Grecians coach previews visit of the DonsExeter City coach Garry Haylock feels that the next three games could have a big bearing on where the Grecians’ ambitions can lie for the remainder of the campaign.
The trio of games kicks off at St James Park on Saturday against AFC Wimbledon, and is followed in quick succession by another home fixture against Stevenage on Tuesday evening. City then travel up the M5 to visit Cheltenham Town on the following weekend.
Four points from the past two games – away at York and Carlisle – have rekindled the ambitions of a strong finale to the campaign and kept alive hopes of a late surge towards the play-offs.
“It could have been better [against York and Carlisle] – we could have got two wins and that’s what we looked at and felt we could achieve,” Haylock said.
“But we’ll take that and we need to build on it. It’s not a case of looking back – we need to look forward. Obviously the next two home games are critical and the Cheltenham game follows on the Saturday. The next eight days could define the season.
“It’ll certainly dictate the way we approach the rest of the season in terms of the focus in training and what we work on. If you go and win the next two or three games, suddenly you’re knocking on the door and the focus of the players changes and you start to build momentum.
“Tis often says that the body follows the mind. So if you don’t believe that you can make it, it isn’t going to happen.”
City haven’t yet registered a home victory in the five games at the Park since the turn of the year.
Earlier in the season, however, City showed their potential at home by defeating the likes of Shrewsbury, Bury and Wycombe on home soil.
Both AFC Wimbledon and Stevenage are in the play-off hunt and Haylock is hopeful that the Grecians can turn in good displays against strong opponents.
“Wimbledon and Stevenage will both come thinking they can pick points up,” he continued. “To do that they’re going to have to score goals, and to do that, they’re going to have to attack and leave space. Hopefully that will allow us to capitalise on it.
“They are certainly two games that we can win – and having said that, there is nobody in this league that we can’t beat on our day. It’s just trying to get as many of those days in a row as we can.”
Haylock – a prolific forward in his playing days – was also unsurprised to see Ryan Harley back amongst the goals last weekend in Carlisle.
The midfielder bagged a brace against the Cumbrians to reopen his Grecians account and Haylock is confident that his form will continue in the coming weeks.
“If you play a certain way and match your players to that style of play, you’ll get success,” Haylock explained. “Sometimes you see clubs sign big and strong centre-forwards and they don’t play the ball in the air to them, which seems kind of crazy.
“Ryan is a player that suits the way Tis wants to play and the style of the club, and I think personality-wise it is a good fit as well. He’s the kind of person that Tis wants around the place.
“So it’s no real surprise that this is where his most successful years have been. You would like to think that this he is at the peak of his career in terms of fitness and experience – he’s got two or three years where everything should fall into place for him.”