City boss looks ahead to visit of Cheltenham
Ahead of the visit of Cheltenham Town to St James Park on Saturday, Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale insists that the Grecians will be giving everything until the end of the season, regardless of the weekend’s result.
Whether Exeter win, lose or draw against the Robins won’t decide their fate; however a home win would certainly go a long way towards securing finishing safely in Sky Bet League 2 this season and quelling any remaining anxieties.
So he is calling on his players to stick to the gameplan and playing to their capabilities in order to overcome the first hurdle of the final five games.
“It’s such an odd league this year that I don’t think we can be too clever about the number of points we need,” said Tis. “It sounds obvious, but we just need to get as many points as we can.
“Every game is going to be an opportunity; this one is the biggest opportunity because it’s this week. Having had the disappointment two weeks ago at home against Accrington, we’d like to bounce back with this particular match against Cheltenham.
“We have to fight for the three points – if we do get the three points on Saturday, we don’t walk away thinking that we’ve done it – we have to keep pushing right to the end of the season.
“In the Accrington game, the players were full of confidence and motivated but didn’t play to plan, and in our last game at Bury they tried to play to plan but looked tired, and we were dull.
“Either of those two things can’t happen on Saturday. I know it, they know it – we can’t afford for the players not to play in the manner expected of them from me regarding their tactics, and nor can they have a dull day.
“It needs to be energetic, there has to be a spark in the team, and they have to deliver what I ask of them. If they do that, regardless of the result, I can only support them.
“We need a response this Saturday. We are playing for a very important three points, and criticism on either of those two fronts won’t be accepted this week.”
Exeter will be without captain Danny Coles for the game, who will serve a one-match suspension for receiving a second yellow last weekend against Bury.
Despite the centre-half receiving City’s first dismissal of the season at Gigg Lane, the Grecians still sit comfortably on top of the fair-play table across the 92 clubs.
The City manager was naturally pleased that his players have been able to boast such a strong disciplinary record, though equally had hoped that his troops would have been able to secure a few more wins in such a fashion too.
“It’s a good record; but of course, the most important that we all look for is the position in the league,” he continued.
“But we have always prided ourselves in doing things in a disciplined way and the proper way – and we’d like to win that way.
“We would have liked to have won a few more games than we have done, but nonetheless the players have been very disciplined and we have played to the laws of the games as best we can.”
One narrative that surrounds the game is the return to St James Park of striker Jamie Cureton, who returns to the club which he was representing last season.
Cureton scored the game’s only goal on Boxing Day as the Robins beat City at Whaddon Road, and Tis is hopeful that his team will be able to deal with well-known threat of the 38-year-old striker if he plays.
“It will be nice to see him – I hope he doesn’t play too well because we know what he is capable of,” said Paul. “That doesn’t mean you can stop it, of course – knowing what he is capable of doesn’t necessarily mean you can negate it.
“He hasn’t been starting in their side recently, but he is a threat and if he comes on for five minutes, we know we’ll have five minutes of anxiety.”
And if that wasn’t enough, another storyline tied into this fixture is the Grecians’ barren run of results against Cheltenham.
The Robins have a blotch-free record against Exeter – the two sides have met nine times since their first fixture in 1999, and Cheltenham have won every single one of those games.
But in recent seasons Exeter have managed to end plenty of long-standing records, and Saturday offers an opportunity for the St James Park faithful to witness City’s first win against their opponents from up the M5.
“It’s an odd record – over my eight years here, we’ve put an end to a lot of records, anomalies or strange circumstances,” said Tis.
“We have won games in places where we haven’t won for a long time – so we have to hope that this particular game is the same sort of scenario.
“It’s a strange run of games, and it has to come to an end at some point.”