Manager previews FA Cup tie against WarringtonThe anticipation of the Grecians’ FA Cup first-round tie with Warrington Town has been growing steadily during the course of the last week and a half, ever since ball 53 was paired with ball 18 in the draw at St George’s Park.
The switch to a Friday-night game in front of the BBC cameras has also added an extra dimension to the build-up, with a projected audience of 3 million on top of the 2,500-strong partisan crowd that will occupy Cantilever Park.
Given its significance to Warrington in particular – being the first time they have made the first round – it has generated plenty of hype and anticipation, with most neutrals hoping to see the underdogs triumph in the typical spirit of the FA Cup.
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale is looking forward to seeing his team’s match preparation taking shape against the Wire on Friday, and is fully aware that the bulk of the preparation for the Grecians has to be in getting the mindsets right for the game.
“We’ve been waiting for a week or so and now it’s the opportunity to play,” Paul said. “I’ve heard so many imaginative versions of this game, and I’m looking to put our preparation into practice now and try and win the game. We’re very much ready for it.
“There are pitfalls and own-goals galore that we can make with our preparation for this game. I’m fully aware of the 3 million-plus viewers that they are expecting, and I’m sure that most of those will want Warrington to win.
“We’re not on TV because we’re playing good football, playing well and because we’ve won a few games and people want to see our football. We’re on TV because people are looking for the prospect of an FA Cup upset. We’re very much aware of that and we’re preparing accordingly.
“It’s not about how much you want to win it or how serious you are – it’s about playing in the right manner and making good decisions. We’ll be going into the game to do that.
“It’s our job to do the job. We know that we’re on TV for the prospect of an upset, so that is very much in mind when we go into the game. Most of this preparation is about the tone we set and the things with think. If we’re thinking correctly, we will act correctly.
“That doesn’t guarantee us a win because the FA Cup is a real leveller. We’re away from home, the weather is going to be inclement – I’m sure it’s not going to all go our own way, but we’re ready for it.”
The name ‘Curzon Ashton’ makes the blood of most City supporters run cold – they were the side which knocked Exeter out at this stage six seasons ago, and also played in the Northern Premier League Division One North.
While the personnel that played that afternoon for City have changed, Paul feels that he learned a few lessons on that day which will be applicable for Friday’s fixture.
Paul continued: “Curzon Ashton is fresh in the mind – there are only one or two players here that were there at the time but I’ve experienced that particular event and I don’t want it to happen again – though you can’t just wish it to be true.
“It was an unpleasant experience – we prepared very seriously for that game but we made one or two errors and they capitalised on it.
“I can’t predict the game on Friday, nor can I make it go my way necessarily, but what I can do is make sure that we don’t make some of the errors that we made last time.”
And despite feeling fully prepared for the game, Paul is under no illusions that the ‘magic of the cup’ could bite again.
Often it is the culture-shock when players play at grounds a few divisions below their level that can unsettle sides and take the bigger teams out of their comfort zone.
However Tis doesn’t feel that life at Exeter City has given his players any illusions of grandeur or entitlement – and quite conversely, they should feel quite at home on a lower-league pitch that is exposed to the elements.
“On a conventional Saturday afternoon in league football they are a few leagues below us,” Tis continued. “But the reason the FA Cup is so special is because history will tell you that these types of game will produce an upset every now and then.
“That can’t be a coincidence – that’s down to the draw of the prestige of the cup and a different set of variables to what you experience every week.
“I think this is about how we think rather than how we technically prepare. That will lead us to act correctly and make the right decisions. We’ve got enough players that can play football – it’s business and it’s about making sure that we keep our risk to a minimum.
“St James Park has particularly dim lights so we won’t be out of place there, and if the grass is long and muddy, then we’re used to that at the Cat & Fiddle. I don’t see it as a big thing – my players should be professional and practically-minded to the degree that they should overcome whatever is thrown at them. We have to be ready for it.”