanded more.
“With Jabo we had to take him off because we’ve been managing and nursing him for the last couple of days. He’s had a few twinges and a little spasm in his hamstring but I think he’s stopped it at the right time.
“We told him to get out there and give us everything but as soon as he felt anything we needed him to stop. He did just that and hopefully that means he’ll be fit and available after a week or ten days.”
Speaking more about the response which turned the game on its head and earned the win, he said: “We changed the shape and formation within the dynamics of the game and there was a desire there to do the right thing. That gives us a chance when we know we can do that.
“We kept going to the end and we looked dangerous. The players emptied the tank today. We’re able to change formation within games because it’s something we work on. You need to be able to adapt and be creative to give the opposition problems and to stop them from getting at you.
“The players have belief and understanding about what they’re doing and they have an honesty about them where I know they’re going to give us everything they’ve got. Every now and then they may come up short but I know they’re going to give us everything.”
The manner of the victory made it an even more special day for the 750 plus travelling supporters and the manager admitted that it meant a lot to see their reaction at the final whistle.
“I’m trying to create unity at the club,” he said. “Within that, if we win a game I don’t want to be the best manager ever and likewise if we lose I don’t want to be seen as the worst. I’m trying to do a job and I have fantastic support from the staff, players and the key stakeholders.
“More importantly we have the backing of the fans. I was so glad that we were playing in front of our supporters for the second half. I knew they were willing the ball into the back of the net.
“We set out our objective at the start of the season on wanting to achieve improvement and we’ve done that very well. We’ve had to be smart with our budget and we’re really happy that we’ve made the play-offs. We know on our day we can match anybody and we know our fans will outshout the opposition supporters every day of the week.
“I’ll be so disappointed if we don’t fill Brunton Park on Sunday. There’s a lot of work going in to creating the right environment by everyone at the club because they’re buying into what we’re trying to do. I appreciate that.
“We now have to pull together and we want to be able to fill our arena and make it a place worthy of the team which will go out onto the pitch. Momentum is massive and it’s huge in terms of going into the play-offs. We’ve got good energy levels and belief and we have a good selection of players available. We want to see it through for everyone.”
And on the annual Awards Dinner at the Shepherd’s Inn on Sunday night, he said: “It’s a fitting time for us to be having it. It’s a chance to show our appreciation to the supporters because we really do value them. They care and all they want is to see their players giving everything they’ve got.
“The players will be there but we won’t be celebrating just yet. It’s a dry house for the players because alcohol does affect you. They’ll leave after they’ve accepted their awards but that is in no way, shape or form to be seen as disrespectful because we have massive respect for our profession and that’s why our focus will be on preparing properly this week.”
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