Defender reflects on Hartlepool defeatFollowing a 2-1 defeat to Hartlepool United at St James Park, Grecians defender Connor Riley-Lowe felt that a tight game might have fallen their way on a better day.
Exeter impressed during a strong first period but couldn’t work goalkeeper Scott Flinders enough between the sticks – a rasping effort from Matt Grimes was the closest either team came during a goalless first half.
However Michael Woods found space in the box to turn in a cross just after the break, and that was followed up midway through the second period with a second from Charlie Wyke. Christian Ribeiro’s goal ten minutes proved a mere consolation, despite some late pressure from Exeter.
And the teenage defender, who was making his third Exeter City appearance and his first in the Football League, felt that the hosts were a touch unfortunate not to quite take their chances when they were on top.
“We were really good in the first half but we started the second half slowly,” said Connor. “They got their goal and it deflated us a little bit.
“Then they got another one, which is when we started picking it back up. We got a goal back and in the last ten minutes I think they felt the pressure and we were piling it on, and on another day we might have got an equaliser.
“Scot [Bennett] had a chance with a header but couldn’t quite over it – they’re hard chances to take. On another today we might have done it, but today we haven’t. It’s a shame but we’ll bounce onto the next.
“Hartlepool really needed a win and towards the end it was easier for them to waste time and try and see out the game rather than trying to keep the ball. That made it harder for us to win the ball back and play forward, and especially when they’re keeping the ball down near the corners.
“You have to give them their due – they did see out the game quite well, but on another day we might have got the equaliser, and that might have even led to another goal. A goal can change anything in football.”
On a personal level, it proved to be a good week for the 18-year-old. After impressing manager Paul Tisdale with his 90-minute shift at Coventry in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, he got the nod for the first time in the Football League against Pools.
He is hoping that his second performance – another good showing in the left wing-back position – will have put him more firmly into the boss’s thinking for the forthcoming matchday squads.
“It has been a really good week for me – I’ve enjoyed it a lot, and I’ve got to thank the manager for giving me a chance,” he continued.
“I wanted to start on Tuesday [against Coventry] which I did, and I think I did quite well and proved what I can do defensively.
“Today I thought I played well in the first half and made good decisions. In the second half I felt I tailed off a bit. We started panicking after we went a goal down so we started forcing the ball a bit, so it was hard for me to get back into the game.
“But I enjoyed it and it has been a good week, so I’m just hoping I can carry it on.
“The manager shows that he trusts young players and that he will give you a chance. My main aim was to show that he can trust me and I think I’ve done that.
“But the more games I play, the more he will trust me – and also the more confident I will get and the more comfortable I’ll get playing with the lads.”
There was a combination of youth and experience around Riley-Lowe on the field, which he felt was a helpful factor in his first home start.
With Craig Woodman, Matt Oakley and Danny Butterfield in close proximity to him on the pitch, there were some experienced heads nearby.
And there were also two of his former teammates from youth level too. It was the first time he had started a fixture alongside Matt Grimes and Christy Pym since he joined the pro ranks in the summer, and he admitted that it reminded him of bygone days to be playing with the England Under-20 pairing.
Connor said: “Woody was talking to me all afternoon and he is probably one of the best people you can have behind you. He was telling me where I should be if I was in the wrong place and giving me help when I needed it.
“With Oaks and Butts on the pitch as well you just feel a bit calmer and a bit more relaxed about yourself. If you make a mistake they pick you back up and don’t make you think about it too much.
“And I’ve played with Matt Grimes and Christy Pym throughout the Academy – they have shown they’re class players by being called up to England, so well done to them.
“It was nice playing with them; it was a bit surreal, but it was good! It reminded me of the old days.”
Next up for City is Southend United at Roots Hall in a week’s time and Connor is already looking to bouncing back there.
He is hopeful that he and the team can get over knocks and niggles and have a good week of preparation for that game, and is also aiming to be involved once again.
“We’ll have a good week of rest and training, and hopefully I’ll be involved next Saturday,” he said. “Obviously it’s the manager’s decision but I hope I have shown that I am trustworthy.
“I’m growing in confidence now but it’s his decision and hopefully he’ll pick me. If not, I’ll just train as well as I can and help the team as best I can.”