Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Crawley away victory shortly after full time on Saturday evening.
“I think the pleasing thing is that everything about the preparation for this game was wrong but we didn’t allow it to affect us,” he said. “We had close to ten hours sat on a coach because of traffic. We had to abandon the pick-up points along the way and tell the lads to make their own way down to the hotel because there were some serious traffic jams on the M6.
“That meant the football staff had to work on the mental attitude of the players to make sure they understood that no excuses would be accepted. They weren’t going to be allowed to say that we lost a game because our training session had been cancelled or the traffic was bad.
“Our preparation was done slightly differently on Saturday morning in that we simplified everything to give the players good instructions. I have to say credit goes to them because there was a mental strength and resilience about the group and they stood up to be counted. The response from them was exemplary and the mental strength they showed is one of the ingredients you need if you’re going to have a successful team.
“I was disappointed with the red cards because people who know Richie [Bennett] will know that he isn’t the type to throw a loose elbow. I didn’t get to see that incident at the time because it was directly parallel with me. We’ll have to see if the referee deems it to be leading with intent.
“I don’t know the reason for the Tom Parkes red card but it looked like he was on the end of a punch or a kick while the other lad was on the ground. Arms and legs were flailing everywhere and it looked like he was trying to catch somebody. Parkesy got himself embroiled in all of that as he tried to get himself out of the way of it.
“I’ll be looking at both incidents again because I need to see why the referee has sent the players off. If we feel that we’re able to appeal and contest them then that’s what we’ll do. If you’re going to talk about adopting an aggressive attitude then you’re going to end up with another five or six of their lads on yellow cards as well.”
On the manner of the victory, he said: “It’s two away wins in a week and we’ll always be pleased with that. Today wasn’t about the tactical or technical side of the game, it was about making sure the mentality of the group was right.
“Jack Bonham made two great saves in the first half which showed that he’s responded well to not being used recently, and that’s what I need to see. He kept his clean sheet and he earned the right to make that claim.
“It wasn’t a classic game or one that was nice on the eye, but some of our decision making in our defensive third was excellent and we showed fantastic character, even with the setbacks of the red cards.”
A real highlight of the game was the quality in the build-up and execution of the winning goal which saw Hallam Hope make it four goals from eight league outings.
“We’ve worked recently on getting more people into the box when crosses are coming in and I thought we might throw a little curve ball by playing Nicky Adams on the right-hand side rather than predominantly on the left,” he explained. “It was a good ball into the box and we know all about what Nicky can do in those situations. That’s why the lads call him ‘The Magician.’
“I think the cross went under Kelvin Etuhu and it was picked up by Hallam, so that tells us we’re getting people into good areas. I was delighted that Hallam got it because he’s a young man who wants to do well. I know he wants the backing of the supporters when things aren’t quite going his way and I also know he’ll work his socks off for the team.
“You won’t find him hiding away from his responsibilities or from his role and he’ll be as happy as anyone when he scores goals. You could see the fans who were here celebrating like mad when it went in because they’d seen a different side to their team this afternoon. They’d seen players who were going to dig in and not give an inch.”
With two wins from the last three games under the belt he confirmed that it will be important for the team to use the week as a building block towards a run of consistency and positive results.
“Wins don’t just come in this game, you have to work at them,” he commented. “The reaction to the home defeat on Tuesday has been exactly what we called for and everyone has used the way we were beaten as a learning curve.
“Shamal was desperate to play but he has competition for his place with Jack Bonham also chomping at the bit. Jack got his shut-out and he showed that he’d learned from the Cambridge game when he came through players and punched the ball clear on a number of occasions.
“Both of these lads are young keepers who will go on to have good careers, I have no doubt about that. I had a good chat with Shamal before the decision was made and he understands why I went the way I did. Part of his development now is how he handles that disappointment and what he does when his next chance comes.
“What we’re trying to get is competition for starting places like that all over the pitch. We’ll obviously be stretched with the sendings off but when one door shuts another one opens for somebody else. We still have Gary Liddle and Tom Miller who can cover in defence and they are both desperate to play.
“Can they stake a claim and then, when the suspensions have been served, can they do enough to keep the returning players out? It’s up to them to take the shirt and make it their own.
“Hindsight is always a wonderful thing but Mark Ellis had spoken to me about the fact he wanted to play games. If we’d known we’d have a sending off he’d obviously have got his game time here, but the door hasn’t closed on him at all. He wanted his pitch time and I respected that.”
And on the clean sheet from a defensive point of view, he said: “The keeper and his defenders had challenges but they faced them. As a unit they stuck together and they worked off each other.
“That’s pleasing because we have James Brown who has come in and put in some good displays. He’s a young lad who has joined us and he’s growing into his role. He’s still learning but he’s acquitting himself well and he’s doing the job he’s being asked to do. Yes, there are still things to improve on, but he’s a bright lad and he wants to be involved.
“Clint Hill is our other new arrival and he’s filling holes and making decisions based on experience. He’s also a great competitor. If you analyse his game you’ll see he keeps things really simple. He takes pride in that and we want every player to learn from the way he approaches each game he plays.
“There’s a determination in the whole squad to concede fewer goals and performances like this will breed confidence. It’s two consecutive away clean sheets and, again, we have to be pleased with that.”
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