Manager looks on to Devon Derby at the ParkAhead of the Devon Derby against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday, Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale is expecting a very different game to the earlier meeting in the campaign.
A Grecians squad which was low on numbers and just out of a transfer embargo visited the Pilgrims in their second league game of the new season, and came out on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline.
However much has changed in the six months between then and now – having added numbers into the team and bedded into the season, the Grecians now sit poised in the top half of the table going into the final third of the campaign and are aiming to close the gap on their rivals on Saturday.
So the Grecians manager is expecting his team to be able to go toe-to-toe with Argyle when the game kicks off at 1pm on Saturday.
“I think it was a mismatch at Home Park earlier in the year,” said Paul. “We were still in August, we were just coming out of the embargo situation that we had been in over the summer, and our squad was depleted and on its knees.
“We had very few players to give us any depth and we were very short on confidence. We are a very different team now than we were back in August.
“I think it will be a very competitive game this Saturday. Thinking back to that game against Plymouth, we were up against it – but I think we can compete on an even footing this weekend.”
And while the game will be approached in a typically professional manner, Tis is well aware that it is no ordinary game.
With the largest crowd for a number of years expected at the Park for the game, Paul knows that that will add a different dimension to the game.
“The week, the way we train, the itinerary and schedule for the week, and the breakdown of what type of work we do in training doesn’t change,” he explained.
“The amount of time afforded to the management team for going through match reports, and the physio and his team trying to get players on the pitch doesn’t change either.
“What does change and what is different is the environment around where we work, including the local media and interest from the supporters.
“That does have an effect and you can’t ignore that. More people will be at the game than a normal League 2 game for us, and more local people will be interested in the result, and as a consequence there is a different feel to the game.
“Assuming that we are committed to every game, it is the same. But we are well aware that the game has a very different feel to most League 2 games we play at the Park.”
Clichés surrounding derbies often refer to levels of desire and will-to-win – but Paul thinks those elements can be taken as read, for both teams.
Instead he and the team will be focused their preparation on being ready to make the right decisions and play the right game in a cauldron of an atmosphere.
“I’m not going to be asking them to give any more, because I assume and believe they give everything,” Tis continued. “It’s about whether you know what to do and how to do it, as opposed to just how much you want to win.
“Let’s assume that both teams really want to win and that both teams give everything. I think that would be a pretty fair assumption.
“After that it comes down to who has the better players, which players play better, which players know how to win.
“A large element of winning football matches is not about the ability of the players. It’s the cohesive elements and how those players are connected and how they play together, and do they do the right things at the right time.
“When it comes to a derby game, there is a different set of decisions they need to make. They are maybe affected or impaired by emotion and atmosphere, and all the things that surround a derby game.
“That’s what our preparation will be about – giving us the best opportunity for our players to make the best decisions as often as they can. At the end of that you rely on players to execute decisions and officials to make the right calls in vital areas of the pitch. Let’s hope we come out on top.”
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