Notts County boss Keith Curle issues rallying cry to players
KEITH Curle had one message for his players in the wake of their FA Cup humiliation: "We are six points off top in the league!"
The home dressing room at Meadow Lane was locked for ages after Notts County were dumped out of the Cup 3-0 by League Two Rotherham United in a second round replay on Tuesday night.
But when Curle finally came out to face the music, he was completely calm and insisted he had not ranted or raved at his players or thrown any tea cups, but instead told them he believed in them and that they can go on and end this season on the biggest high, by clinching promotion into the Championship.
The Magpies might not be in top form right now, but they are still in eighth place in League One ahead of facing in-form Leyton Orient, who are 12th, at home tomorrow (3pm).
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"The message I went in there with was we are six points off the top and it is these players that have put us in that position," he said.
"We know as well that we have thrown a lot of points away.
"We could easily have had 12 more points so we could even be six points clear at the top."
The Cup defeat was the worst game of Curle's hugely successful ten-month reign at Meadow Lane.
The Magpies pressed the self-destruct button big time in the first half, conceding all three goals to the Millers in a mad 30 minutes, in which defender Damion Stewart was also shown a straight red card for elbowing visitors' striker Alex Revell.
The players were booed off the pitch on the final whistle – and Curle says he fully understands the disappointment of the supporters.
"I can feel their (the fans) frustration and I can feel their anger, but what I can't afford to do is take that into the dressing room with me," added Curle.
"The easy thing for me to do was to go into the dressing room and dismantle all of the good things that have been done at this club since I've been here.
"The easy thing would be to go in there and absolutely lay into the players, start pointing fingers, tell a few home truths and make myself feel better, but I know that going forward as a team, and as a club, we need a reaction."
They need one against Orient to quickly get back on track at Meadow Lane, having won only four games and lost five times on home soil in the league this season.
"The results are down to me. I will take them on the chin," said Curle.
"When I first came into the club I said to the players that they can take all the positives and accolades that come their way and I will take onboard the negatives when they come.
"That is what I have got to do because it is important that from now until January the players have got exactly the same belief they had when I first came into the job.
"When I came in I gave them the opportunity to go out and perform, to express themselves, to play with smiles on their faces and we have to get back to that.
"We have got to get back to basics.
"We need to get back to players knowing their roles and responsibilities in and out of possession – but most of all, we have got to put a smile back on our faces.
"It is difficult, but negativity courts company and it is my job to protect my players from all of that."
Curle actually felt his players began to respond in the right way in the second half of the cup.
They didn't stage a stirring fightback, but they didn't completely fold either and Curle was pleased with the resilience of his ten men.
"Down to ten men, we regrouped and reshaped and didn't concede after half-time," he said.
"I expected us not to roll over and not to concede another goal, to have that spirit and belief that whatever happened we were not going to lose the second half.
"I knew I would get a response from the players and they can take credit for the second half and I will take all the negatives from the first half, when they scored goals too easily."
Two Notts league games have been moved – and one for Sky TV.
The Magpies will now play Oldham Athletic at Meadow Lane on Tuesday, January 22 (7.45pm) and Bury on home soil on Friday, February 22 (7.45pm) live on Sky Sports.