Exeter City manager Matt Taylor said the way his players approached their Boxing Day match with Newport County AFC at St James Park was spot on.
The Grecians won the match, in wet and windy conditions, thanks to a goal in the 13thminute from Lee Martin. It was not a game of free-flowing football, with the heavy surface, which had been cut up by the previous weekend’s 3-3 draw with Walsall, making it a pitch that was slow and difficult to predict.
“It was obviously difficult conditions,” said Matt. “That it is partly due to the game against Walsall, in terrible weather, and then obviously we had a bit of bad weather during that game as well.
“However, I thought we competed, we were tough and we still had enough about us to play decent football when we could get that ball in certain areas. It was always going to be fine margins in terms of goals scored. I am so pleased for Lee (Martin) to get another goal in terms of moving us forward. The space was not in the middle of the pitch, and that is where the worst part of the pitch was, and when we did get it wide we looked like a team that could create. We couldn’t quite kill them off and Newport are never dead and buried and full credit to their manager, their staff and their players for that. They never know when they are beaten, but I felt we kept them at arm’s length today.”
City in their last home match against Walsall were 3-0 down inside the opening 30 minutes and although they did fight back to earn a point in that game, Matt did question the mindset of the players going into the match. However, that is not something he could do on the back of what was a gritty and determined performance against Newport.
“If you are not quite right you get punished and I just felt we were right from minute one today,” he said. “You have to be in football and as much as much as we can keep forcing that point home to the players they put themselves in that mindset. I cannot have any qualms about that performance. There was always going to be mistakes and times where you want more but the way we approached that game was spot on."
"I just felt as a group we were near the ball,” he added. “And on a pitch like that you have got put yourself in a position where it is your body close to that ball. I felt we did that all over the pitch. I thought Nigel Atangana had one of his best games for us so far in a City shirt. He added a physical nature to that midfield and gave us a slightly different dynamic and took some pressure off our centre-halves. I always want more in terms of attacking football, but we have got to be mindful of where we are at the halfway point of the season. The pitch is not going to get any better so every now and then we are going to have to dig a few results out.”
At the halfway stage of the season, City sit second in the table and six points clear of fourth place. However, plenty of teams below them have games in hand on the Grecians so Matt and the players are not taking much notice of the league standings at this stage.
“We are not really looking at the league table and how many points clear we are, as there are games in hand all over the place. We have just got to concentrate on ourselves. I said before the game that our home form has been genuinely pretty good. They are another big team to come up against, and that is not just in size and physicality, because they got to the play-off final last season which was something we were not able to do. It was Newport today, Northampton the week before. These are big teams coming to the Park and you have just got to keep on ticking them off. We certainly don’t want to get beaten here at the Park and every time you pick up three points that is a real bonus.”
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