United and Exeter City went head-to-head in some exciting and eye-catching fixtures least season which guaranteed both goals and action in equal measure.
We spoke to Keith Curle about this weekend’s meeting between the two sides ahead of his Thursday afternoon training session, starting first with a look at what can be gleaned from Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy defeat.
“We’ve reviewed the footage and, as we said the other night, the second half was more of what we want to see from one of our teams,” he said. “We created opportunities, some of which we probably should have put away, but we’re obviously disappointed that we conceded the goal.
“It’s a mini-league based competition and we have another game in it which will give us an opportunity to progress through to the next stages. Everybody knows about the financial incentive attached to winning each fixture but that’s something we address after every game we play in.
“The players know they have an opportunity every time they go out there to earn money. In this one the football club would have gained prize money if we’d been successful, but it stands in any competition that if you aren’t successful you don’t get the financial rewards.
“That doesn’t just count in the Checkatrade, it’s in the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and every other competition. The players don’t go into the game with that playing on their minds, it’s probably more apparent to the stakeholders because first and foremost we are out there to put in a performance and get the result. The prize money at stake is secondary because it can’t be what you think about.”
Speaking about the desire to improve the home form as head towards the weekend game, he said: “I’ve said before that if I could pick and choose the games I win it would be every single home game in front of a buoyant and partisan support.
“We aren’t afforded that luxury, but what we do have is the opportunity to go out against a very good team on Saturday and play our brand of football. Exeter are flying high and full of confidence off the back of a successful season where they reached the play-off final. It’s another good challenge for us to face.
“We’re disappointed with the results we’ve had at home but the only way to put it right is by facing up to it, get our win and then go on to make sure we win the next game. The fans are frustrated because that isn’t happening at the moment and they have every right to voice their opinion. That’s what they pay their money for.
“I don’t want them to pay their ticket money and then get instructions on when to clap. That isn’t what we’re about. We want to get our supporters on the edge of their seats and applauding good play.
“I’m no different to them in respect of the fact I don’t praise failure. When things don’t go right there will be grumblings and people will voice their opinions. That’s the beauty of football because you pay your money and you have your shout.
“I accept that because I value what our fans have to say. I also appreciate the money they spend to come and see us, and that’s why I want us to play attacking and free-flowing football for them. We want their respect, of course we do, but we have to earn the right to get it from them.”
On what we can expect from our opponents, he told us: “Exeter have slightly changed their approach to games this season and they’re reaping the rewards from doing that. They have two centre forwards who can score goals and a solid back four. They’ve been going slightly more direct then what they’ve done previously and they’re trying to play the game in the opposition half.
“At this time last year Paul Tisdale was having questions asked by his own supporters about where Exeter were going. People were calling for his head and demanding that the club serve him notice.
“I like Paul and I like the way in which he dealt with all of that. He stuck to his beliefs, galvanised the team, got the results he’d been striving for and, once he’d done of that, he applauded the supporters for sticking by him.
“He gained a lot of credibility by answering his critics in the right way, which was by getting his team to perform and pick up positive results. That’s the best answer any manager can give when criticism is coming his way.”
“It’s a game where I think there will be goals,” he commented. “If somebody was to say now that there’d be five, six, seven or eight goals I certainly wouldn’t tell them that it’s impossible. There are players on both teams who can hurt opposition teams and that’s what they will all be trying to do.
“We’ve seen what our players can do once they get into their stride. We haven’t quite seen enough of it at home yet, but it will come. We have creativity and the chances are there, and I know the goals will come if we keep getting people into the right areas.”
And on the absences of Richie Bennett [three-game suspension] and Tom Parkes [four-game suspension], he told us: “We have two quality players who are unavailable for selection. Within that we now have players who will get the opportunity to go out there and perform.
“We have players who are adaptable and we can still put square pegs in square holes for whichever formation we go with. That’s pleasing and it shows the strength we have in our squad.
“Whoever we go with they will be looking for the three points. It’s a long season, as Exeter proved last season. It was the same the season before that with the start that Plymouth had when they were running away with, only to fall away.
“That shows you that as far as both ends of the table are concerned, it isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Sometimes you need to use the whole season, and where you end up is representative of how good a season you’ve had.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Keith Curle on iFollow United now.