Exeter City manager Matt Taylor says that while City need to respect Cambridge United this weekend, they should be confident in themselves going into the match.
The Grecians travel to Cambridge on Saturday, who boast a fine defensive record, yet have been inconsistent at home this season in Sky Bet League Two.
Commenting on Cambridge’s season so far, Matt said: “Fantastic away form, and then probably a mixed bag at home. But we’ve watched a lot at their home games and they’ve been unlucky at times. They’re a good team and we know what it will come down to; both boxes, competing in the middle of the pitch, and putting in a performance that gives you a chance of winning the game of football.
“At the moment the team are giving themselves a chance with a platform of a good performance, quick to the ball, good work ethic and a strong mentality in terms of the approach of the game. And then it comes down to a little bit of quality or mistakes on the day. It’s a long old journey which we have to be wary of in terms of the staff and looking after the players, but one we’ve got to look forward to.”
And because Cambridge hold a good defensive record, Matt emphasised the need for his team to be clinical in front of goal.
“It only takes one goal to win any game of football,” he added. “I know it’s old fashioned but a well organised and gritty 1-0 win against Forest Green, I thought there was a real quality shown in terms of that first period when we were on top, then to see the game out second period when it was a pretty even game, when they had chances our defenders and Jonny made important blocks and saves.
“It’ll come down to the moments, if they’ve not conceded too many goals then we’ll have to work even harder to score but we spoke about Forest Green’s defensive record, we knew about that before the game, and we want our defensive record to keep on improving.
“We want our goals return to keep improving, so you’ve got to get a balance between the two. We’ve gone to Cambridge on a number of occasions over recent years and performed pretty well. It’s all about the performance, if we give a performance then hopefully our players will step up on the day and provide those moments we talk about.”
Following top of the table clashes against Crew Alexandria and Forest Green Rovers in recent weeks, Matt was also keen to stress that it is still early in the season and so every team needs to be respected, regardless of their current league position.
“We’re still early in terms of the season and if we’re going to be top of the table we might have to be able to hold onto a bit of pressure,” he said. “If we are favourites then we are favourites, we don’t see it that way, we go to into every game with a huge amount of respect for the opposition and our opponents we’re up against, and we know how tough it will be to win any game of football, regardless of who you’re playing in League Two.
“You’ve got to do the basics well, and that will be our message before we go out at the weekend, and we’re hoping it’s going to be a good pitch and a good day for football and there’s a good bit of backing from our away contingent, who always travel so well. It’s a long old way for them to go. It’s a place where we’ve done relatively well in recent years. When you’re competing at the top end of the table, the confidence should be relatively good, and the players should be ready to play football.”
This Saturday’s game will be the first of two away trips on the bounce, with City having to travel up to Scunthorpe United next Tuesday. The City boss wanted to make clear that all attention is on this weekend’s fixture first however.
Matt said: “There’s not much you can do, we’ll train for a short period tomorrow then make the journey, and then hopefully the boys will be rested for the game. In terms of the recovery, they’ll do bits and pieces on Sunday after the long journey back on the Saturday. Then Monday, Tuesday will be preparation for Scunthorpe.
“But we’re not looking too far ahead. Cambridge first and foremost, I’ll advise them to eat the right things before the game. But they’re footballers and human beings, and they know how to look after themselves. We’ve spoken a lot about the balance of the group in terms of the ages, and I hopefully the better senior pros that have been there and done it and know what it takes to win on a Saturday will advise the young ones.”
In terms of the injury front, Matt was asked if any other players will be returning anytime soon, and that while Nigel Antangana came on for his first league minutes last weekend, he will still be eased back into action.
Matt added: “Not in terms of next week. Lee Holmes and Gary Warren hope to have training in the near future. Lewis and Nicky have gone under the knife so to speak, so they’re the more longer term ones. But the squad has been strong this season, and when it’s been called upon it has stepped up to the plate. It will certainly be called upon next week but also for the rest of the season, so we’re going to have to be wise in terms of what we do with certain personnel over the season.
“Nigel’s obviously come back into the fold and getting game time, it was important for him to get that hour under his belt against Newport, then the 20 minute spell on Saturday. I’ve signed him for a reason; for him to put in good performances for this football club, so we want him available and fit to be able to play 90 minutes, but that will take a lot of time, and that’s why I’ve got to be experienced in the way I integrate him back into the team. There’s a level of football that you can train at and play, but when you’re in league two it’s totally different. We’ll support Nigel as best as we can and he’s going to make us stronger.”