TEENAGER Curtis Nelson was head and shoulders above his team-mates in his special defensive role at Rotherham.Nelse, 19, was called in to replace injured skipper Darren Purse, and given a brief to attack the ball in all of the home side’s many set-piece attacks.
The game-plan worked well as Nelse and his team-mates repulsed wave after wave of long-throws, free-kicks and corners, only for the Pilgrims to lose 1-0 to Kieran Agard’s second-half goal from open play.
“It was a massive blow,” said Nelse. “We defended quite well, and to concede a goal which is not even from their main threat – an aerial threat – was just a blow.
“I didn’t even see the goal. It came through a crowd of bodies and finished in the back of the net.”
The England Under-18 international has developed a prodigious leap, a talent for which he credits work with Cornish Pirates’ rugby conditioning coach Simon Raynes.
“As you get older, you get stronger,” he said, “and I’ve been in the gym with Simon quite a lot. You work on those sort of things.
“We defended the set-pieces quite well considering there’s probably only me and Jake who are over 6ft. The rest fall a bit short.”
With Darren and Maxime Blanchard ahead of him in the central defensive pecking-order, Nelse has to be prepared to make the most of his first-team opportunities when they arise.
“You’ve always got to be ready,” he said. “Not just me – anyone in the squad.
“[The manager]’s got his starting 11 and, if you’re not in it, you have got to make sure you do enough to make sure you’re on the bench.
“Then, when you do come on, make sure you’re ready and fit.
“If you don’t play regular games, you are not going to be match-sharp, but you have got to make sure you do the best you can.
“That’s all you can do.”