City manager looking forward to Posh trip
Undoubtedly many City fans were wincing as they saw Ray Parlour pull out the number-17 ball from the hat two weeks ago at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London to set up, on paper, of the toughest ties they could have possibly been given as they were paired with number-30 Peterborough United, which Gerard Houllier had picked out.
But, after the initial disappointment of not being matched up against an easier opposition (namely one of the 32 non-league clubs), the mood in the camp has shifted to one of anticipation and excitement.
Part of that shift has been because of the positive energy that flowed out of last weekend’s 3-2 defeat against Portsmouth – despite coming out on the wrong side of the scoreline, there was a hugely satisfying end to the game as City rallied and came within a whisker of an equalising goal.
Manager Paul Tisdale is feeling as upbeat as the rest of the camp as they approach what is promising to be an enthralling tie away at London Road.
“It’s a very tough challenge for us,” said Tis. “But it is what it is – we saw the draw last week and we started to prepare, and now we’re not thinking about anything else other than the opposition, how we have to play and getting a win.
“We’re in good spirits – we had a really good away trip last week to Portsmouth. I don’t often come away from a game saying we’re unfortunate, but I did think we were unlucky last week and I really like the way we played.
“So I’m urging the players to play on instinct and the feeling of how we did last week, and hopefully we will get the same response from our supporters as we did against Portsmouth. I’m sure we’ll get lots of positivity from them like we have done on the road this year. We’re going into the game in a positive attitude.”
Centre-half Pat Baldwin was a new absentee last weekend with a knee injury, but he looks set to return to contention this weekend against the Posh. He is likely to be the only returning player, however.
“Pat has come through training this week, and unless he has a reaction, then he’s on the bus to Peterborough,” continued Tis. “It’s probably a week early for Danny Butterfield, who is targeting the Southend game, as it Jamie Reid.
“Hopefully we’ll come through this week unscathed and we’ll be looking at only Matt Oakley being the long-term injury. We’re getting there slowly.”
In the continued absence of Butterfield, the Grecians have had to be adaptable again – but Paul is unfazed by that notion.
The coming days before the game will be a case of gauging the right character to take into the fixture if they’re going to cause what will be seen as an upset against League 1 opposition.
The FA Cup has often been a leveller when it comes to teams getting results against the logical odds, but the Grecians have made a habit in recent seasons of picking up results in some of their toughest fixtures on the road – something that Tis is hoping to replicate.
Tis continued: “We are very versatile, and the players need to be versatile because I like to be creative with my plan per game. But it’s about picking a tone for the game, and then picking a team to suit the tone.
“There are a number of ways to pick a team – you can just pick your best 11, and if you’ve got the best 11 in the league then you probably won’t tinker with things too much.
“I like to work on the tone, find a way of setting the players’ mindset, picking the shape or team style and then pick the players after that – and that’s the point I’m at with this game.
“One of our strengths over the last year or two is that we’ve not seen these challenges as impossible. We’ve taken them all and thought they’re achievable. I’ve made no secret of the fact that it’s a priority this year to attempt a good cup run. We’ve made it difficult for ourselves with the draw! But crikey, we’ll have a go.”