Exeter City manager Matt Taylor admitted to being slightly disappointed following his side’s 0-0 draw with Morecambe at St James Park.
Despite crediting his team for their impressive defensive display and their dominance of that match, the City boss felt that his side struggled to break a strong Morecambe back line down.
Following the match, Matt said: “It’s tinged with a little bit of disappointment that we didn’t take all three points. We were on the front foot and attacking all game without creating any real clear-cut opportunities in the second half.
“In the first half I was pleased with our performance and we did really threaten their goal. We hit the bar and their goalkeeper has made a couple of good saves. In the second half, they got bodies behind the ball, it was only going to be us in terms of scoring in that game unless they broke away on the counter-attack.
“We didn’t quite have the legs, the energy or the ability to really commit their defenders, they got bodies behind the ball and when you get bodies behind the ball you’ve got to either take them out of the game with a bit of real quality or beat them one-v-one, and we just didn’t quite have that in the last 15 or 20 minutes."
Matt also explained that he substituted Lee Holmes, who had looked dangerous throughout the match, as he didn’t want to risk a reoccurrence of an injury that had kept him out since Boxing Day.
Matt continued: “That’s part of the personnel left on the pitch, it was Lee Holmes’ first game since Boxing Day, I wanted to keep him on for as long as possible but I’m not willing to risk him.
“We got Ryan Bowman on the pitch, but it didn’t quite fall for us in the last 15 minutes. On the whole, I’ve been asking for clean sheets this season, I’ve got two on the bounce now so that’s a real platform to work from. We’ll keep improving in our attacking play, I don’t think it can be held against us too many times this season where we’ve not created much in the second period so it’s very much onto the next.”
After a positive first half display where Nicky Law went agonisingly close with a header before Pierce Sweeney struck the crossbar, Matt felt that the longer the game went on, the harder it was to break down Jim Bentley’s side.
He continued: “I said to keep doing much of the same and keep half an eye on their counter-attacks even on our corners and attacking play. They are a team that breaks away, certainly away from home, and we knew about their threats, but we just needed to beat a few more players one-v-one and overcommit in certain areas just to get them out of shape.
“I felt we couldn’t quite shift them out of shape for the whole 90 minutes, we still created opportunities in the first half like I said, but the second half we didn’t quite do that. We’re a team in transition, not just from the start of the season, but with Jayden’s (Stockley) loss. People will go home slightly disappointed because it’s Morecambe at home, and that’s no disrespect to Morecambe, but I’m relatively satisfied.”
Matt was also hopeful that his players came through the match unscathed as the Grecians look to go again when they travel to south Wales to take on Newport County next weekend.
He said: “The squad is important, Nicky Law got through 90 minutes and got better and better as the game went on. I was just praying that his calves didn’t tighten up again and we didn’t get a reoccurrence of the injury on new year’s day.
“Hopefully I’ve got the squad through the game reasonably unscathed, we’ll look to strengthen, and we go to Newport which will be a different game. They’ll come at us which might suit us a little bit more, but I understand fully that teams will come to the Park and sit off us because we’re a good team and they’ll get bodies behind the ball."
But the result means that the Grecians have kept two consecutive clean sheets, something which pleased the City boss as the likes of Dara O’Shea and Dean Moxey defended well alongside Sweeney and Craig Woodman.
Matt said: “On a difficult day to defend, certainly when you’re always on the front foot and the game is in front of you in terms of an attacking sense. It meant that when we were defending, we were defending in space so that’s always something that we have to improve on as they counter-attack is the opposition’s biggest threat when we’re thinking about goals and our attacking play.
“I was pleased with the back four, and Christy as well, and the team in terms of that mentality and it’s something I’ve been asking for this season, clean sheets. That’s got to be our platform, we might not be blowing teams away scoring a lot of goals but if you keep a clean sheet then one goal will win it, and unfortunately today we just didn’t get that goal.”
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Mansfield Town on Saturday, March 30 in a 3pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.