United kept their second clean sheet in consecutive league games at The Lamex Stadium on Saturday afternoon and the return of Clint Hill, from his father’s hospital bedside in Spain ahead of the game, played a big part in steadying the ship against a side who remain unbeaten on their own patch since October.
Hill, who made his 650th career appearance when Sheffield Wednesday came to Brunton Park, missed the midweek FA Cup replay encounter at Hillsborough as he rushed to be with his family, and manager Keith Curle was quick to point out that the decision to play at Stevenage was left completely in the hands of the experienced centre back.
“As a club, we told him to take as much time as he needed because it was important that he was there to be a support mechanism for his family,” he said. “I told him that if it felt right for him to come back then, excellent, he could come back.
“Likewise, if he needed to stay there, then he had to stay there. He had the full support of everybody at the club with that because family always come first in these situations.”
“Clint is very much a black and white character, and if he tells you he isn’t right, he isn’t right,” he continued. “You don’t need to find reasons or rationales for any of that with him.
“If he does tell you he’s feeling right, he’s a competitor and you have no doubt in your mind that he will go out and put in a performance. That’s just the type of character he is.”
“It’s a difficult time for the lad and we’ll back him with whatever he needs to do next family-wise,” he explained. “If he needs to be with them then he goes, there’s no two ways about it.
“He knows when and if he needs to be there because he values his family as much as he values his profession. You can see that by the way he looks after himself and in the way he conducts himself. As I say, he’ll get whatever backing he needs from me and the club.”
And on the performance put in by the centre half on the pitch, he said: “I think he helped us to have an element of assurance across the whole back five. They dealt with everything that came their way very professionally and with a very committed performance.
“They gave us a platform to build on, but we knew that creatively it wasn’t going to be a day for getting time on the ball. When we did get into their final third it was just that little bit of quality in the final third that was missing.
“It’s testament to Clint that he put in a performance like that. It has been difficult for him and for those he’s closest to, but as soon as he said he was available there was no doubt in my mind that he’d be as thorough and diligent as he always is once he got out on the pitch.”
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