Manager reflects on win against the DonsGrecians manager Paul Tisdale was left thoroughly satisfied with a 3-2 victory against AFC Wimbledon at St James Park.
It looked like it might have been a long afternoon for Exeter when Adebayo Akinfenwa scored a corking volley in the fourth minute, but City turned the game on its head after the interval to pull into a lead thanks to a Tom Nichols brace and a close-range David Wheeler strike. A late own-goal from James Hamon made for a nervy finale but Exeter held out.
The Dons played over an hour with a man less, when Dannie Bulman’s reckless tackle on Connor-Riley-Lowe merited a straight red card from referee Darren Deadman. City capitalised on their numerical advantage and had goalkeeper Joe McDonnell working overtime throughout the game.
And with ten games now remaining, the City manager stressed the importance of the result and his pleasure at the nature of the performance that got it.
“It was an important win and a deserved win,” Tis said. “It was a really good performance and there were some really good individual performances, and we played the game well.
“On paper, you’ll look at the stats of the game on a Sunday and you’ll see that they had a player sent off and that we played against ten men for an hour, but it’s not always that easy when the opposition is a goal up and they have something to hang onto.
“We played really patiently and put a lot of pressure on their penalty box and got our just rewards. Other than a nervy last couple of minutes, I thought we did really well.
“There was very little wrong with our speed to the ball and our passing – we had some really good patience across midfield with Matt Oakley and Ryan Harley together – they were really composed and put the pressure on.”
With the first day of Spring due to follow in a week’s time, the game was played in mild and fair Devon weather.
The St James Park was looking lush green and in prime condition after three weeks away from the Park and Paul attributed that factor to the performance.
“Probably the main difference today was that the players trusted our pitch,” he continued. “It’s the first time they have done that for a long time – probably since the Cheltenham game or the Carlisle game before Christmas.
“That made a big difference to us. I think it would have been a completely different affair had we played on a similar surface to the one we played against Plymouth here.
“There was a big difference to the pitch today and the players trusted it – the first time in a couple of months.”
Riley-Lowe was a surprise inclusion in the squad, replacing Jamie McAllister after the Scotsman failed a late fitness test.
And the 19-year-old full-back impressed once again on his return to the team – his first appearance in Grecians colours for over five months. Tis too was pleased with his display on his return to the team.
“It was a big call today really – Connor is a young player, but it’s how we do things,” Paul said. “An option was to move the back four around a bit and play Jordan Moore-Taylor there – but that’s the type of club we are and it comes to that point when you’ve got a young player that you’ve got high hopes for.
“He’s a left-back and I decided to play him. That’s why players like Connor sign for Exeter City – because you’ll get your chance. And I have to say he took his chance extremely well and had a really good game.
“It’s the kind of game that you want to play in as a young player because the team is on the front-foot for the best part of 90 minutes.
“But he did really well at the end on the cover and helped Tom Nichols out – he did really well today and it was a great day for him.”
Also making an appearance was Tom McCready, who replaces Clinton Morrison from the bench for the last 10 minutes of the game.
The former Morecambe midfielder showed glimpses of why he was brought in and Paul was happy that he managed to hand a debut to the youngster.
“It was great that Tom McCready got a chance to get on the pitch too. He’s got a future with us,” Paul said.
“He’s got a lot going for him and he’ll get his chance at some point.”