Barnet v Exeter City: Match preview

Paul Tisdale praises Craig Woodman ahead of trip to the Hive

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale praised the leadership qualities of defender Craig Woodman ahead of this Saturday’s trip to Barnet.

Craig signed a new contract at City late in the summer and went into the season battling for his spot as first-choice left-back. However, a couple of injuries in central defence – to Troy Brown and Troy Archibald-Henville – saw Craig’s experience in the backline become ever more pivotal.

The 33-year-old Tiverton-born full-back has spent four years at City and played more than 150 games for the club. However, manager Paul Tisdale thinks Craig’s last month of football could be the best he has played for the Grecians. 

“He has, over the last four or five weeks, had the best games he has had for Exeter,” said Tis.
“Firstly, well done him. He is one of the few, if only experienced player in that group. In the past two or three years we have had Matt Oakley, Jamie McAllister, David Noble or Danny Butterfield who have led the group. 

“Suddenly Craig is the one experienced player and he has taken that on. I know he has captained teams before, but he has suddenly taken a position of responsibility in the team that could easily be used in a captaincy role. 

“We have to keep him going with whatever has fired his motivation or purpose. We have got to keep that going and urge for him to maintain his form because he has been great for us.”

City go into Saturday’s game with the chance to leapfrog Barnet in the League Two table. Tis admits that is a motivating factor. 

“It is great that we can go above them, but we want to put some points on the board soon and it is the next game so therefore it is our best opportunity to do that,” said Tis. 
“I think we have got plenty of motivating influences. I think we have had some good, competitive performances recently without turning them into too many points and I have seen from the footage and the data that our performances have improved over the last three or four games. It is all about seeing it through and executing what we hope to do.”

Tis wants to see his side have the same defensive resolve as they had last Saturday when they kept Grimsby Town at bay, but add to their threat in attacking areas. 

“A team has to function defensively and in attack and ultimately it is about scoring more goals than the opposition,” said Tis. “So, if we concede two and score three then it doesn’t really matter. I think one goes hand in hand with the other. If you concede a cheap goal then you can put pressure on the forwards because they have to score and there is a big difference between trying to score and having to. Likewise, if you miss your chances it puts pressure on the defenders. 

“So, you are all in it together and when we haven’t got the ball we are all defending and when we have got it we are all attacking. 

“But, if you look at it, we have’t score enough goals. We certainly haven’t. And yet the bigger problems have been – in terms of personnel – at the back. 

“However, it goes hand in hand and we have been very competitive and we have certainly got some cohesion in the backline now. 

“Andy Tillson (first team coach) has been here for two or three weeks now and made a difference already. We have put people like Luke Croll and Jack Stacey in and Craig Woodman has come back into the fold. 

“We have had to put a very different back four in to the one we had during July and August and it takes three or four weeks. We have been working on the back four three or four times a week and now it is starting to look reasonably solid. 

“They played particularly well against Grimsby as a group – restricting Grimsby to only a couple of long shots. I thought they looked a really good unit. So we have got to get both functioning. We have got to defend well and we have got to attack well and we have got to score more goals than the opposition.”