Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the Emirates FA Cup replay defeat at Hillsborough shortly after full time on Tuesday night.
“I thought we started the game well enough,” he said. “We caused them a few problems and created a few opportunities. If we’d taken one of them, that’s what cup ties are made of.
“The environment we played in could have been completely different and the mood of their fans could have completely changed. The nervousness you need to create when you’re playing against a team from a higher division could have been there if we’d taken those opportunities.
“We changed our shape and went back to the box in midfield to utilise our strengths within the squad. I thought there was a good understanding from the lads of what we were trying to do.
“We frustrated them, and we found the spare man which allowed us to get forward momentum. When you have that you then need the quality delivery into the box and the instinctive finishes in the six-yard box.”
“If you don’t take those opportunities you’ve got to be resolute and make sure you do your job,” he continued. “Some of their movement and football was good, but that was the same from us in the first half. The disappointing fact is the manner of the goals we conceded which comes down to poor decision making.
“As an honest assessment, when we needed that quality in the final third, we came up short. We didn’t have that cutting edge that you need to beat a Championship team.”
“If you look at their two goals, you wouldn’t say it was their finest moves to open the scoring,” he commented. “It was basic, poor defending from ourselves, we were in poor positions and we made poor recovery runs.
“It was a great finish from the lad and that’s what you get the higher you go. I think he had two shots in the first half and scored one goal. We were expecting to get a minimal number of opportunities because we knew the opposition would be better, and the more clinical you are, the further you progress in your career.
“That’s about everybody in the team because when you get the opportunity you’ve got to perform. When we got into the final third we lacked the finishing, but equally some of the defending at the other end was disappointing.”
“It isn’t about individual mistakes today, it’s about collective mistakes,” he insisted. “Collectively we didn’t have the quality which was needed at certain times, and we didn’t make the right decisions at certain times. Some of our defending was poor but we’ll deal with it and we won’t dismantle what we’re trying to do.”
On the absences of talisman defender Clint Hill and striker Sam Cosgrove, he said: “Clint and Sam weren’t available for selection due to personal reasons. Out of respect for both parties I don’t think there's any need to go into it any further than that.
“I don’t know whether they’ll be available for Saturday at this stage. I’ll have that conversation with them on Wednesday and Thursday. We could have brought some youth players down, but they played a game on Monday, and some of the team selections weren’t made until 1pm [Tuesday] which would have meant them sitting in a car or coach just to come and sit on the bench.
“I didn’t think it was necessary to do that just to fill the bench. It would also be a big jump for the players to try and step up to first team level when they aren’t ready for that yet. We’ve got a number of them joining in with the group, and that is their immediate development. The next progression is being involved in the squad, but that has to be when the time is right, not only for ourselves but for themselves as well.”
“Team selection wise I didn’t think we looked disjointed,” he said. “Mark Ellis came in and gave a good account of himself, as he always does. Richie Bennett also came in and he had a few opportunities.
“He showed a good work ethic and he’s learning and developing his role within the team, which is important. Danny [Grainger] took a nasty knock but he wanted to stay on, which typifies Danny. He wanted to try and help us get something out of the game.”
“The focus is now on the league and we move straight to Stevenage,” he concluded. “It will be a good, physical encounter and they’re on a slight upward curve now.
“They started the season very well before having a bit of a slump, but they’ve regrouped and they’re getting points again. The cup has been a distraction for them as well, but they lost against Reading, which is no disgrace against Championship opposition. Both teams will want a good result on Saturday to continue their upward spiral.”
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