Exeter City manager Matt Taylor says the Grecians will be looking to continue their good run but is mindful of the threats that Morecambe will pose at St James Park on Saturday.
City go into the game following a positive festive schedule after picking up wins over Crewe Alexandra, Oldham Athletic, Yeovil Town and Swindon Town, but the City boss is well aware of the threats that Jim Bentley’s side could provide as they travel to Devon looking to climb further up the table.
Ahead of the match, the City boss said: “They’re a really tough team that are well managed by a good and experienced manager at this level. They always cause us problems, always create chances against us which is something that we’ve got to be mindful of.
“We’re on a relatively good run of form ourselves and if we play to the best of our ability then, hopefully, we’ll create opportunities and it will be a good game of League Two football. Hopefully there will be a good atmosphere at the Park, it’s great to be back there as well. You never know too much about what to expect at League Two level, but we’ve done as much homework as we possibly can and concentrated on our boys as much as possible, and if we can play to the best of our ability then we give ourselves a chance.”
The City manager also admitted that it’s difficult to draw much from the game when the sides last met in what was only the second game of the 2018/19 campaign back in August. With both squads moulded and developed since then, Matt reflected on what was a tough match in Lancashire as the Grecians took all three points courtesy of goals from Pierce Sweeney and Jayden Stockley.
He continued: “It feels like a long time ago with it being the second game of the season. We won that game but maybe didn’t deserve the 2-0 score line and they were coming off the back of a difficult first game of the season and they absolutely flew at us.
“They created opportunities, but it didn’t quite fall for them that day and we got into the game via a penalty, in the second half we controlled that game to large extents and limited them to half chances. You take a 2-0 score line, but you know how difficult they can be, and Morecambe always pose a threat.”
City go into the match with the Shrimps having had last weekend off due to the FA Cup, and Matt explained that the break was welcomed following an intense Christmas period.
“It was a good opportunity for the players to get the rest and recovery that they needed,” said the City boss. “It was a physically demanding Christmas period and we’re pleased to get through that relatively unscathed. We were low in numbers in terms of the Swindon game, but it’s been an opportunity to refresh bodies and minds, we’ve had a good week’s training, and we’re looking forward to the weekend.”
Despite perhaps having a bit of freshness to his side due to the break last weekend, Matt also revealed that he will still be without the trio of Luke Croll, Hiram Boateng and Troy Brown as they continue their recovery from injuries. He also explained that there will be assessments for a few of the players ahead of Saturday’s match.
He continued: “Luke Croll is still injured, he’s probably a couple of weeks away after a recurrence of his groin injury. Hiram (Boateng) has had a setback in terms of his hip flexor injury and Troy Brown is the long-term absentee.
“Lee Holmes has done a little bit of training this week, as has Craig Woodman and Jimmy Oates. They’ve all bit part trained so we will need to assess them in the next 24-48 hours and see if they’re physically ready to play 90 minutes at the weekend.”
One man who could feature for the Grecians is new signing Ryan Bowman, who is yet to make his debut since joining Motherwell right at the start of the month. After some training time with his new teammates Matt discussed how he is settling into life at St James Park.
“He’s still finding his feet and we’re still learning about him as much as he’s learning about us,” said Matt. “It will take a bit of time to settle in, but he’s got every chance of being involved this weekend, and when he gets his opportunity, he has got to show what a physical player he is and really impact the game in a physical way. That’s what I want him to do, that’s why I signed him, he’s got to keep his game simple but base it on physicality.”
As the 2018/19 season continues to gather pace, there are 20 games left, 10 of which will be at home and Matt is hoping to have a good home run going into the rest of the campaign.
He continued: “There are 20 games left overall, 10 at the Park and 10 away. The fans will play a big part in that and generally over the last calendar year we’ve had decent home form and we need that again.”
Following the departure of Jayden Stockley, who was vice-captain at the club following his move to Preston North End, Matt also revealed that experienced defender Dean Moxey will step up to take on the role.
“Dean Moxey will step into the role,” said Matt. “He knows the club better than anyone, he’s an experienced player and he’ll lead the team. Of course, Jake Taylor will remain as captain and Deano will step into that vice captaincy role.”
Matt also explained that Tristan Abrahams, currently on loan from Norwich City, is expected to remain at the club, but he also added that Norwich are able to bring the youngster back to Carrow Road if they desire this month.
He said: “Norwich have the option to call him back and we’re always looking to players elsewhere as well, but at the moment Tristan is staying here.”
In terms of the wider transfer news, the City manager is still looking for players to add to his squad this month but conceded that it is a difficult window to bring players in and they must be the right character to benefit the club.
Matt said: “They have to be the right fit, you’re getting offered a lot of players but they’re often those that don’t fit well for the club. They’ve got to be good enough to improve the squad and character-wise is vitally important.
“It’s a difficult time in terms of the January window because I’ve got 22 pros here that I want to keep working with, I’ve worked with them for the last six months and 18 months respectively, so it’s a difficult window. The ones I bring in have got to improve us.”
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Cambridge United on Saturday, January 26 in a 3pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.