City manager contented to see spirited fight-back
Following the Grecians’ 2-2 draw with Bury, Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale was pleased to have seen the players sticking to task to twice come from behind to earn a draw in a rollercoaster afternoon at St James Park.
The Shakers twice went ahead through Daniel Nardiello and Nathan Cameron, but on both occasions drew level through David Wheeler and Tom Nichols respectively.
As always, City had made all three points the target before kick-off, but with the game ebbing and flowing, ultimately Tis wasn’t too dissatisfied with a point given the way the game played out.
“I’m pleased with the point once we’d been behind twice and came back twice,” said Tis. “The players put a lot of effort in – it wasn’t an easy day and at 2-1 down with 20 minutes to go, I was thinking about substitutions and what I can do.
“Would I have taken a draw at that point? Yes. But we scored the goal to make it 2-2 and had a real surge; would I take a point then? No – I’m thinking we can go and win it.
“But then we started to get tired and open up, and would I take a point at that point? Yes I would.
“The game just changes and the emotions change – at the start of the game today I wanted a win. But all things being said, it’s two draws this week which isn’t what we wanted, but it’s not a bad start after a rotten month.”
Wheeler netted a fine volley to open his account for City in the first half, while Nichols scored his first senior Exeter goal since a late winner against Chesterfield in 2011 – previously his only Football League goal to date.
And the City boss was full of praise for the two goalscorers for the impact they had on the game.
“I’d say that was the best game David has played for us by a distance – he was one of our best couple of players today,” he continued. “And Tom Nichols is getting better and better – a few months ago I wouldn’t have believed he could look as effective as he is at the moment.
“Their progression can be a rollercoaster, and he’s coming good again. He’s still developing but he’s looking a better player. I was delighted that he got his goal – I’m frustrated for him and everyone else that his header at the end missed the target. But he’s coming to the party and he looks like a first-team player, and long may that continue.”
The withdrawal of the sprightly Wheeler with 20 minutes to go prompted some discontent from the home fans, but the decision was vindicated with an equalising goal around five minutes later.
Paul explained that the decision to change to a 3-4-3 and sacrificing the winger was simply about accommodating a system they had worked on to get Exeter back on terms from a losing position.
“We committed to getting bodies in the box again for the last 20 minutes,” he explained. “It left us a bit open at the back, but we gambled. At 2-1 down it was obvious that we had to make the change, but when we scored we had to make a decision. We kept with it, which left us open and Daniel Nardiello did us a favour by missing a header.
“I’m privy to the work we do and I decide the work we do, and I decide what our plan is if we need a goal. David was fantastic today, but making a substitution is not a process of punishing people or rewarding people.
“It’s not about that – it’s about ‘how do we score a goal’. If we’re practicing a formation with certain players doing certain things all week, if someone happens to have a good game and we need a goal and we’ve practiced stuff, then what do I do?
“Do you chuck out all the practice because I want to punish someone and reward someone? No you don’t; you stick to it. I assume all the players are going to be up for it and I assume all the players will give it their best and go to the end. It’s about making a decision based on what we’ve practiced, the plan, and everyone knowing what they are doing.”
The game had begun edgily for City, who were shooting into a low sun in the first period, and Nardiello’s goal was indicative of the anxiety that the conditions had caused.
And Paul is hoping that one day City might have the fortune of winning the toss and making their opponents play into the wintry glare in the first period, for a change.
“We get these days in November, December and January when you get a bright day, and so I’m desperate for us to win the toss for once, and to play with the sun behind us for once,” he continued.
“We managed to lose the toss again and it made the first half almost a lottery for us. It was a dry day too which doesn’t help the run of the ball; it just made our players very edgy.
“We didn’t quite have the connection we needed in the first half. We didn’t have the connection between the back players and the front players, the passing went adrift – we weren’t great.
“But we came back twice and we responded again – we know our plan when we’re losing and what we’re going to do. I’m glad we practiced it because we came back and got another point.”