Manager gives reaction on winning finale to the season
Exeter City closed the 2013/14 campaign with a second 2-0 win on the spin, as they took three points back down the motorway from Hartlepool United.
The victory left the Grecians in 16th position in the final standings in the Sky Bet League 2 table, and young squad that saw no less than nine homegrown players used produced a competent and complete performance to secure a thoroughly satisfying win at Victoria Park.
Grecians manager Paul Tisdale was keen to ensure that his youngsters understood that there wasn’t too much elation for winning an end-of-season fixture against a club whose safety was also already assured.
However he was also quick to praise a great showing from the developing side.
“It was extremely good,” Paul said. “The players played to the disciplines I asked of them, they defended the box really well, and they scored two really good goals.
“If there was a game for players to play relaxed and to express themselves, this was it. It’s not always like that, and I warned them in the dressing room that it won’t always be like this.
“I went through all the young players told them, ‘it’s a great day today – don’t think it’s going to all be like this,’ and they’ve still got things to work on.
“So they were a bit sore that I picked on all that! But that’s the reality of football, so it was just a little warning. They were great today – you can only compete against the team that is in front of you and they did that really well today.”
Paul is also keen to use the lessons of 2013/14 as a springboard to improve on the 16th-placed position next season.
Despite the anxieties that coincided with the close-run fight against relegation, there were a number of positives to take away from the season and areas where improvement is needed has also been highlighted.
“In order for our finances to work to allow us to build and move forward, we have to build a team of good value in homegrown players that become assets that we can at some point sell,” Paul explained.
“You don’t do that by just chucking them all in like we did at Chesterfield last year – you do it by bringing them through.
“I’d like to think we’ve learnt a lot this year. We’ve made one or two decisions as players and coaches and management that I would have changed going back. We haven’t been good enough in the two boxes and I think we’ve got a better idea of what we need going forward.
“There has been a lot learned, so it has been a very useful season – albeit a little stressful.”
That final-day fixture at Chesterfield at the end of 2012/13 was also a dead-rubber, and allowed Tis to test Scot Bennett in a centre-forward role for the first time. This year, it was David Wheeler that led the line solo, and he capped an impressive outing with a fine goal.
Wheeler’s goal followed Jimmy Keohane’s well-taken strike, his third goal of the season, as the Irish attacker notched in consecutive games after getting on the scoresheet against Scunthorpe United last weekend.
“We know what David is capable of wide, but I have to make sure that he can also fit into the shape we used today,” said Tis.
“He did extremely well in it – it’s the first time he has done that for us, and it’s not easy to play up front on your own. And what a wonderful goal.
“Jimmy scored a wonderful goal too – we’ve been waiting for goals this year from him, and he’s just got two in two – so maybe going forward he can make that a more regular occurrence.”
Goalkeeper Christy Pym, making his ninth first-team appearance, also had a starring role.
A penalty save just before half-time allowed him to register a second clean-sheet on the bounce.
Tis continued: “Christy has had a very good five games. We’ve been on him constantly for the last few weeks, and every game for him has been a cup final in terms of his concentration.
“It was another good performance. Like any young player, they have the propensity to get complacent or lose concentration, and it’s our job as a coaching staff to make sure that doesn’t happen, and then his responsibility.
“He did really well and make a good save [from the penalty], he looked after the ball very well and kicked very nicely and with composure.”
But for Paul, the outstanding performance was the debut display from Jordan Tillson.
The young defender has been an unused sub on six occasions, but has been patient since joining from Bristol Rovers two years ago and has continued to work at his game. He played the entire 90 minutes on his debut; forward Ollie Watkins also impressed in his maiden game for the Grecians as he came on with 15 minutes remaining.
Defender Tillson was up against former West Ham and Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood for his first senior appearance, and he played a large part in keeping the Pools attack at bay.
The centre-half was culpable for the penalty, as James Poole crumbled under the defender’s attention in the box, but it was a great defensive showing all-round from Tillson.
“I’ve not seen many better debuts – Jordan was very good. So well done him,” said Tis.
“[The penalty] was the only real blot on his mark-book really – he was a little naïve going that tight to someone that’s going away from goal.
“But you have to say, in terms of how he played, he was exceptional.”