United boss Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the one-goal victory over Forest Green Rovers shortly after full time on Saturday afternoon.
“On the balance of chances created we deserved the win,” he said. “It was a game of very few clear-cut opportunities and there wasn’t a lot of fluidity in the passages of play from either team.
“Mark [Cooper’s] side are trying to create a passing style of play which is similar to us in that we’re trying to get the ball down and move it. The conditions made it very lively so there wasn’t much in the way of that kind of quality, but the important thing is that we got the win.”
One moment of quality which ultimately made the difference in the game was the finish from Jamie Devitt, midway through the first half, which ultimately won the game for the hosts.
“Being in the right areas at the right time is something we’ve been working on with all of our attack-minded midfielders,” the gaffer told us. “We’re trying to get them into more advanced positions on the edge of the box so that they can land on that type of opportunity.
“We’ve seen a number of occasions this season when the ball has been bouncing around in the opposition box and we haven’t had anybody anywhere near. It’s pleasing that something we’ve worked on has come to fruition.
“Jamie is one who is demanding more of himself and I’m pleased for him that he got the goal. He had two shots in the first half where he’s disappointed that he didn’t hit the target, because he feels he should have done that.
“Danny Grainger had a couple which he hit with real power and, as we keep reminding these lads, 100% of shots which don’t hit the target have absolutely no chance of getting you a goal.”
On the clean sheet, he said: “I thought our defenders protected their 18-yard box very well, particularly in the second half when they had the wind coming at them. They looked for first contact when it was needed, and I don’t think Jack [Bonham] had any real kind of save to make.
“He handled and punched well but, apart from that, we looked solid and competitive and we kept them at arm’s length. They have good players in their forward line, but we dealt with their threat and we stopped them from getting behind us.
“It was never going to be a day, with the weather, where we were going to get it all our own way and that’s when you need the foundation of the clean sheet so that you can push on and work to get your goals.
“Obviously scoring more than one makes it a more enjoyable afternoon, and if Luke Joyce had finished his chance off in the second half it would have allowed everyone to relax. We didn’t get the second goal and I think they had four or five people up top during the last five minutes or so.
“Credit where credit is due because the players adapted well to that and they did their jobs.”
One contentious moment came in the second half when Christian Doidge fell to the floor as he was tackled by Tom Parkes just as he broke through into the box with the ball at his feet.
“I take a leaf from what Mark Cooper has said,” he told us. “It’s either a penalty, or you have to at least book the lad for trying to deceive the referee. I would say that I’ve seen penalties given in those situations, but the referee has decided this is one where a player was trying to win a decision from what was good defending.
“We don’t have the luxury of sixteen Sky cameras to help us to analyse it. The referee has made a split-second decision and I have to say that I think he was right. With the booking it could be that the ref has decided the player wasn’t looking for deception and that he has simply gone down under a challenge, so a yellow card wasn’t merited.”
New to the starting line up on Saturday afternoon were Cole Stockton and Kris Twardek, with both players having made a positive impact on their debuts.
“I decided to start with them because it was an opportunity to show the qualities they have,” he said. “Sometimes you get that new boy impetus, and we had the same thing with James Brown. When he came in he needed time to settle, but with the personality Kris has – he’s one if you speak to him he gives you an air of confidence – he knows what he wants to do, and he knows how to do it.
“Cole Stockton is exactly what you expect to get. He’s a combative centre forward who has craft and understanding, and he’ll be disappointed that a few balls bounced off him. It’ll come from him, because he’s a determined individual, and the arrival of these lads will add a competitive edge to the other strikers who also want to be playing and starting.
“It’ll take a little bit of time for Cole and Kris to be fully up to speed and also for the rest of the group to get used to what they can bring to the team. They were part of what was a solid performance and they’ll feel pleased about that.
“Kris came away with the man-of-the-match award and that will be a massive boost to his confidence. He’s come to us from a Championship club and it’s that level of quality we want to see from him.”
The home victory took United to within six points of the play-off places and the manager insisted that a top seven place is still the aim with seventeen games left to play.
“The season isn’t over yet and sometimes it isn’t about how you start, it’s how you finish,” he commented. “We had a fantastic start to the season last season and then came again after a blip.
“This season has been about very steady progress but we’re finding ways to keep clean sheets and win games. As long as that continues we’ll be closing gaps and we can put pressure on some of the teams who are up there now.”
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