Fresh from his first start for the club last weekend, midfielder Canice Carroll, who joined the Blues on loan from Brentford at the beginning of August, spoke this week about his desire to push on and help the team now that he’s back in the fold following his sending off during the second half of the away game at Swindon.
“It’s nice to be back and be involved,” he told us. I feel like the red card helped me out a little bit, in a weird way, because it’s made me realise a lot of things.
“I let the personal side of the game come into it which I shouldn’t have done, but that’s something I’d rather learn in the early part of the season than later on.”
“It was the second red card of my career, but the first straight red,” he confirmed. “It was disappointing for me, but I felt more disappointed that I’d let the team down.
“We still had a chance to win that game at Swindon, and we went on to score another goal with ten men, so if we’d had 11 men who knows what would have happened.”
With the sending off leading to a frustrating three-match suspension, he told us: “It came from my eagerness to get stuck in, and I think if the ball was a little bit closer to me I wouldn’t have had to stretch as far and it wouldn’t have looked as bad.
“It’s gone now, and it’s something I’ve got to make sure I learn from. I’d never let it change who I am and how I play, because it’s what I got brought here to do.
“If I was a different sort of player I don’t think the gaffer would want me here, but I’ve just got to fine-tune it. It’s tough because I’m still so young, that isn’t an excuse, but it’s still a learning curve for me.
“I’ve come into a first team environment and I’m very hard on myself, and I always want perfection, so it’s difficult to take that it happened, but I’ll make sure I learn from it.”
“The gaffer has helped me out with it and all of the staff were making sure I was alright after it had happened,” he explained. “I think that was important because no one was angry at me in the dressing room, they understood it.
“I think the reaction from the lads really showed me the team spirit we have here, and it helps to confirm that this was the right team for me. After I’d been sent down the tunnel I was sat in the dressing room on my own and Kit Man Col came in first.
“He made sure I was ok and he told me it would be alright. The lads came in after the game and they were obviously disappointed about the game, but the team spirit is very high and everyone looks after each other, which is great to be a part of.”
On how he’ll look to balance the need for controlled aggression in the challenge with the staying out of the referee’s notebook looking ahead, he said: “Tackling in the game now is a very fine-line with how it is nowadays.
“It’s a lot more difficult to tackle and not get away with it, or for strong tackles to be deemed ok. When I look back at the red card, I know now that the lad was too far away and the ball was just out of my reach, but it always comes down to these little split decisions.
“Once I get those right, I think I’ll be ok. I don’t want to change my approach, I just want my decision making to better on when it’s right to do a stronger tackle that won’t look as bad.
“I got booked at Scunthorpe on Saturday for stopping a break which looked dangerous, and I don’t mind that sort of thing. If I have to take a yellow card or even a red like that for the team I would, because it’s about the team winning. What I don’t want is to be getting cards for challenges which have been a bad decision by me.”
On how he used the period of suspension in a positive manner, he said: “It gave me a good chance to get my fitness up, because I didn’t play a lot of minutes in pre-season, which was disappointing.
“The two weeks I couldn’t play were good for me in that way because I was doing extra work and I feel like I’m getting back to good fitness levels now. I’ve felt good in the last few training sessions and in the last couple of games where I’ve played, so I’m loving being back involved.
“The Rochdale and Scunthorpe games were both really good. I thought we were unlucky to lose against Rochdale, because we’d played well in the first half and even better in the second half.
“The chances didn’t come, and we obviously had that handball decision go against us, but I feel like if we’d got that penalty we would have gone on to score at least one more goal with the way we were playing.”
“We’ve shown we’re a very good side” he continued. “The goals we’ve been conceding have been mistakes rather than teams being a lot better than us. They’ve just been our own mistakes, and that’s something we need to cut out.
“We’re getting there, we saw that at Scunthorpe. We didn’t play as well as we know we can, but we stayed in the game and Lofty came on and scored us the goal to win it.
“A win like we picked up at Scunthorpe does a lot for you because we were buzzing after the game. The gaffer wasn’t, because he wants us to play better, and we knew we were poor in the 90 minutes, but when you win those games where you play badly it’s a sign of a good team.”
With his first start against Scunthorpe now under his belt and with Exeter up next at Brunton Park he confirmed that he’ll be working hard to keep his place, particularly with so much competition in the midfield area.
“I want to get a run of games and be in the team every week, but so does everyone else,” he told us. “If we’re winning games and I’m on the bench, that means the midfield three are also playing well.
“So far, Jones, Bridge and Scougall have been so good, and that’s a good thing for me because it means I have to raise my game and try and be better than them so that I get a chance to play.
“We’re a squad who want to go places and be challenging this season, so there’s no room for disappointment if you aren’t playing. You’ve just got to show the manager that you should be when you come on.
“It’s never nice to see any player get injured, especially a player like Scougs who brings so much creativity to the team. Obviously it’s given me an opportunity and I just want to play as well as I can so when he comes back it gives the manager something to think about.”
Whoever is selected at the weekend he confirmed that everyone in the dressing room is aware that a good performance will be needed as the table-toppers come to town.
“Exeter are a good side and we know it will be a tough game, but we don’t really focus on the opposition,” he insisted. “We know if we go toe-to-toe with any team in this league that our football will come through and win us the game.
“I think if we go out and play our own game, and stick to what we’re good at, it will go well for us. We’ve had mixed results so far, but we haven’t been down at any point. We haven’t been coming into training sulking or feeling sorry for ourselves, we’ve got some good experienced heads in the dressing room who have been there and done it, and we know we’ve been playing well.
“We know it isn’t a major thing that we’ve lost a couple of games due to mistakes, because we know once we cut them out we’ll be a really good side. We’ve got a really good bunch of lads here and that was one of the first things I noticed when I first came in. Now that I’m comfortable with everyone it’s brilliant and I’m really enjoying it.”
“I think when we go up against the good sides in the division we’ll be able to show how good we are,” he concluded. “If we beat Exeter today it will give us massive confidence. We played a League One team in Rochdale off the park with ten men a couple of weeks ago so we know how good we can be when we’re on our game.
“I’m looking forward to playing at home and hopefully winning. The crowd were brilliant at Scunthorpe, although they were annoyed with us at half time. We were poor and we let them down in the first half, but we pulled through with their support and got the three points.
“We want to do the same again in front of our home fans. If we can come through games like Scunthorpe with three points then we can come through anything.
“I feel like the fans are getting to know the type of player I am now and it’s enjoyable for me to play in front of them. When I’m making tackles or passes it’s great to hear the fans behind you.
“If I can make those passes and get the likes of Nathan [Thomas] and Harry [McKirdy] on the ball to create things then I’ve done my job.”
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