United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the 0-0 away draw at Stevenage on Saturday afternoon.
“I think it was a battling performance in what were quite difficult conditions,” he said. “You could arguably say on the balance of play that the draw was the right result. Within that we had the two best chances of the game.
“In the first half they had one shot, which was made to look comfortable for Jack [Bonham] by the way he dealt with it, and I don’t think they really tested him at all after that. The way he made that save is the sign of a good keeper.
“The lads take credit today for coming away from home and keeping the clean sheet, and I thought they got that because we had people in the right places at the right times.”
“Stevenage have been solid at home and this is a difficult place to come to,” he added. “The pitch was slippery on top today and they put pressure on us by trying to press us as much as they could.
“That meant we had to play the conditions and the opposition’s tactics, and we did that well, but I do think we can still improve on some of our forward play in the final third. Having said that, you have to take a clean sheet away from home, against a team that’s been playing well and buoyant on their own patch, as a positive.”
On the need to be more clinical in attacking areas, he said: “I don’t think we’re struggling with confidence up front, but you tend to find that when things are going your way some of the half chances you get will go in for you.
“With the two good chances we had, that’s an example of when we have to be more ruthless. Both players hit the target, which is pleasing, and the save from Hallam [Hope] low down was a good one. It was a great through ball, and he did everything right, but the keeper readjusted well.
“The Sam [Cosgrove] chance was one where he tried to take it early and he looked for the Hollywood finish with the lob. He does it regularly in training and it does look very good when it comes off.
“Today I think the conditions were against that kind of thing because it was slippy, so his footing was never going to be that assured. I thought he should have taken the keeper on and finished it with power.
“It’s a game where you can come away thinking that you’ve kept a clean sheet, and you’ve had opportunities so score, so there are positives to take from it. We’ve also got two clean sheets in two league games which gives us something to work off.”
On what the point means to the desire to push for a play-off place, he commented: “We’re aware the gap to the play-offs has increased to nine points, but it’s going to be about our results.
“Today we got a credible 0-0 draw and I thought we matched their competitive edge. I went with the two big lads up front because we’d heard about the condition of the pitch, so I didn’t think it was going to be a day for playing through lines.
“It was always going to be a case of maintaining a solid unit and then playing fight-ball whenever it came loose. We looked to the front two to make it stick and give us a baseline, and we knew we had the pace of Shaun Miller or Hallam Hope to add to that later in the game.
“It was nearly the best substitution of the weekend when Hallam nearly scored with his first touch, but it was a very good save from the keeper.”
Having revealed earlier in the week that forward Marc Richards had chosen Swindon over a move to United, he also confirmed that he’d held talks former-Boro forward George Miller as he continues his search for new faces to add to the group.
“We were looking at George and we’d had good conversations with Tony Pulis and the assistant manager at Middlesbrough,” he explained. “He had us, another League Two club and Bury to think about, and he chose Bury.
“Financially, we were able to compete. He’s been at Bury before and he’s been Manchester based, and that’s why he made that decision. We don’t hold anything against the lad, but it has bugged the life out of me to see he’s gone there, scored, and they’ve won their game today.
“The lad had those three options, but it shows we’re looking at the right quality of player. There are changes to players who are available every day and it shows we have our finger on the pulse.
“As soon as a player comes available that we feel will add to our group, we’re able to make contact and make our pitch. Sometimes we do get used as a bargaining chip, because we’re involved, but that’s the nature of what happens within a transfer window. Players do have the power at the moment, because they have options to consider.”
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