Keith Curle with his reaction to the Exeter City gameManager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to last night’s fantastic spectacle shortly after full time, having completed his national media duties.
“Both teams and both coaches have got to take credit for putting on an entertaining game,” he said. “Both sides stuck to their principles and it was a superb game to watch. I really enjoyed it.
“Mind you, I didn’t enjoy being two goals adrift, but the players deserve a lot of credit for the character they showed us. They were challenged in a very big way and the fans need a pat on the back as well. We had a moment of good fortune from John O’Sullivan and suddenly this place came alive again.
“What an atmosphere they gave us! They were absolutely phenomenal and they were willing us on to get more. With the way they were roaring and cheering I thought it was only going to be us who would walk out of here in the lead.”
“We knew going into the game that Exeter are a fantastic team away from home,” he commented. “It’s their away from that has got them into the play-offs. We could have taken it on the chin and accepted it as 3-1 knowing that we then had to get a result down there.
“That just isn’t how we are. We got a little bit of fortune but, and let me tell you, we are due a few slices of that because we haven’t had much of it. I definitely won’t be disappointed if we get a couple of deflections that go our way down at their place.
“The players had to face a challenge and you could see the unity because they didn’t fragment and they didn’t fall apart. Nobody went hiding away and they took it as a challenge to make sure they got into a better position.
“Once we were level I thought there was only going to be one team to win it, and that was us. In the end a great save from Mark [Gillespie] and a block from Reggie [Lambe] saw us through. As a spectacle for League Two I think both managers and both sets of supporters can take a lot of credit.
“It could have gone either way and it was a thoroughly entertaining game. There is so much at stake for both clubs because we’re playing to be successful and we’re playing to get promoted. We’re doing it the hard way but I’m sure Exeter are thinking that as well.”
Having gone behind to the same team in time added on for the first half for second time in just over week the manager admitted that there was a real sense of déjà vu heading into the team talk.
“We do make it difficult for ourselves,” he admitted. “We’re still growing and learning our roles and I think there’s still more to come from us. The players know that as well, but the strength of belief in what they want to achieve is there in abundance.
“We’ve picked up 26 points from losing positions this season and you don’t get that without unity and togetherness. Let’s be honest, when I saw the board go up at half time we were at 1-1 and I was feeling comfortable.
“We were in the ascendency and on the balance of play we were looking the more likely to push on. They’d had some good possession but we were matching them and putting them under pressure. They got that goal in time added on and it’s another big slap in the face. The changing room took it on the chin and gave us a fantastic response.
“I’d told everyone during the break that we were going for attack-minded substitutions whatever happened because I wanted to get goals. You do that because you want to get something out of the game. You accept that potentially you’re leaving the back door open but it’s a gamble worth taking.
“We could have gone 4-4-2 but does that leave it too open for a team full of confidence? We had to be mindful of the tactics and I think we had them under control for long periods. You could probably say it was an educated guess, or an educated gamble if you like, but it was done to make sure I gave the team the best opportunity to create and score goals.”
Speaking about the roller coaster of emotions he went through in the technical area, he said: “As I say, I do enjoy my job and I enjoy working for this football club. If we’re losing 3-1 you’ll find I go even further out because I want the fans to shout and moan at me.
“When things are going well I want everyone to enjoy their team. I’ll be honest, I felt every emotion through that 90 minutes, including disappointment at the end that we didn’t get the win.
“I’ve gone into the dressing room at full time and there are players in there who were thinking they’d done well. I wasn’t having that. I’ve got a working environment based on hard work and I don’t want players shying away if they haven’t been at their best. They need to face it.
“Jamie Proctor got the man-of-the-match award but I still gave him a rollicking, simply because I thought there was much more to come. He got the accolades, and rightly so, because he did do well. However, I want him to give me more.”
On the impact made by substitute Shaun Miller, he said: “He’s been chomping at the bit. He knows he’s let himself down with the red cards but he’s come back like he’s a new player.
“There’s a hunger about him where you know he’s going to be on the end of chances and scoring goals. He’s a livewire who has a natural attitude and he gives you a great performance the bigger the occasion is.
“His goal has got us a draw at home against a very potent away side and I think that’s a positive result. I’d certainly tune in and watch the game on Thursday because I think it’s going to be entertaining.”