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MANAGER: The effort and commitment were there

Exeter match reaction from Keith Millen

21 November 2021

United boss Keith Millen gave us his reaction to the Exeter away game, which had seen his side reduced to ten men two minutes before the end of the first half, shortly after the full-time whistle had blown on Saturday afternoon.

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“It’s all very hard to digest at the moment,” he said. “My overriding feeling is that I’m very proud of the lads, actually. Their effort and commitment were there, and they didn’t let their heads drop.

“It’s always tough when you have a man sent off, especially when you come here to play against a team that’s flying.

“I thought we were the better team before the sending off, we looked very comfortable. I felt as the half went on we just needed a little bit more composure in their box and we would have created some more chances.

“The red card obviously changes a lot, and it’s very difficult when you’re down one player for that amount of time. You can hold out better when it isn’t a shorter time, so that was difficult for the lads.”

“I shook all of the player’s hands in the dressing room afterwards and I told them that we’ll be fine if they keep working that hard,” he added. “If they keep showing that commitment and effort, and they add the little bit of quality that wins games, they’ll be ok.

“We scored a great goal and that kind of play is enough to win you games, if you stick to it and produce it. If we have 11 players on the pitch, we’ll start winning games like this.

“The positives we take from the day were the spirit, the hard work, the togetherness, our shape and understanding of the game.

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"The negatives is the discipline, referee’s decisions, and it’s a tough one because the sending off has such a big impact in the game. It’s hard to take.

“I was really comfortable in the first half before the sending off, the lads were fighting and running as hard as they could, and even at two down had enough energy to score a goal. We then had half chances at the end to try and nick a draw.

“Yeah, it’s a difficult one to accept, the players put such an effort in and the fans did as well. To come away with nothing is difficult to accept.”

Picking up on one of the key moments in the game, we asked or an opinion on the red card shown to Jon Mellish just before half time, at a point when the Blues were looking the more comfortable side.

“I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll hold my judgement until I’ve watched it back,” the gaffer told us. “What I will say is that when you do that, especially in the modern game, you’re making the referee make a decision.

“Now whether it was right or wrong, you can’t do that in the modern game. Once you look like you’re going in two-footed, and I don’t know if that was the case, but the referee all of a sudden has to make a decision. More often than not these days it’s a sending off.

“It’s tough enough as it is at the moment so we can’t be doing that. You can’t lose games because of lack of discipline. It’s not acceptable and I certainly won’t accept it. I’ll deal with it in-house, I’ll look at it and do what I’ve got to do.”

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“I’m not going to talk about individuals, but that applies to any player,” he added. “You simply can’t make the referee make a decision. There has to be discipline within the group.

“Up until then we were comfortable against a team that’s doing really well, and who have the momentum, and they’re getting the decisions in the game, which you deal with, but we’ve then helped them.

“These are the things that can go against you, but the things that went against us in this game were within our control, and that’s a disappointing thing to have to say.

“We’ve got to make sure we stay on top of the things we can control, and we didn’t do that part of it. There will be other games where things happen, there might be tension, but we have to stay calm in our heads and understand what we’re trying to do.”

“We were definitely the better side and with a bit more quality we could have been in front,” he reiterated. “My mindset before the card was to tell the lads that the game was there for the taking.

“If we kept our shape and discipline in the way we played, and in the way we were looking after a good front three, with Jay in the hole who was being kept quiet, then our structure and tactics were fine. It just needed that extra quality, which we know about anyway.

“But I was really pleased with the way we set up. My only disappointment was that we needed to be a bit calmer on the ball. I just thought it was a little bit hectic when we won it.

“The times we did get a pass away we opened them up. I was hoping we’d just calm, their energy levels would probably drop a bit and we’d have a bit more time to get our patterns going in possession. I thought we’d then go on and win the game. 

“We had similar chances to those they scored from but that’s sort of been the story for quite a while, hasn’t it, that we’ve been getting into good areas, creating chances, but not having that end product.

“We’re working on it, and the good thing is we’re getting into areas. Our front two were a real handful, before we had to make the change – they looked really dangerous, so that’s good.

“There’s definitely positives to take from it but I’ve no doubt the lads will feel sorry for themselves. I hope they don’t need too much picking up though because I’ve told them that I’m proud of them.

“I’ve already moved on, there won’t be too much of a review. We’ll learn our lessons, recover and liven them up again on Monday.”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Keith Millen on iFollow United now.

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