The pre-game ramble: Exeter City

That was the week that was. Supporting this club is far better when there’s something positive to embrace. More please.

It’s back to reality after a fun few days of Jack Grimmer being the face of the BBC. For the young nippers that don’t remember, we used to be on Match of the Day every week so this has been a welcome reminder of what that used to feel like. I bet it was exciting for you seeing Jordan Willis’ euphoric face digitally-imposed into the studio, too.

But it’s important we put the distraction of that attention behind us now. The time is for focus, and while we absolutely need to harness all the positivity from the Stoke victory, the risk is that we misinterpret that confidence as license to lessen our intensity in the league.

Make no mistake – beating Exeter City today would be a huge result for us, and possibly for the first time this season, actually validate the excitement and support that we continue to give these players.

How are they getting on?

The Grecians are a little up and down at the moment, having punctuated their wins with losses throughout December. But they’ve won thirteen league games so far this season, matching up alongside us as promotion candidates. If we think we’re pretty good, then these guys can rightfully have similar assertions.

The table may say they’re in 8th place, but they’re just two points behind and a win today will see them leapfrog us, while retaining a game in hand. Of course any result is salvageable in the long run, so there’ll be no need to lose our minds if things do go tits up, but victory will clearly go a long way to establishing our aspirations and putting points (and a psychological) gap between us and the chasing pack.

Who could cause us trouble?

Jayden Stockley leads the way for Exeter this season with eight league goals – thirteen in total. The former Bournemouth striker missed from two yards in the FA Cup defeat to West Brom last weekend, which may have altered the outcome of that match if he’d converted. I don’t think it will dent his confidence too much. There’s been quite a lot of talk about it in the press – far more than Marc McNulty’s open goal miss – but he’s demonstrated a high level of capability this season and will be keen to right that wrong against us.

Liam McAlinden started in the FA Cup game although hasn’t had quite so much of an involvement in recent league games. Given Tisdale’s admission that we’ve got a decent defence, I do wonder if he’ll fancy allowing the 6’1″ striker an opportunity to join the battle alongside Stockley.

Winger Jake Taylor has also shown his ability to find the net this season, notching five in the league.

Sky Blues team news

Broadly speaking the squad is still a little light, especially when you recall the bench at the weekend, but it’s amazing how a couple of wins can start to alter your perception of the first team. Rod McDonald would be on most people’s player of the season lists so far, but even he’ll do well to dislodge Tom Davies who has been a commanding presence alongside Jordan Willis in recent games.

The Stoke victory gave new loan signing Jordan Maguire-Drew an opportunity to showcase his talents, and he gave fans a fair taste of what he’s all about. His competition for the wing is fellow loanee Josh Barrett who is now training, but given the result and his performance at the weekend, young Maguire-Drew should continue on the right of midfield for the opening hour or so.

It’s hard to imagine the midfield without Tom Bayliss at the moment, who is nailed on continue his naughty and nice with partnership with Doyle. Liam Kelly is still a little way off being ready but it’ll be extremely interesting to see how Robins manages that situation.

With a week’s rest behind us you have to suspect that the only change to the lineup will be a return in goal for Lee Burge. The Stoke game was a mixed bag for Liam O’Brien. He made some big saves, which fortunately absolved him of blame for some less-than-competent kicking and handling.

Prediction

For weeks I’ve questioned the resilience of this team, and whether we can actually trust them. If ever there was a test of their ability to grasp the moment and develop some consistency, this was it. Everything is going for them: they’ve just had the week of their lives, should be bursting with confidence, and they now have a fantastic opportunity to enhance their automatic prospects by solidifying a place in the top three.

While history tells us that we’re at great risk of getting over-excited only to be let down, I have to back the boys this time around. It’s time for them to assert themselves. I want a win; I demand a win. Even against a team as strong at home as Exeter.

Exeter 0 – 2 Coventry


Image by en:User:Rowan_Massey (Here) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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