Manager gives his take on a single-goal win against CheltenhamExeter City manager Paul Tisdale was full of praise for the way his team approached their home fixture against Cheltenham Town on Boxing Day, as they secured a 1-0 victory against the Robins.
It was Tom Nichols’ goal just after the hour mark that proved the difference at the final whistle, though the manner in which Exeter controlled possession and the running of the game throughout the fixture could have seen a more comprehensive scoreline.
It also signalled a sixth game without defeat at home on the bounce – winning four of those games – and Paul was pleased that the confidence is building throughout the club with the patient style of Exeter’s game.
“We have our style – teams tend to replicate a defensive mode against us and that causes us problems, but we’re beginning to get patient with it,” he explained.
“The other important thing is that the supporters are becoming patient with that style as well, which is a big thing. Everyone plays their game but there’s a human element to it and when the supporters are behind the way we’re playing and patient with it, and trust that it’s going to end with something positive as it did today, there’s definitely a key element there where there’s a patience across the place.
“Any win you have to earn. You have to fight for every win and there is a whole manner of ways in which you fight. Today we fought by keeping our discipline and our patience and making sure the details were right.
“I would like to win by a more comfortable margin, but there is something nice about one-nil. We could have easily caught them out with a second but there was something comprehensive about the performance today.
“We probably had a 10- or 15-minute spell in the middle of the first half when we began to get a little bit high and wide and loose with our play, as if we had the right to just keep the ball. They almost pounced on us a couple of times on the counter attack.
“But it’s becoming a bit of a trend at home when we get in at half-time without conceding a goal and build our performance in the second half, and we did it today.
“I was really pleased with the way we played generally – we had a lot of composure on the ball, we had some real threat up front at the right time, and I had a very good substitutes bench to use for all sorts of variations."
It marked a second win on the spin without conceding at St James Park, after a 2-0 victory against Carlisle a fortnight ago, and Tis was particularly pleased with that element.
Guernseyman James Hamon wasn’t overworked throughout the afternoon, but martialled his defence well, was decisive in his goalkeeping and assisted well by the players in front of him.
Tis continued: “We were solid in defence – we had a few minutes in the first half when we became a little bit open and indulgent with our play and allowed them to counter a bit too easily. We discussed that at half-time and it didn’t happen in the second half.
“Under pressure at one-nil – and there is pressure when you score a goal, especially with the ball – we kept our nerve and passed it.
“When we had to make a tackle or two or block, through Scot Bennett and Danny Butterfield – and James Hamon made a terrific catch under the crossbar in the last minute or two – they did their job.
“Right across the board they worked very hard as a team and kept their composure. It would have been nice to get a second goal to see it off, but one-nil is fine by me.”
Nichols was selected as the sponsors’ man of the match for his display – aside from his match-winning goal, his endeavour on and off the ball was notable and he provided a constant threat to Trevor Carson’s goal.
He might have opened the scoring in the first period when he danced through the defence after cutting off the left flank, only for the Northern Irishman to keep him out with a smart stop.
And then when he lobbed the goalkeeper in the second half, he was the width of the upright away from getting his and Exeter’s second and wrapping things up early. But Paul was pleased with his all-round play on his return to the starting XI.
“Tom is looking very sharp – he had a good couple of days in training,” Paul said. “I wanted to start with Clinton Morrison because that suited the way we were playing today, and I thought Tom would be a good combination with him.
“Clinton linked the play really well and attracted the centre-halves, and Tom was allowed to roam and pick up the space.
“He took his goal extremely well – reminiscent of Scot Bennett’s goal in the last home game. He had two or three good efforts on goal and all round his game was particularly sharp. “
The win also marked a first ever win for Exeter against Cheltenham Town, at the 11th time of asking.
Last season’s draw at the Park was the first time in ten attempts that Exeter had avoided defeat, and while it wasn’t something that Paul and the team had addressed before the game, he was happy to see a winless spell against the Robins finally ended.
“It was mentioned after the game – we decided not to mention it before the game because it’s not really the record of the players in our dressing room today, and it’s not for them to worry about.
“But it’s another one we’ve banished to the past. We’ve had a bit of a rough time against Cheltenham in the last few years so it was nice to win today.
“We were comfortable and in control, and we’re seeing a different level of football now. The football has gone up a notch and we need to make sure that we keep turning that into points.”