Manager praises experience of playing against CoventryDespite seeing his Exeter City side knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the hands of Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena, Paul Tisdale was pleased with the positives that he could get from the fixture for some of his younger charges.
The Grecians were ultimately overcome 3-1 by the Sky Blues, who showed their League 1 cutting-edge at times. Exeter were thin on the ground with players missing through international call-ups and recently-sustained injuries.
However that meant for first appearances in the City first-team goalkeeper for James Hamon and midfielder Jason Pope, as well as a first 90 minutes for Connor Riley-Lowe. Fellow first-year pro Ollie Watkins came on and scored City’s late consolatory goal, whilst 16-year-old goalkeeper Kavanagh Keadell also made an appearance on the bench.
So, despite ending a run of victories for City which had spanned for four games, Paul was far from downhearted with what he saw from his players under the floodlights in the Midlands.
“If I was to think of a phrase to describe our game today it was that we were running on empty,” explained Paul. “In terms of numbers we were literally running on empty and it was a game too far for us.
“It was a great opportunity for our players to play – we had three players making their debut today.
“We just weren’t solid enough. I told the players that as a team we just weren’t solid enough in certain moments. But there was no criticism there, because what do you expect? Our team was so muddled today with injury and changes, and [Matt] Grimes and [Christy] Pym off with England.
“We did really well and played our game but we just weren’t tight enough as a team to get a result. But I really enjoyed it and the players enjoyed it, and we got a goal at the end. It was a really good learning opportunity for our players.
“I thought James Hamon did really well playing his first competitive game. He let in three goals, but I thought he showed a lot of composure with his feet.
“I’m really pleased with Connor Riley-Lowe – I thought he had a really good game at left-back. And we had Jason Pope coming on at the end, who will have really enjoyed the experience. He came on at a good time for him when the game was over, so he was able to enjoy himself.
“Ollie [Watkins] hasn’t made a start for us yet so it was another game off the bench, which is pleasing for him. He’s a bit shellshocked because I’m probably asking him to do a little bit more, but in terms of coming away from a first-team game and he’s scored a goal, I’m delighted for him.”
However the overriding negative of the game was an injury sustained by centre-half Jordan Moore-Taylor, which looks concerning on first assessment.
It adds another name to the list of players to be seen on the treatment table by newly-appointed physio Graham McAnuff, who began his role with the club in earnest over the weekend.
As well as having long-term absentees in Jamie Reid and Pat Baldwin, the squad has had a recent hit of knocks and niggles which has quickly reduced the team down to the bare bones.
For Tis, it will mean once again needing to find a system into which to fit his available players when struggling Hartlepool United come to St James Park on Saturday.
Paul continued: “We had every first-team player that was fit with us today. My major concern is that it looks like Jordan Moore-Taylor has cracked his metatarsal again.
“It looks like Liam Sercombe will be out for three or four weeks and David Wheeler the same. I’ve never known and injury-room like it. But then we’ve not had a full-time physio since the start of the season until this week so we have come unstuck and that’s the way it is – that’s life at Exeter City.
“It means more changes – I was desperate for continuity. We haven’t had an x-ray on [Jordan] yet but we’re pretty sure he has done the same thing that he did in Brazil, which is a real blow for us.
“If you look at the players we had playing at Tranmere a few weeks ago, it looks like we will have since lost Jordan Moore-Taylor, Craig Woodman, Liam Sercombe, Alex Nicholls, David Wheeler and David Noble. From that team there are six or seven that are missing that played at Tranmere and there’s nothing I can do about it.
“It’s the worst injury situation I’ve ever known, but is it a coincidence when we didn’t have a physio for the past three or four months?
“The job a physio is not just rehab – it’s also prehab to prevent injuries through exercise programmes and good, cautious decisions along the way. We’ve not had a sounding board for those topics or someone leading those decisions.
“So we have covered games and everyone has done a great job, we haven’t had anyone leading those decisions and we have come unstuck.”