Exeter City manager Matt Taylor accepted that his side were unable to handle the threat of Mansfield Town as they fell to a 4-1 defeat at St James Park.
Two goals each for CJ Hamilton and Tyler Walker did the damage for the away side with Matt Jay getting City’s only goal to make the score 1-1 earlier in the first half.
Following the loss, Matt explained: “(It was) Pretty brutal to be honest with you. We couldn’t quite handle their direct play and balls over the top and they got success time and time again, all afternoon.
“It made the rest of the game pretty much irrelevant because we couldn’t handle it to be brutally honest. It’s disappointing when you get beaten 4-1 at home but football is a funny game, as high as we were last week, we’re not going to get too low after that. We’ve lost the game; we’ve got to move on now and we’ve got seven more opportunities to win games of football and compete. It was a disappointing day.”
The Grecians went in at half-time 2-1 behind but managed to look brighter after the break, until Walker’s strike from distance made it 3-1 which took the game away from City.
Though the goal proved a killer blow, Matt was honest in stating that Town had continued to create plenty more chances at the City goal.
He continued: “They had more than those opportunities so that’s something for me to address and something for me to work on in terms of the way we set up the team, but we just couldn’t quite handle their direct play into our back line.
“We managed to get back into the game having gone 1-0 down and you think you’ve got a chance to settle everyone down, but we didn’t start well and the nerves, for some reason, were in our game certainly in some of the young boys who seemed to struggle with nerves.
“It’s not high pressure, yet, it’s not, there are still seven more games. We’re talking about promotion and play-offs and so on and so forth and we’ve got to be careful because the players have just got to play, you could see today some of them were, not overthinking it, but just couldn’t quite handle the occasion to a certain extent. So that’s something I’ve got to be mindful of when I pick my players. There was just a bit more experience and know-how of how to deal with that situation from Mansfield.”
Mansfield’s fourth goal came from the penalty spot courtesy of Walker, who had been fouled by Craig Woodman, and though the decision seemed a little harsh, the City boss couldn’t hide his frustration at the fact that City had conceded too many chances on their goal.
He explained: “Possibly (that the decision was harsh), but the goals aren’t a fair reflection because it could have been more. I’ve got to stand here and be honest because it could have been more. They got in with ease, so like I say, it’s something that’s not happened too often off the back of such a good defensive performance last week with 10 men.
“We wanted to go after the game today and get pressure on the ball and we couldn’t quite do that because the ball was closer to our goal more often than not. It’s a game we’re disappointed with, we’ve got to move on from it, we moved on quickly from last week and we have to move on again and use it as motivation for next weekend.”
With a 4-1 defeat a rarity this season for the Grecians it could well prove a learning experience for some of the younger heads in the City dressing room, but Matt felt some of his players are a lot better than their performance suggested.
“They’re better players than they showed. We make a lot about young players and experience but they’re better players than what they showed today,” said Matt. “Sometimes you can have a day where the majority of the group were off it and then you need to be streetwise in the way you play, but we weren’t even that today.
“I’m an experienced enough person, who has been in the game long enough to know that you get days like that, but football’s a funny game, in terms of you’ll get opportunities. We’ve got seven more opportunities, and possibly, we’re aiming for a couple more after that. It’s taught us something and myself a little bit more about that group of players.
“I know where we are as a group, I know where we are, and I’m not going to hide the fact that we’re not quite where we need to be in terms of the top three picture, but days like today just reinforce the messages that we’re trying to get across.”
The Grecians also welcomed back Lee Martin, who came on as a second half substitute following his injury, and also introduced Troy Brown as he looked to sure things up in defence despite being behind.
Matt said: “It’s disappointing because when you’re behind in a game you want to put your attacking players on the pitch, but I think anyone who was here today will know that I needed to sure up the defence.
“It’s difficult to do because you want to chase the game and get your good players who are going to hurt the opposition on the pitch, but we could have had anyone up front today, it wouldn’t have mattered. We may have missed Ryan’s (Bowman) physicality in terms of stopping the ball going straight back into our backline but we just couldn’t handle those balls through our backline and beyond.”
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Oldham Athletic on Saturday, April 27 in a 1pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.