Curle reveals what pleased him most about Town's showing in cup loss

Keith Curle has a word with Billy Waters. Picture: Pete Norton
Keith Curle has a word with Billy Waters. Picture: Pete Norton

There was one aspect of his side's performance during Tuesday's cup tie at Swansea City that left Cobblers manager Keith Curle particularly satisfied.

Whilst their defensive discipline in south Wales was impressive and almost led to a shock win, it was more the way his players listened to the pre-match instructions, took onboard the necessary information and then carried out the gameplan almost to a tee during the 90 minutes - or at least the first 80 - at the Liberty Stadium that encouraged Curle.

Curle made seven changes and also tweaked the formation for the trip to Wales but, up against Championship opposition - albeit a second-string Swansea team - not once did his side look out of place, up until the 80-minute mark anyway.

Well-drilled out of possession, Town combined defensive grit with clinical attacking to come within 10 minutes of a famous upset as Matty Warburton's cool finish on the hour handed them a shock 1-0 lead.

It wasn't to be, though, and Swansea came roaring back thanks largely to £20m man Andre Ayew who, on as a sub, scored twice late on, netting either side of George Byers.

But although both the defeat itself and the manner of it was naturally disappointing for Curle, he believes the performance shows Town are making positive progress.

"We changed the personnel, we changed the shape and we spent time on the training ground on Monday," he explained.

"We spent time with the video analysis and on the importance of the players' application and attention to detail - it was there and it was evident.

"We made sure the players understood the roles and responsibilities and understood not to be scared if they had the ball.

"We needed to have a retention shape which says that they can have the ball but you have to go where we want you to go and then we're going to win it back.

"I thought we got the shape exactly right and made them step into the areas we wanted and then won the ball back. For 75 minutes, we were very good for where we are and where we want to go to."

There were aspects of the performance on Tuesday that didn't please Curle quite as much, however, particularly in possession.

"The disappointing thing then we gave the ball back too cheaply to them," he added. "When you play against Championship teams and they lose possession, they expect you to keep it so they don't put a press on.

"We gave the ball away a few times in the first-half relatively cheaply for the work and effort that was needed to get it back - we lost it too cheaply.

"But it was a great experience for the lads and the really pleasing thing is they took what we said onboard and for 75 minutes they saw the results and what we've been working on was evident."