Exeter City manager Matt Taylor is looking for a positive reaction from his players as the Grecians look to get back to winning ways against Port Vale this Saturday.
City were beaten 3-2 on the road at Macclesfield Town in midweek, but they return to the park remaining in the play-off places and they’ll be looking to further their push for promotion from Sky Bet League Two.
Ahead of the match with John Askey’s side, the City boss explained: “We want a positive reaction. In the second half (v Macclesfield) we were disappointed with our performance and in the first half we probably played as well as we have done in a long period of time. It hurt us going in at 2-2 and not ahead, and in the second half we couldn’t quite match their direct play and their physicality so we’re trying to address that on a daily basis.
“We need a reaction. It’s another opportunity, we’ve got five opportunities left, starting with Port Vale at the weekend but it’s a game we want to look forward to. People talk about pressure, but that’s why we’re in this business, that’s why the players train and work as hard as they do, for moments like this.”
The Grecians come up against a Vale side who have won their last two matches as they’ve pulled themselves away from relegation danger, and the City boss says his side will need to deal with their threats as well as take the game to the Valiants.
“They’re on a good run of form, obviously their manager took over a few months ago now and has got them organised and got them playing a specific way,” explained Matt. “We have to look after ourselves, we showed the first half on Tuesday what a good team we can be, if we get it right, and we’ll be aiming to do that for the whole match on Saturday and get our good attacking players on the ball in dangerous areas. We know we have to deal with some physicality and direct play from every opposition at this level, but like I say, we’ve got good enough players to cope with that and we need to show it on Saturday.”
Matt was also pleased to see Ryan Bowman get off the mark in midweek as he scored City’s two goals in the defeat at Macclesfield, and Matt believes the goals have come as a reward for his positive performances.
He continued: “He has a real work rate and a physical presence at the top end of the pitch, but he’s mobile, and he’s been a bit unlucky when he hit the crossbar early on against Newport. You can tell it plays on any forward’s mind because they get judged on goals, and Lee Martin’s delivery for that first goal was outstanding.
“The second goal was a sign of a confident striker, it’s incredible what scoring one goal does to a centre forward, and like I say, that’s what they’re judged on. We’ve been pleased with his performances, we really have, but to add those goals to it means he’ll be a serious player for us and we’re looking forward to working with Ryan for a number of years.”
Matt also revealed that midfielder Lee Martin will undergo further tests following a chest problem, and despite a few knocks in the camp, his side should be in good shape going into the match at St James Park.
“It’s a complicated one, we’ve got to send Lee for some tests, more complicated than what I’m qualified to talk about to be honest,” said Matt. “He came off at half-time with a chest issue, we hope it’s nothing too serious, but we’ve got to make sure that he’s physically able to play, and also mentally.
“In terms of the rest of the group, Hiram (Boateng) picked up a knock but we hope he’ll recover in time and Dean Moxey had a dead leg. Troy Brown is physically draining a little bit on the back of two games early on in his recovery back. Luke Croll got through some game time last night at Exmouth and Aaron Martin has joined the group again after a back injury. Apart from that, Jonno (Jonathan Forte) still has the long-standing knee injury. He played a bit part on Tuesday and that will be him for the rest of this season.”
Three of City’s final five matches are at St James Park, and as the Grecians look to guarantee themselves a spot in the play-offs, the City manager also thinks that having that home advantage could prove the difference.
He continued: “You want to play at home, in front of your home fans, you want to put on a performance that everyone can be proud of. On the back of the Mansfield game where we were so disappointed and we felt we put it right, to a certain extent, at Cheltenham and we’ve had a couple of poor decisions along the way as well, but we’re still hurting from the second half the other night.
“It’s going to be a pressure game, there’s five left, I can’t hide the fact that the pressure is on us to get to where we want to be and it’s a pressure we have to embrace, and I want the players to look forward to these games. There’s a lot worse places to be, we could be at the bottom in a relegation scrap and players and personnel at this club have been in those situations in the past. We’re at the right end of the table pushing for the right things so it has got to be positive. Whatever happens this weekend it won’t be all finished, there’s another four games after that. We’ve got to attack this weekend.”
Matt also praised the City side, which featured a number of under-23 and under-18 players, that sealed a place in the final of the Devon St Luke’s Challenge Cup following a 2-1 win over Exmouth Town on Wednesday evening.
It was a win which pleased the City boss and has given him food for thought going into next season in terms of selection for the first team
“I spoke to them after the game and their aim is to play in our first team in front of 5,000 at the park, but games like that at Exmouth on a Wednesday night in front of couple of hundred people on a relatively poor pitch against an opposition who are physical and have to play a certain way will certainly aid their development,” said Matt.
“I thought they handled it pretty well, they went a goal down unfortunately but got themselves straight back into the game and had the character to go ahead and see out the last 10 minutes when the opposition lost a little bit of discipline, so it’s a learning curve. Anyone who was there can testify that the loan experience our young boys are getting is really helping them. Physically they look able to cope which I’m looking at because it’s another step again in terms of first team football. It's a cup final and the group of players will hopefully get to play in a bigger occasion.”
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