Manager looks forward to weekend fixture at SJPExeter City host League 2’s basement side Hartlepool United at the Park on Saturday, who are winless in over a month, and manager Paul Tisdale is expecting a very different game to the one when the Grecians overthrew the table-toppers a fortnight ago.
The Grecians defeated league leaders Bury at St James Park two Saturdays ago, defeating the Shakers 2-1 in an open and entertaining game and registering what was then a third straight win for Exeter.
Pools parted company with manager Colin Cooper last weekend after a home defeat to fellow strugglers Carlisle United, adding another dimension of uncertainty to contend with in City’s preparation.
On paper, facing the team at the nadir of the table should be an easier task than taking on the side at the summit, but Paul is wary that the game will need an altogether different approach.
“The league is not that different from top to bottom,” Paul said. “There’s not that much difference between the teams, but it’s the psyche.
“Bury came to win the game and they exposed themselves and tried to make things happen, and they were vulnerable at times to the counter-attack in our play. We matched them toe-to-toe and it was our day.
“I think Hartlepool will be different – I don’t think they’ll play in the same way that Bury did and I don’t think they’ll leave themselves vulnerable in the same way Bury did.
“Their attacking options might be fewer, but they can catch you out at the same time. It’s a banana skin, and it happens a lot that a change of manager for a team around the bottom can lead to a string of results for a two or three week period. I hope that it’s not us that have to sacrifice our three points.
“It’s down to me and the players to take the game to the opposition and be very tight with our decisions. We’ve got something to play for ourselves as well – we have a fifth straight win to play for and that doesn’t happen very often. We have our own carrot and our own prize at the end of this.”
City’s task is complicated by a reduced number of personnel to select, with a number of players falling foul of injury in recent weeks.
Pat Baldwin’s surgery could mean an early end of his season, Graham Cummins, David Noble, David Wheeler, Liam Sercombe and Craig Woodman have all missed games with knocks and niggles – or worse – and Jordan Moore-Taylor is set to be out of action until after Christmas after breaking a bone in his foot against Coventry.
The concerns over fitness this weekend are reminiscent of the tough month of August when Exeter were unable to log a victory.
However one of the key differences between then and now is the football that Exeter are playing and the results that have bred confidence in the meantime.
“We had a problem with numbers in August, and that was no secret because of no new signings and illness coming back from Brazil – and that was a tough month for us,” Tis said.
“Since then Graham Cummins and Christian Ribeiro have joined us, and Alex Nicholls came in on loan. David Noble has come into the squad and things have picked up with us playing particularly well.
“We had our strongest squad at Tranmere in terms of numbers, but we have slipped back again in terms of injuries which is a real shame. Pat Baldwin has been ruled out for the season and now we’ve had injuries to Craig Woodman and Graham Cummins to name a few.
“We’ve got fitness tests to come and hopefully one or two of them will be positive. We’ve got Graham Cummins, Craig Woodman, David Noble and David Wheeler being assessed in time for Saturday.
“I really can’t tell you what our numbers will be for Saturday – it’ll be a late call. I’ve been asked what it’s like playing against a team like Hartlepool where their manager has just departed, but the point is I’m not really sure what our team is going to look like.
“I want to get as many players available for Saturday afternoon. Hopefully the difference between now and what we experienced in August is that we have a bit of confidence. We’ve just won four games and we are on a bit of a roll, and maybe that will give us the edge and the extra yard we need going into Saturday’s game.”
Two additions back into the camp will be Matt Grimes and Christy Pym, who are returning early from duty with England’s Under-20 squad in the Netherlands.
Paul is hoping that they return in good nick to play, and also went on to thank everyone that played a part in getting the boys home on time.
England Under-20 manager Aidy Boothroyd agreed to release the boys back to Exeter following the first game of the three-game tournament in Heerenveen, while club sponsors Flybe and Exeter City Supporters Club have made arrangements to get the boys back to Devon at no cost to the club.
“I’d like to get them back in one piece and mentally fresh to play on Saturday,” continued Paul. “They both need to come back and play – after the Romania game I left Matt Grimes on the bench for the first half but there’ll be no doing that this week. He’ll have to play 90 minutes.
“I’m delighted that they are playing in a really top game against Germany. That’s a really top quality fixture to be involved in so I wish them the best of luck for it, and we need to rush them back.
“We need to thank Aidy Boothroyd for giving them the release to come back. It’s an 11-day tournament which they are on and that is the first of three games, so they’re only going to play in the one – so thanks to Aidy for allowing that compromise.
“We have had the drama of getting them back – we spoke to our sponsor Flybe who have gone out of their way to book some tickets from Amsterdam to Exeter tomorrow lunchtime, so thank you to them.
“Our Supporters Club have offered the help of any finances towards expenses needed, such as taxis needed – or even a Mars bar and a coffee, whatever they’re going to need to get back!
“We’ve got it all covered so thank you to Flybe and thank you to the Supporters Club, and I just hope they get back in one piece.”