I Want Us to Give Ipswich a Really Demanding Game - Notes for Exeter City
Monday, 13th Aug 2018 12:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup game at St James Park by delving into their forums.
“A great start to the season, we couldn’t have asked for more”, “It’s early days but if you can get off to a winning habit it’s all well and good”, “A solid enough win with five different scorers. You can’t ask for more from the first two matches”, “Being top of the table after two games speaks for itself.”
“It’s good that there is plenty of confidence about.” The Grecians head into Tuesday’s cup game joint-top of League Two with an identical record to Lincoln City of two wins from two games, with a goal difference of 5-1. “The early signs look good. We have a squad capable of challenging for honours.”
“I’m truly excited about this season, not just because I think we have a good chance of promotion, but because we might see some truly entertaining and exciting football”, “There’s a long way to go this season and injuries will play a part as they always can, but my glass is half-full right now.”
“Just not the play-offs again.” For City fans, this season is all about obtaining a top-three automatic promotion place with the side having suffered consecutive League Two play-off final defeats to Blackpool and Coventry. “If not top three, please not the play-offs. I simply couldn’t stand it again.”
“I like the work Matt Taylor is doing here”, “He is instilling a good professional work ethic within the squad. There is no messing around with team selections to nullify threats from the opposition. It’s nothing clever, just adventurous and uncomplicated football which seems to be getting results.”
“An intelligent, clear-minded, determined and organised manager who likes his football played on the front foot.” The 36-year-old one-time Grecians’ centre-half took over in June after predecessor Paul Tisdale failed to agree a new contract and subsequently became manager at Milton Keynes.
“Taylor likes a lot of pace in the side”, “One telling comment he made was about ‘the way we are going to train here’. This followed the appointment of the new strength and conditioning coach. It seems he was less than impressed with training and fitness levels. As usual, he told it like it is.”
“Paul Tisdale was not a bad manager but his style of play and Taylor’s are a different as chalk and cheese”, “Tisdale has the players in shackles. We now have Taylor who believes in honest, attacking, passing football. His straight answers make you realise how much Tisdale tried to baffle everyone.”
A New Attacking Look
“It’s nice to see us play with energy. We looked very static a lot of the time last year”, “There is a ‘go for it’ spirit and a belief among the players that they are part of a very good squad”, “This is a really refreshing change to the somewhat sterile type of football served up for the majority of last season.”
“Just rejoice. Beautiful intelligent effective football without a single aimless lump forward”, “There’s no messing around at the back with sideways passing. This is positive and whoever has the ball first and foremost looks to play it forward”, “Our tactic is to move and pass the ball forward quickly.”
Taylor has kept the same starting XI (above) for both league wins over Carlisle and Morecambe. I saw the Grecians play a pre-season friendly against Bath in July and they kept to a 4-4-2 shape for the duration of the game. They play patient passing football, mixing this with occasional pressing.
City try to pass the ball through the thirds of the pitch, with the occasional long ball often played to a breaking wider player. There is an emphasis on speed and technique, with first-time flicks and chest-ons creating space and adding tempo. While they don’t play an out-and-out high line, they will push up.
The squad is settled and it has a good balance and depth of experience typified by their defenders. Keeper Christy Pym is a seen as a solid shot-blocker and while Dean Moxey and Pierce Sweeney are converted full-backs, centre-halves Aaron Martin and ex-Town man Troy Brown provide a rock-solid foundation.
“Our midfielders are probably the best in the division.” Playmaker Nicky Law picked up a groin injury at Morecambe on Saturday and is likely to miss out on Tuesday. Jordan Tillson has added solidity to the midfield when used as a substitute in City’s two league games and he is his likely replacement.
“Law and Boateng look a different class together.” Hiram Boateng was Exeter’s most eye-catching player in their Bath pre-season friendly with his athleticism and ability to carry a game to opponents, but Grecians have criticised his inability to keep this level of intensity up through the full 90 minutes.
Jake Taylor and Lee Holmes have started out wide in both league games. Taylor likes his wingers to swap flanks, with Holmes given licence to play a free role when Exeter are pressing attacks. Former Blues wideman Lee Martin arrived in July and has been used as a substitute in both league games.
“We have a classic combination of a big striker in Jonathan Forte and a busy one in Jayden Stockley moving around him.” These two are complemented by the lively Tristan Abrahams as well as the “energetic buzzing” of Matt Jay, both of whom may feature against us if Taylor rotates his players.
PymSweeneyAaron MartinBrownMoxeyTaylorBoatengTillsonLee MartinAbrahamsStockley
“We look full of options going forward without a doubt.” Eight of both the starting XI and the team that finished at Morecambe (above) were at the club last season so this is a very settled squad. “Matt Taylor was ruthless in the summer window, going for quality over quantity with his signings.”
Morecambe 0 – 2 Exeter
“Top of the league”, “That felt quite comfortable instead of feeling like we could throw it away”, “A good fighting display, there was not much passing football on show but we played well in spells and were rugged in defence”, “A very good result, don’t ever think a game against Morecambe is easy”,
The Grecians took the lead with an expertly dispatched Pierce Sweeney penalty kick on 43 after Lee Holmes drew a foul cutting in from the right flank and the visitors doubled their advantage on 66 when Sweeney’s excellent cross from the right was met by Jayden Stockey’s close-range header.
“We need to win against lowly but determined opponents”, “Teams who get promoted don’t always win pretty. There are always games where you grind out results”, “It’s great to see we can battle as well as playing the creative and attacking stuff. We will need a full locker to get out of this division.”
“It was a good result, but a poor performance with too much long ball stuff.” Some felt that they rode their luck. “Morecambe carved open our defence on many occasions but their finishing was shocking. Let’s not get too excited until we have beaten some of the real promotion contenders.”
Exeter 3 – 1 Carlisle
“That will do, City. That will do”, “Well done City, a great start to our new era”, “Three well-worked goals and no flukes. It was a bit edgy at 2-1 but that’s just the Exeter way. The team worked hard in the heat”, “We shouldn’t get carried away with one win but there is plenty to feel encouraged by.”
Exeter took a two-goal lead with goals from Nicky Law on 16 and Jonathan Forte on 26 minutes, but Richie Bennett pulled one back for Carlisle on 37. The visitors dominated for long spells in the second half but Tristan Abrahams scored in the third minute of stoppage time to make sure of a home win.
“A very encouraging start to the season, I thought Carlisle made it difficult for us with dangerous balls going into our box”, “In the first half we played well, held Carlisle in midfield and were clinical when we broke through. In the second half we were far too deep and found it hard to break out.”
“You can’t say fairer than three new signings scoring. Hopefully they will keep doing so. We have so many players who can influence a game on the day”, “What a superb day it was. The ground looked great with the new stand well on the way, and the pitch looked a lot greener than my brown lawn.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Christy Pym goes about his goalkeeping duties in a no-frills and professional manner.” The 23-year-old youth product “improved tremendously last season and is a decent shot-stopper at this level”, “He makes excellent sharp saves low-down and crucial blocks, using his body to smother the ball.”
“Pym makes great stops but his distribution can be poor. On a number of occasions, it went straight to Carlisle players”, “Get him to work on his distribution and composure as his clearances can be a bit wayward”, “His bravery and confidence impress me and he doesn’t make the defence jittery.”
“Pierce Sweeney’s right foot is pretty damn good.” The 23-year-old right-back joined from Reading in 2016 without playing for the Royals, but he previously established himself at League of Ireland side Bray Wanderers. “Taylor wants him to get forward more this season and put crosses into the box”
“Sweeney is not a natural right-back but he settled into that position well last season”, “His display at Morecambe on the right flank was great and confounded all the experts who claimed he’s not a full-back”, “He’s captain material. He’s always in the side, a well-liked player with a good attitude.”
“Dean Moxey has helped settle the left side of our defence.” The Exeter-born left-back returned in 2017 to the club where he started his career and “he really is City through and through”, as one fan put it. “He brings the experience of having played at a higher level and he reads the game so well.”
Dean Moxey (Bolton)
“Moxey is a solid, reliable player within the squad.” The 32-year-old also played for Derby, Palace and Bolton. “He has lost his edge going forward but keeps it simple when necessary. He is composed and makes the right decisions. He picks up good positions from corners and is never afraid to shoot.”
“Craig Woodman is very good going forward and a good passer or crosser of the ball.” The 35-year-old ex-Brentford left-back “was poor on many occasions in the past but was consistently decent last season”, “He makes great tackles and is never out of control, a very assured and calming presence.”
“Jimmy Oates gives us cover and genuine competition for the right-back slot.” The 27-year-old July acquisition from FC Hereford “reads the game well and regularly finds forwards with long balls which were clearly intended”, “He lacks a little pace but he looks for the ball and uses it well to link play.”
One new addition who may make his debut on Tuesday is 19-year-old centre-half Dara O’Shea. He arrived on loan last week from West Brom and also played for FC Hereford last season. “He scored seven times for Hereford, which suggests he might add some additional fire-power at set pieces.”
“Aaron Martin looks a great find.” The 28-year-old joined in July on a free transfer having played for Oxford United last season. “He’s 6ft 3in, strong in the air and very composed on the ball with lots of energy”, “He’s a decent, tall, experienced right-footed centre-back who can cover at right-back.”
“Martin looked very solid against Carlisle, being able to play the ball about and providing height and muscle when needed”, “He is absolutely massive, a big old unit. He lacks pace but is good in the air”, “He suffered a ruptured Achilles injury in 2016 but his experience will be needed if he can stay fit.”
“Nobody messes with Troy Brown.” The 27-year-old ex-Cheltenham centre-half played for Ipswich in the 2010/11 season. “He’s an aggressive and energetic player, and a good solid tackler”, “He’s really committed and strong, a proper defender who will get his head and foot on the ball all of the time.”
“Brown is our best defender. Every time a long ball or cross comes in he always seems to be the first to headers”, “a reassuring sight with his reading of danger and his aerial dominance”, “His playing out of defence is a bit hit-and-miss, but if he can head, boot and block the ball he has done his job.”
“Let’s hope Nicky Law’s injury isn’t too worrying.” The 30-year-old July free transfer from Bradford is a major doubt for Tuesday with a groin injury. “Against Carlisle he bossed the midfield, picking the ball up in his own half, bursting forward and finding the attacking players with really precise passes.”
“Jordan Tillson to the rescue again.” The Bath-born 25-year-old holding midfielder arrived in Exeter in 2012 from Bristol Rovers’ academy. “He does what he does well with simple, uncomplicated, no-nonsense defending”, “His introduction gives us a better balance in midfield from which to build.”
“Tillson is never going to be a creative genius or play wonder-passes, but he protects the front of the defence so well and fills in. He allows others in the back four to break forward”, “When opponents have the ball he’s brilliant”, “A solid battler in the middle of the park and you need that at this level.”
“Opponents bounce off Boateng.” The 22-year-old former Crystal Palace youth player “is our Patrick Vieira”, “A physical midfielder who pulls the strings and drives through midfield”, “He’s developing into a real attacking threat without losing his control and strength. He’s a superb physical presence.”
“Boateng has pace and creativity which excite the crowd and open up defences”, “Unsurprisingly he had one excellent half against Carlisle and one poor one. He needs to be more consistent. When he’s not performing he’s a passenger and doesn’t influence games enough. We end up under the cosh.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Jake Taylor can be pretty ineffective as a winger, but supporting the central midfielders he shows his worth as a high-energy combative player.” The 26-year-old ex-Reading man “can do very well in a more central position and is a calming influence in midfield, but he lacks the pace for a wide player”.
“Taylor leads the team well and put in a proper captain’s performance against Carlisle”, “A quality player who gives a damn and who has good athleticism. He’s best as a box-to-box midfielder”, “He was a mazy winger who could beat players with trickery. I just wish he would do more of that now.”
“Lee Holmes has a good game at Morecambe and did well to draw that penalty.” The 31-year-old former Derby, Southampton and Preston man “seemed to have complete licence to roam in the win over Carlisle. It was an issue when the midfielders looked up for a pass to him and he wasn’t there.”
“Holmes has a free role when we are building-up play, but he is very disciplined defensively when we aren’t in possession. He did a lot of decent defensive work to help Sweeney and curb Carlisle’s threat on the right”, “He’s an athletic player with good vision. He takes people on and really loves a battle.”
“I wasn’t impressed with Martin against Carlisle but then it’s early days. He never really got into the game.” The 31-year-old one-time Town winger arrived in July from Gillingham and has been used as a substitute in both league games. “He looked underprepared and was no replacement for Holmes.”
“Martin is always looking to play a forward pass. Anyone making clever pacy runs in front of him should be able to thrive off them”, “He has been added to help with our mobility and energy levels on the pitch”, “He has played at a higher level for years and I’m genuinely excited that he’s here.”
Martin was red-carded twice last season for the Gills, at Wimbledon in December and at Southend in February, both after 45 minutes. “I can’t imagine discipline will be an issue here, so such criticism of him seems fickle. The dismissals at Gillingham were his first red cards for a good few years.”
“I was speaking to a Gillingham season ticket holder last week about him. He said he had fallen out of favour with fans as he wasn’t a good captain, even up to the point where he disincentivised the whole team. He’s a good player with a lot in his locker, but he might be relieved not to be a captain.”
“It’s now or never for Matt Jay. He can’t be on the periphery of the team forever.” The 22-year-old youth product “is obviously technically gifted. He will always have an issue with his height but he is a decent option when buzzing around, dropping off, playing one-twos and feeding off knockdowns.”
“Jay is taking his time to develop but the quality is clearly there”, “He never stops running but he is never a threat. He could be great off the bench to wear opponents down but not as a starter”, “He has been decent in flashes and has potential but in reality, he’s a class act stuttering to break out.”
“Tristan Abrahams runs his socks off and pressurises defenders to do something with the ball. He looks very promising and he deserved his late goal against Carlisle.” The 19-year-old is on a season long loan from the Canaries. “If he runs like that in every game he will quickly be loved by the fans.”
“Abrahams is a right handful”, “He’s a confident player who looks a real threat”, “He has real pace but he will delight and frustrate fans in equal measure. He’s very quick and skilful but he will lose the ball more often than not”, “He’s a nightmare for defences, a rough diamond and a big character.”
“Jonathan Forte is quicker than I thought, a good experienced signing.” The 32-year-old summer buy from Notts County “is the partner Jayden Stockley has been looking for ever since he re-signed for us”, “He has plenty of pace, he is threatening, he can hold up play well and he can also score goals.”
“Forte is one of the good guys”, “He’s a quick, hard-worker who will be a handful this season”, “His pace and power are exactly what we need”, “An out-and-out striker with plenty of experience”, “He will thrive when we pass the ball around and especially if the opposition play a high defensive line.”
“Jayden is absolutely about sticking the ball in the net. He’s doing his job and doing it well”, “He’s much more involved and playing deeper than last season. He’s very much involved in our build-up play like a poor man’s Harry Kane”, “A physical presence who also offers a lot defending set pieces.”
“Stockley’s job is to score goals.” The 24-year-old joined Exeter in 2017 from Aberdeen, but played on loan for the Grecians from then parent club Bournemouth between January and May 2016. “He’s not just important for his goals, He also pulls defenders out of position when he makes his runs”
“Stockley had to waste a lot of energy as a lone striker last season”, “Under Tisdale we were aiming long balls at his head but he has no pace whatsoever and isn’t someone who can take on and beat a player, while his aerial ability is no more than what you would expect for someone of his height.”
Grecians’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Although I hope we can win against Ipswich, the league is our priority”, “Give the squad a run out, the league needs to be our priority”, “I can’t wait for Ipswich, I will definitely be there and I'm sure Lee Martin (ex-Ipswich) and Tristan Abrahams (as a Norwich loanee) will be right up for this one.”
“I'd like to see us give Ipswich a serious game.” Grecians are divided over how seriously to take this game. Their apprehension stems from the degree to which their four-game FA Cup run last season contributed to them ultimately falling four points short of taking an automatic promotion place.
The pairing of the sides rekindled sad memories for many Grecians. “The last time we played Ipswich was in August 2010, when a Ryan Harley brace could stop us from losing 3-2 after extra-time. It was the evening Adam Stansfield passed away. I knew it went to extra-time but couldn’t recall the score.”
“The game paled into insignificance after the news was released after the game.” Stansfield played as a striker for Exeter for four years but was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in April 2010. Having undergone surgery, he returned for pre-season training but his condition deteriorated rapidly.
Stansfield’s death was announced after the match. “It was a game shrouded in post-match gloom but it was an absolute cracker. We forced extra-time with two brilliant Ryan Harley goals, unfortunately we were eventually sunk with a goal from that ex-slime [Plymouth Argyle] player David Norris.”
The busiest Grecian’s message-board is the friendly and knowledgeable ExeWeb.com.
Photo: Action Images
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