United manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the away draw at Exeter shortly after full time on Saturday afternoon.
“On the balance of play we were happy with the draw, because it’s a difficult place to come to, but we possibly leave feeling frustrated,” he said. “We know with the chances we created the win was there for us to take. It’s another game undefeated but we’ve had to earn it.
“Overall I thought we defended quite well. We kept a useful team relatively quiet and Jack Bonham was excellent as and when he was needed. It was just the one occasion which caught us out, but we’ll learn from it.
“The decision making was good from the back four and they kept Stockley quiet. He’s a good player and he’s one we admired and we looked at bringing him to the club, but we couldn’t afford him. That shows the progress Exeter have made when they’re able to entice players this far down.”
“I thought both teams competed very well,” he added. “Exeter probably had more passes, but I thought we were the more penetrative team.
“I don’t think either team was going to be able to get the ball down because of the conditions. It was never going to be creative and expansive football.
“The players can feel pleased with what was a battling performance and I thought we caused them problems throughout. I’d arguably say that if there was going to be a team to get another goal it was going to be us.”
Having gone behind at a point in the game when his side looked comfortable, he said: “We were probably a shade unfortunate to go behind with the goal.
“To score it, they did the right thing. They put the ball in, we tried to clear it, and they hooked it back into the box. It landed for their lad and it was a good finish from him. There are always things you can do better when you concede, so we’ll look at it.
“Our first contact could have been better, and one of players has played him onside. When you use a zone-marking system it can be very difficult to attribute detailed marking in terms of which players you look after.
“What you try to do within it is get the first contact and squeeze up. You simply don’t leave anyone behind. Like I say, it was a good finish from their lad but we could have dealt with it on a number of occasions before it got to the point where he was putting it into the back of the net.”
But had the goal altered the approach of the half time team talk, as United came out for the restart looking to impose themselves on the game?
“When I speak to the players in a situation like that I go in and demand more from all of them,” he commented. “I demand better quality and decision making, but it isn’t done as a criticism.
“They have a manager who sees the best in them and who wants them to apply themselves correctly. I thought we lacked a little bit of urgency around their box. I don’t think we anticipated situations well in their final third, but we got a spring in our step once we got our goal.
“We looked more of an attacking threat after that and elements within our play were good. We still had too many players who wanted to leave the 18-yard box too quickly, and that’s frustrating, because that’s where most of your goals will come from. There are goals to be had when you get bodies into good areas.”
On his decision to start the game with Stockton and Bennett leading the line, he said: “The conditions of the pitch meant we wouldn’t see either manager wanting their team to play too much in the midfield area.
“It was going to be rife with bobbles, and mistakes because of that, so we looked for forward thinking football. We were slightly different because we played with two up, whereas they went with one up, and that gave them a man advantage in midfield.
“We had a feeling they would do that before kick off, so we tried to take the midfield out of it. The two big lads were tasked with making the ball stick and with bringing others into play. I thought Cole Stockton and Richie Bennett gave us a real platform and they worked well together.
“I thought both teams kept looking to get the ball down and cause overloads. That shows the adaptability both managers have with the players in their dressing room, but sometimes you have to play the conditions as well as you can.
“We would all have preferred a more possession-based game but when the pitch is struggling it becomes all hands on deck and let’s get after it. I looked at some of the games we’d played against Exeter and we had the likes of Jabo Ibehre and Charlie Wyke causing them problems. We wanted that physical presence again and I thought we got that.”
And on the chances created which could have won United the game, he told us: “None of the chances we had were the clear-cut type we needed. Having said that, I thought some of our forward play was very good in that last 20 minutes.
“We leave a little bit frustrated because I feel there was a victory there for us if we’d shown a little bit more quality and belief in the final third. We needed to see more people getting into the box rather than operating outside the box.
“We were getting more people forward, quicker, as we started to control the game more and that was exactly what we needed. We still want players to get on the ball when it’s on, but we also have to make sure we’re doing things to suit the situation we’re in.
“What you find is that good players have a good risk assessment and they produce for the team whatever the conditions they play in. We’re almost playing a predictable style of football at the moment, but we want to flood areas and we want to put teams under pressure, and it’s working for us.”
On midfielder Jamal Campbell-Ryce being missing from the match day ranks, he explained: “He had a slight calf strain and it was one of those where we asked if we needed to sit him on a coach for seven or eight hours with that in mind.
“He pulled out of training early, when it had just started to manifest itself, so we’re hoping that means he’ll be back and firing next week.”
His final word as for the fans.
“Over 200 came and you applaud them for that,” he said. “Even at one down you could hear them, and that’s because they knew that if we didn’t get the result it wasn’t going to be for the lack of trying.
“The crowd are massively important to us. They don’t only cheer and support us when things are going well, they’re with us all the way. We saw real unity to get the Grimsby game on and we started that game well because of that. We need as many people on board as possible to give us every opportunity.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Keith Curle on iFollow United now.