Paul previews Easter fixtures
There are just four games remaining for all clubs in Sky Bet League 2, and half of those games will be played over the Easter weekend.
With the battle for league positions looking increasingly likely to right to the wire, it means that Exeter’s two fixtures on Good Friday (away at Chesterfield) and Easter Monday (at home to Torquay) will be particularly definitive when the season ends on May 3rd.
With nothing yet decided in the race to avoid the drop, it means that the permutations of every point gained or lost are punctuated in this incredibly tightly-contested season.
Grecians manager Paul Tisdale is in agreement that the Easter weekend will have plenty of thrills and spills, and that it will have a conclusive effect on the final standings.
“It is very tight and there are a lot of teams feeling the same pressure as us,” said Paul. “They’ll be looking at their fixtures and each other’s fixtures, and trying to get a win or two over this weekend.
“It’s going to make for an exciting weekend – I’m not sure it will be particularly enjoyable from the touchline as a manager, but it will be very exciting.”
The first of those two games for Exeter is a trip to the Proact Stadium, where an experimental Exeter side lost 4-0 on the final day of last season.
The Spireites have gone from strength to strength and are currently hoping to cement their automatic promotion prospects, as well as chasing Rochdale and Scunthorpe for the divisional title.
Saturday’s hosts were 2-0 winners at St James Park earlier in the season, and Tis is aware of the threats that the hosts pose.
“Chesterfield will be a tough nut to crack,” admitted Tis. “We have watched them play in our scouting lead-up to the game, and they are a good side. They are strong, they attack very well and they have a good record.
“We will have to get our game in tune and we have to play to our strengths. We have to back ourselves in terms of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and try to minimise their strengths and get ours on show.”
Amongst the manager’s thinking is the squad selection for the two games. The usual bumps and bruises aside, Tis has a full complement of players to choose from and will be deciding how to split the roles over the two games to give City the maximum chance of winning both.
On paper, matches away against promotion candidates Chesterfield and at home to basement club Torquay could barely be further apart on the spectrum of games that Exeter will have played this season.
So Tis is acutely aware of the adaptability that he might need from his squad over Easter.
“There will always be decisions – even when the first 11 is settled, you can spend all your time worrying about the last selection on the bench,” he continued. “Those decisions very often go to the last minute on a weekend. Whether it’s someone coming into the starting 11 or onto the bench, they always play a part.
“I’m pleased that Danny [Coles] is back after his one match suspension, but Pat Baldwin did extremely well in the game on Saturday – not to say they both can’t play.
“I commented to the players on Monday that we’ve got to train very hard, and train to be ready for both games. The chances of us using just 11 players across the 95 minutes in both games is slim.
“So there are lots of players that are capable of playing a part in this weekend, and not just the 11 that I select on Friday.
“We’re home and away against different type of opposition, with a different type of reward at stake for both sides. The games are very contrasting – I believe we’re capable of winning both games, and we might have to do it in a different fashion.”