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MANAGER: I had to do my job at half time

Keith Curle with his reaction to the home win against Crewe

14 January 2018

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to yesterday’s victory over Crewe Alexandra shortly after full time at his post-match press conference.

“The supporters who came today will walk away feeling happy because of the second half performance,” he said. “It was good to get a reaction out of the players but we were disjointed in the first half, and we couldn’t get into a rhythm or flow because of poor decision making on the ball.

“The important thing is that we had enough within the squad to change it. I put myself and my staff as being part of that because we knew something different was needed and the second half was more like what we wanted to see.

“I have to say, the instructions I gave at half time were very simple. We needed to earn the right to play, and then play our game, rather than expecting an open and expansive game just to happen against a team that has good dynamics and good discipline.”

“We didn’t grasp it early enough that we needed to bypass the midfield and play the game in their final third,” he explained. “We tried to play through the lines when it wasn’t on for us to do that. It was a day when we had to change it at half time or we were going nowhere.

“With the misplaced passes and unforced errors we started to invite pressure and there was no need for it. A lack of urgency causes that, and it also means you start to get stretched. That’s exactly what Crewe’s tight, compact midfield did to do to us.”

“Arguably you could say that it was during half time that I had to do my job,” he added. “I had to change the focus of the team and tell a few people where I felt they were going wrong. I also spoke to them to remind them what was needed individually and collectively.

“What we were getting was not what I wanted. We were sloppy and indecision crept in, and we can’t allow that. The way we were trying to do things didn’t work, so you have to be brave enough to change it.

“One of the things I said at half time was that when everything is going well, good players play well. Very good players have discipline and an understanding of what to do when things aren’t going their way. We reacted well, and we looked more of an attacking unit after the break.

“There were things which still didn’t go our way, but there was more of a positive approach to where we wanted to put the ball. We looked much more of an attacking animal. I went with making two changes to help with that because the team needed it at that time.”

“Part and parcel of my job is to be brave enough to make decisions and not be blinded by personnel or characters,” he commented. “Anything I do is for the betterment of the team and to get us points. I wasn’t happy that things weren’t going our way, but we still hadn’t conceded, which was pleasing.

“That shows me that there’s a backbone in the changing room and, let’s be honest, Crewe made it hard work for us today. They’re a team who are fighting for points and they will cause teams problems. It’s probably easier for them to play in the way they want to away from home, because there’s less pressure on them.”

“The strength I mentioned within the group is that they’ll dig in when they need to,” he said. “The crowd played a big part in that because they really got behind us. They showed their disappointment in the first half and we heard and acknowledged that.

“That’s part and parcel of this football club – if you’re not happy, speak your mind. If things can get changed off the back of that, they will get changed. I’m never going to criticise a crowd for showing their displeasure.

“What we’ve changed within the dressing room is that we don’t fold when things aren’t going our way. When I first came here the question you asked when we conceded a goal was – how many are the opposition going to score now? That isn’t the case any more.”

With a second consecutive clean sheet secured, he said: “Our keeper and back four worked hard, even though we were running through treacle at times in the first half, to make sure we had a platform to build off.

“I think they only had one shot in the second half because we dealt with them very well. When it came to catching, punching or heading the ball we did what was needed. It allowed us to get a better tempo to our game and we found a better shape to cause them problems.

“Could we have started the game that way – it’s difficult to say because the back five kept us in the game in the first half. To be honest, I was going to make three changes at half time because I thought a couple of players were making mistakes.

“I nearly made a change during the first half, but my coaches said I should leave it until half time. I was raging. Half time gave me 15 minutes to get into the players’ heads and upset a few people.

“I pointed out a few things to certain individuals and I set KPIs for the second 45 minutes. We’ve got a very attentive group of players and they want to do well. It’s a good sign that we were able to dig out a result from a day where we weren’t at our best.”

And on another man-of-the-match performance from goal scorer Sam Cosgrove, he said: “From his first half performance I thought he got caught up in some of the razzmatazz that’s surrounded him this past few weeks.

“He’s had the headlines and the attention, but I didn’t think he started the game very well at all. I thought he tried to look a player in the first half rather than be a player.

“He was told that at half time. What we want him to do isn’t about looking a good player with touches and flicks, it’s about being a good player by stopping the opposition from getting the ball out of their half, and by putting them under pressure through winning it and keeping it.

“He needed to be alert for goal opportunities and he got better at that side of it as the game went on. He’s a young man, so he will get caught up in the attention he’s been getting, but part of my job is to remind him why he’s here. We want him to make his headlines, and we’ll back him with that, but if he starts to switch off he’s going to get told about it.

“He doesn’t like criticism, but that’s the same for most players, and what he has to understand is that he’s in an environment where if he doesn’t do his job he will be told. That goes for everyone from a 39-year-old Clint Hill to a 21-year-old Sam Cosgrove”.

“To be fair to him, the goal rounds off a perfect week for the lad,” he added. “His first goal will be important to him. He was given his opportunity when decisions were being made and he grasped it with both hands. He’s had some good performances since then, he’s now got his goal, and he’s showing glimpses of being able to play like a centre forward.

“Having said all of that, I still think there’s more to come from him. He’s only played a handful of games, so you will get hesitancy every now and then. His finish is exactly what you want from a big striker and you could tell by his reaction that he enjoyed it.”

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