💬 Matt Taylor: "It’s going to be a tough test but one we’re certainly going to look forward to."

Exeter City manager Matt Taylor is expecting a tough test when the Grecians welcome Macclesfield Town on the opening day of the Sky Bet League Two season.

With the full 2019/20 fixture list being released at 9am on Thursday, June 20, City now know when and where their fixtures of the new season will take place.

City have been drawn at home for their opening encounter and they come up against a Town side who will be looking to further consolidate their place in the Football League after avoiding the drop last season.

On the opening day fixture, Matt explained: “You want to be at home for your first game, you want to get off to a good start.

“Obviously, Macclesfield beat us twice last year, disappointingly so certainly in the home fixture here on a Tuesday night where we were beaten 1-0. It’s going to be a tough test but one we’re certainly going to look forward to and one we’ve got to build up to in terms of the next six weeks, and one where hopefully we’ll have the same excitement as we did at this stage last season when we faced Carlisle.”

Following the match at St James Park, the Grecians then face a trip to Stevenage before taking on Swindon Town, Oldham Athletic and Morecambe, before they round off August at home to Mansfield Town.

On how the early season fixtures look, Matt says it’s difficult at this time to have an idea on how their opponents could shape up come the beginning of the season.

The City boss explained: “You’re never too sure about the opposition. The start of the season will show where teams are in terms of the recruitment and what they’ve done in pre-season. I can’t predict too much in terms of the opposition, so I have got to take care of the most important thing which is our football club and our team.

“We’ve got to put out a team which is competitive in terms of the mentality and physicality and that’s why that six-week period (pre-season) is such a big period for ourselves. We want to play good football in terms of end product this season at both ends of the pitch and it will come down to those moments where, hopefully, our players can step up and produce.”

The new campaign sees the return of the Devon derby to Sky Bet League Two with the first match against Plymouth Argyle falling on Saturday, October 26 at St James Park.

On the upcoming fixtures with the Pilgrims this season Matt hopes the games will see both sides battling it out towards the top end of the league table.

“The Devon derby is one we’ve been waiting on for a little while now and it’s one we’ve got to look forward to," said Matt. “Hopefully it’s two teams towards the top end of the table, two teams challenging. They’ve got a new manager and are a club probably slightly in transition off the back of a relegation, but they will certainly be challenging this season. My staff and I have got to ensure that we’re right for that game because we know what it means for the supporters and it’s got to mean exactly the same for the players going on the pitch and hopefully it’s an exciting time for us.”

The Grecians missed out on the end of season play-offs last season by just one point and Matt is aiming for a positive start to the season to give his side a foundation going into the latter stages of the campaign.

He said: “The points are the same value from the first to the last game of the season. Obviously, it came down to the last game of the season, but we had a good start last season and it settled everyone down and gave everyone a foundation which the team grew on and the season developed off the back of that. We want the same again, it may not be as easy this season because teams will have a slight advantage in terms of knowing what to expect from this group of players and my style of management but there’s certainly an opportunity there.”

The City players will return for the first day of pre-season training on Monday, June 24 ahead of a trip to Jersey which will include some fitness work, team bonding, as well as a match against Jersey FA on June 28.

Matt hopes his players will return to training refreshed after their summer break ahead of their pre-season schedule.

He explained: “The players are back in on Monday and hopefully they’re looking forward to it as much as the staff. It’s strange because this group of players probably had three or four weeks off over the past two seasons, so they’ll have had an extra few weeks. Some of them will have been bored, some will have used the time wisely and some will have spent time with their families. Hopefully they’ve mentally and physically switched off and they’re ready to come in and work. We’ve got six weeks so we’ll build them up, there will be a couple of days of testing on Monday and Tuesday when they’re back and then we go to Jersey.

“It’s the first time for a number of seasons that the club have been able to take the players away. There will be some conditioning work and some team bonding and we have a game against Jersey FA on the Friday evening which is more of a showcase game and because it’s so early on in pre-season it will be very much a mixture from our point of view in terms of players and game time. I don’t want to risk any injuries, certainly to the senior members of the squad, so we’ve got to be respectful of the game but also respectful of my group of players in terms of what we put out that Friday evening.

“The players have got to come together in terms of that trip, I’ve got a good group, I’m really pleased and proud of them for what they achieved last season but we want more this season and we feel our recruitment has been strong so far, there will be more signings in the next few days and weeks, hopefully if they’re in time for Jersey they can really mix in with the lads well.”

Matt also revealed that signings are expected in the near future as he continues to mould his squad ahead of that opening day fixture with Macclesfield Town, and he expects the transfer window to speed up in terms of activity over the coming weeks.

“There is a player having a medical today,” said Matt. “That will be announced in the next 24-48 hours and there are offers out to several players. We’re waiting to hear back, it’s been a relatively slow window, we got a bit of business done early in Nigel (Atangana) and Tom (Parkes) which we’re delighted about.

“It’s starting to move, it’s strange, a lot of people go missing in the first couple of weeks of June and the last couple of weeks in June it really starts to move, so it’s an important time for myself and staff and, like I say, the players are back in on Monday and we want as many new faces who are going to improve the group as possible and it will be an exciting time.”

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