Exeter City manager Matt Taylor highlighted the positives from the Grecians’ 1-1 draw with Carlisle United at Brunton Park.
City travelled to Cumbria to take on a Carlisle side that have been in fantastic winning form of late, and the Grecians took the lead through Nicky Law’s superb effort before Carlisle’s Jamie Devitt came up with a good attempt of his own as he levelled things in the second half.
Following the result, Matt said: “At the end of the first half I felt we could’ve possibly gone in at 2-0. We created clear cut opportunities and had the bulk of the possession, we hurt the opposition. You go in at 1-0 and you’re relatively content but you always want that second goal just to settle everyone down.
“We knew that they were going to throw everything at us in the second half and they did that, and we just got a little bit deep and didn’t quite use the possession of the ball like we had done in the first half. The simpler we keep our play the more effective we are. We tried to force things at times, and that’s credit to Carlisle for putting us under pressure, but to concede in the last 10 or 15 minutes of any game is always disappointing, and it was going to take something special to beat our back line or Christy (Pym) today.”
Matt was also pleased to see Nicky Law score his seventh goal of the season as he continued his positive form for City, but the Grecians' boss also felt that his side created enough chances to further their lead.
He continued: “He’s (Nicky) got the class about him to hit that on the half volley with his so-called weaker foot. Those opportunities that we created in the first half, if I’m going to be really critical about the group, I want them to kill teams off. The game is never dead at 2-0 but it gives you an extra foothold in the game.
“It was very much a game of two halves, in terms of them coming at us in the second half, but we still had opportunities to hurt them on the break. We didn’t quite utilise those opportunities which is something we’ve got to look at. Maybe a bit of inexperience in the group at times because we had a young team out there. We’ve been hurt by illness and injury over the last week and there’s players not available today so hopefully they’ll come back into the fold next week.”
With an illness hitting a number of City players and staff this week, the City manager was pleased with the efforts of his players, particularly to soak up the Carlisle pressure in the second period.
Matt continued: “Dean Moxey had an injury from last week and Lee Holmes has a family member who has been ill, so he didn’t make the trip. I can’t ask for anymore from the group, some of them were dead on their feet due to the illness in the camp and it’s just something we’ve not been able to shake off. We’ve got to clear the training ground now for a good couple of days to try and get this illness out the group because it’s highly contagious, everyone’s had it, including staff.
“You come away to Carlisle and we really dug in today, we showed our quality in the first half but dug in in the second which is probably why it hurts a bit more that we haven’t taken all three points. I have to credit the opposition, I thought they were excellent in the second half.”
On the goal that City conceded, Matt admitted that there was some disappointment in the ranks following the free-kick that was awarded by the referee to United.
“Our players felt that their lad went down a bit too easy, but you get some of them sometimes away from home,” explained Matt. “You hope that Christy makes a good save, or the wall does its job. It’s a bit of quality from the lad to put it on target from that distance to get it up and down over the wall.
“You can only withstand the pressure for so long and you feel like you’ve ridden the first wave of pressure in terms of the first 25 minutes of the second half, and you get a foothold back in the game and look to hurt the opposition yourself but we just couldn’t quite do it on a consistent basis, and the game wasn’t quite close enough to their goal in the second period. The back boys had a lot of work to do, they were getting tired and you could see at the end that, physically, we were at a low. I’m still tinged with a little bit of disappointment but I’m so proud of the boys.”
The Grecians remain in seventh in Sky Bet League Two as they now set their sights on another tough encounter next weekend against Bury. And Matt has been pleased with how his side have been faring recently but is still looking for more from his players as they look to push towards the top of the table come the end of the season.
“They’re (Carlisle) a good team, they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. We keep showing we’ve got a good team ourselves and we keep going in the right direction, we’re always looking for improvement, we started the game so well and controlled large parts of that first half and it was always going to be slightly different in the second half. As disappointed we are about coming away with a point, I’d have probably taken it before the game. We’re happy to go home relatively unscathed from this game and we’ll pick ourselves up and go on to Bury.
“We’ve worked so hard this season, and we’ll keep on working hard, and we’ve got another big game with Bury at home next weekend. I think for the last 10 or 11 games we’ve put in some seriously good performances and anyone that was here today has seen two good teams chasing promotion. I still want more from the group and I’m going to ask them to be better in certain areas, but we’ll be better for this game.”
The younger members of the City squad have also earned praise from their manager for their performances as they continue their development whilst helping City fight for success.
Matt continued: “The young players out on that pitch will have learnt even more, the likes of Kane (Wilson), Dara (O’Shea) and Archie (Collins) are learning literally on the job so I can’t fault their enthusiasm and we’re going to keep working on the improvements we need to make to be a successful team, but we’re not far away at the moment.
“Kane is a player that we can trust in any position and Randell (Williams) should be pleased with his full debut. He showed his attributes to carry the ball up the pitch and he was a constant threat, he worked hard out of possession and that’s something we’re working on in terms of his game. He’s going to be a seriously good player for Exeter City and we’re delighted to have him.”
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, March 2 in a 3pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.