Tis: 'Players will relish promotion battle'
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale says his players are going to relish the battle for a play-off place over the next five weeks following a season which has had plenty of moments of struggle.
The Grecians have had their fair share of problems this season with an injury crisis in the autumn effecting their start to the campaign and putting them bottom of the table at the end of November.
However, a 12-game unbeaten run, which included 10 victories, took them into play-off places and Tis says the players shouldn’t now be feeling the pressure going into Saturday’s game with Mansfield when you consider how far they have come.
“It is exciting,” he said. “If I take you back to the end November when we were bottom of the league, this is a pretty good situation to be in.
“So, we can choose to be stressed and anxious about it or we can enjoy it, march into it and make the most of it.
“I think we are going to do the latter. We have come through all sorts of things this year. We have had an injury crisis, we have been bottom of the league and all sorts of things have gone on and the squad has stuck together. The squad deserves this opportunity – an exciting end to the season – and why not us? Why not a place in the play-offs?”
Mansfield sit a point behind City in the table though and under Steve Evans they have lost just twice in 12 home games. Therefore, Tis is under no illusions that Saturday will be a big test.
“We are playing a really good team on Saturday, in Mansfield, who have got the same aspirations as us, but we just have to relish it,” he said. “Every game we play will be a big game from now on.
“It is League Two and every game is different. It is such a tight, absorbing league.
“However, since Steve Evans has taken over they (Mansfield) have become a very, very effective and productive team.
“They are strong at home and we just have to expect a really, really tough challenge. I have said this a couple of times, but I think they’ll be the dark horses – I really do.
“He (Steve) knows how to put a team together. He is no fool and I’m not surprised at all to see them challenging. They play very, very attacking and progressive football. They look a good team to me.”
City will also have to do without left-back Craig Woodman, who broke his arm in the 3-3 draw with Yeovil Town last time out.
The 34-year-old full-back has been one of the star performers for the Grecians this season and, following a good display at Cheltenham Town in December, Tis said that he was playing like German footballing legend Franz Beckenbauer.
He even joked that City’s full-back was doing so well that he could ‘play with a broken arm’, in a similar fashion to Beckenbauer when he led Germany to World Cup victory in 1970.
“Perhaps I won’t mention that next time,” smiled Tis. “However, he is as tough as old boots Craig, so I wouldn’t put it past him (the possibility of playing with a broken arm).
“I have rarely seen someone break their arm so clearly and, literally, not mutter a word. He is going to be out for a while. We don’t know how long.
“There could be a time when he, maybe, wears a splint – Gary Lineker-style in the World Cup – but I’m not sure what the rules are on that these days. Who knows what is possible, but for now he is out and he is going to be out for a while and we will have to use the squad.”