Grecians manager looks ahead to the final fixture
Thanks to a fine win against Scunthorpe United last weekend, Exeter City travel the arduous stretch to Hartlepool United this coming Saturday without any concerns over their security as a League 2 club.
The chance to play in a dead rubber is certainly welcomed, and Grecians manager Paul Tisdale is very much looking forward to the chance to experiment in the games against Pools.
City had a similar situation on the final game of last season when they travelled to Chesterfield, which saw an innovative team-selection which included Scot Bennett playing as a striker for the first time.
“We’ll be going to the game relaxed and I may be a little creative with selection,” Tis explained. “There will be plenty of opportunities on Saturday for players that haven’t played much recently, and I’m very much looking forward to the game.
“It’s an opportunity for players to be creative, to relax and to think about their game, rather than thinking about the situation. And it is an opportunity for me to have an eye on next season.
“Last year I played Scot Bennett in the centre-forward role at Chesterfield, which clearly amounted to something this year. Whether I’ll be doing similar things over the course of the next 48 hours – we’ll see. I’m really looking forward to it; it has a different slant to the average game.”
Two players that are being touted as potential City debutants are Ollie Watkins and Jordan Tillson.
18-year-old forward Watkins, who recently signed a deal to turn pro this summer upon completion of his apprenticeship at the Academy at the Cat & Fiddle, has already shown supporters some glimpses of his electric ability in the Under-21 Premier League Cup and for the under-18 side which won the Youth Alliance South West this season.
Defender Tillson, meanwhile, has featured on the bench six times for Exeter but is yet to be called upon to make his debut. He featured regularly at centre-half during the Under-21 Premier League Cup.
“Ollie Watkins is a player that has been impressing,” Tis continued. “He is one of the young players that we have had who has shown a level of performance in training and youth games that would suggest he is worth looking at.
“He will be with us next year as a young professional; had we been in a different situation over the last month, I’m sure he would have featured already.
“This is a perfect opportunity for someone like him to play a part in the game. He’ll be travelling with us, but I have yet to decide in what capacity.
“Jordan Tillson will also be travelling. He did terrifically in the under-21s – but centre-half is such a high-risk position. But he has played at such a level in training and for the under-21s that suggests he has got a future with us, and I’m very much looking forward to the point that he does get an opportunity.”
Saturday’s opponents Hartlepool are a point ahead of City in the Sky Bet League 2 table and Tis feels there is a lot of empathy between the two clubs.
Both Exeter and Hartlepool are in far-flung corners of the country, and consequently Pools – like City – are keen on developing their talent and bringing players through their ranks.
Paul continued: “Hartlepool had a poor run of results during March and April, but they are playing a little more subtle football than the average League 2 team. Their manager is going to do things in a professional way and they have got a very good surface to play on.
“They’re bringing players through and they are an innovative club. We’re at the opposite end of the country, but I see plenty of similarities. They were one of the first clubs that congratulated us on our survival last week, so there is plenty of affinity between the two clubs even though we’re so far apart.”