Hurst Aiming for Confidence-Boosting First Town Win at Exeter
Monday, 13th Aug 2018 16:32
Boss Paul Hurst believes a win at Exeter City in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night will provide a confidence boost with the Blues yet to record a victory this season and with some tough Championship games up next. Hurst reiterated that he plans to take cup competitions seriously, citing his record with his previous clubs.
Following the lengthy trip to St James Park on Tuesday Town, who drew 2-2 at home to Blackburn prior to last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Rotherham, face Aston Villa at home on Saturday and then travel to Derby three days later.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re against, you’ve got to beat the opposition that’s in front of you and this is the our latest opportunity to do that,” Hurst said.
“Not getting too far ahead but we know what’s coming at the weekend, we’re going to be underdogs in that game whether we like it or not, so it’s a role reversal if you like.
“Let’s get a win and hopefully get that good feeling in place in the dressing room, back in and around the training ground because a couple of lads I’ve seen today coming in a little bit sheepish.
“Saturday was the first competitive game that we’ve lost while I’ve been here as the manager and they may be a little bit unsure how to react around me and things like me.
“I’ve just said that I don’t expect them to come skipping in with a massive smile on their face but at the same time I don’t expect them to come in sulking.
“Sulking isn’t going win us a game tomorrow night, so it’s about just getting back to work, working hard again, getting on the coach and making that long journey, whether it’s recovery or educating themselves along the way, whatever it is, and then waking up in the morning ready to hopefully have a good day.”
Hurst says he considers the cup game far from a hindrance: “We’ve only just started the season, I’m not going to start complaining about our schedule and things like that, I want to win games of football.
“We’ve played two games and we haven’t won one. Let’s try and get that first win on the board no matter what competition it is and get that feeling that everyone associated with Ipswich Town will be wanting.”
The Blues boss says he was made aware that fans want to see the cup competitions taken seriously under his management when on BBC Radio Suffolk’s breakfast show recently.
“I think in the BBC interview when I went to the studios there, it was mentioned, the question was asked by a fan about whether we would take cup competitions seriously,” he recalled.
“I said yes, I said at the time that my record as a manager when you look at some of the success we’ve had in the cup I have always treated it with respect and wanted to do well.
“I’ve maybe changed the team around a few times but more often than not that’s still resulted in us winning the games and I’d never put a team out that I don’t believe can win a game of football.
“Certainly, we’ve just spoken about the health of the squad, so I’ve no reason to suddenly be making wholesale changes. It will be a strong team and hopefully we can get the result we want.”
Hurst’s former club Shrewsbury reached the Checkatrade Trophy final last year where they were beaten by a Lincoln side featuring on-loan Town winger Danny Rowe. Did he feel that cup campaign helped or hampered the League One promotion-pushing Shrews?
“There’s always a lot of debate around it and whether it’s worth taking seriously and things like that, particularly that competition,” he reflected.
“But I’ve always been a believer [in taking cup competitions seriously]. I’ve had a couple of clubs which have got to finals and been involved in promotion challenges.
“Some people might argue that that slightly hindered us, I’m not a massive believer in that.
“In some of the earlier games you get the chance to change the team around and I think with this and the League Cup, it’s the third game in and I know we’ve just had a journey - well, everywhere’s a journey realistically - to Rotherham and then a trip to Derby, so it’s quite a busy start to the season.
“But at the same time I’m not going to use that as any kind of excuse to think, ‘Let’s change the team around, we’re going to be tired, things like that’.
“I think there are things I want us all to get better in fairness, on the fitness side as well. Only three lads in the starting line-up at the weekend had our full pre-season, so I think there is room for improvement but we’re not in bad shape on that but I do expect us to get better. So no, no concerns about it affecting Saturday’s game or anything like that.”
The Shrews also gave West Ham a scare in the FA Cup when the teams drew 0-0 in Shropshire before the Premier League side ran out 1-0 winners in London.
Hurst is keen for Town to avoid being the ones on the wrong end of an upset on Tuesday, perhaps setting up a similar tie with a Premier League club in the next round.
“We’re obviously a good club and a big club anyway and tomorrow night we’re going to a game where Exeter I’m sure will be looking forward having us come to their stadium,” he said.
“They’ve started the season extremely well, and they’ll be looking to cause something of an upset.
“If you can progress you could be on the other side of that and perhaps visiting a Premier League club or hosting them at Portman Road with a good atmosphere, so that’s what we’d all like to do.”
He added: “Exeter have missed out on promotion to League One twice in the play-off finals and have started this season extremely well.
“They’ve got a new manager in place [Matt Taylor], I think they promoted from within but I’m sure after so many years under Paul Tisdale’s management he’ll have been a little bit cautious ahead of a new start and a new season.
“But, as I said, they’ve got off to a great start with two victories, and look a very good team, I have to say.
“The message from me to the players will be to not take the opposition lightly and to be ready for another tough game.”
From this season extra-time has been scrapped in the Carabao Cup with games level at 90 minutes going straight to penalties. Hurst says he’s not a fan of practising spot-kicks.
“I haven’t been a massive believer in that in the past,” he said. “I have done it and not done it. I had my own experiences with penalties which certainly one year wasn’t great as a player.
“I think once you get to that point, it’s slightly different in that there’s no extra-time to throw into the equation, but even with the fans not being there [when you’re practising], things like that. I think we’ll trust ourselves on the night if we get to that point. But clearly I would prefer to win the game in normal time.”
Tuesday’s 527-mile round trip is Town’s third League Cup tie at Exeter in 20 years, while the draw - regionalised on a north-south basis but not east-west - has also thrown up ties away against Torquay and Shrewsbury.
“It’s not been too kind then!” Hurst laughed. “I don’t know whether someone’s not happy with us.
“It’s not ideal, you’ll all be more familiar with it than I am at the moment, but I’m very quickly learning it, where we’re situated nothing’s exactly on the doorstep, or very few things.
“The draw could have been kinder, there’s no getting away from that but it is what it is and we get on with that and the lads will be prepared and ready to go.
“I think for me the biggest thing is the mental side of this type of game. If we turn up and approach it in the right manner, put on anything like a similar performance [to Saturday’s], I’d expect us to win the game.
“But at the same time we’re very respectful of Exeter, they’ve got some good players, I think they’ll be strong in the league that they’re in for the third season running.
“And that’s the danger, that either you underestimate the opposition or you’re not quite flat out and that’s when upsets occur.
“There have been many upsets over the years and I don’t want to be the victim of one of those results.”
Town seem likely to be largely at full strength, although Hurst may opt to give Dean Gerken a game in goal rather than first-choice Bartosz Bialkowski.
The Blues boss will probably give the back four at Rotherham a second game playing together, which would see Janoi Donacien at right-back, Jonas Knudsen on the left and Toto Nsiala to the right of skipper Luke Chambers in the centre of the defence.
Tayo Edun could come into the side for one of Trevoh Chalobah or Cole Skuse in the middle, while Jon Nolan seems likely to continue in the more advanced central role, although Flynn Downes, who started in that position in the opening game, is available again having been ill.
Jordan Roberts could be handed his first start for Town on the right with Gwion Edwards out with a minor niggle, while Freddie Sears or Grant Ward are likely to be on the left. Kayden Jackson may also be in line to make his full debut as the lone striker.
Teddy Bishop and Danny Rowe could return to the bench but Andre Dozzell won’t be involved having played for the U23s at Sheffield United on Monday afternoon.
Exeter have a doubt over midfielder Nicky Law, who suffered a groin problem in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Morecambe.
Manager Taylor appears to be adopting a similar approach to Hurst as he looks to continue his team's winning start to the campaign.
“I want to win the game, so any changes have got to be right for the club,” he told Devon Live.
“We are going to go into that game with the strongest team that I can pick in my eyes, in terms of the following weekend and the league games that we have coming up.
“If I decide to rest a couple, it is a rest and giving other people a chance to show me what they can do, but like I say, we are going to go and attack Tuesday night, we really are.
“Sometimes, I have felt in the past that we have not attacked the home cup ties at this club and we have gone out with a bit of a whimper, but hopefully, we won’t do that on Tuesday.
“It is easier said than done, but we are very much going to go and try and win that game.”
Former Blues midfielder Lee Martin, who could make his first start for his new club having come off the bench twice so far, joined the Grecians in the summer after leaving Gillingham at the end of last season.
Martin, 31, made 89 starts and 17 sub appearances for the Blues between July 2009 and July 2013.
Also in the Exeter squad is defender Troy Brown, 27, who was at Town from the summer of 2009 for two years, making 10 starts - one of those at Exeter in the League Cup - and seven sub appearances.
The teams last met in the competition at the same stage at St James Park in August 2010 when the Blues won 3-2 after extra-time, Ronan Murray netting once and David Norris twice for the Blues and Ryan Harley scoring both for the home side.
The clubs also faced one another in a two-legged first-round tie in 1998/99. The first leg in the South-West ended 1-1 with Matt Holland putting the Blues in front and Jonathan Richardson equalising for the home side in the final minute.
Town comfortably won the second leg at Portman Road, Mauricio Taricco, Holland again, Mick Stockwell, Alex Mathie and Paul Mason, playing his final game for the Blues, scoring the goals in a 5-1 victory. Richardson again netted for Exeter.
Overall, the Blues have won 11 of the 26 meetings between the sides (eight in the league and one in the FA Cup), nine have ended in draws (eight in the league), while Exeter have won six (all in the league).
Town have been allocated only 350 tickets for the tie as St James Park is currently being redeveloped.
Last season Town won 2-0 at Luton in the first round of the Carabao Cup before a very youthful team impressed but were beaten 2-1 at Crystal Palace in the second.
Tuesday’s referee is Brett Huxtable from, perhaps surprisingly, Devon, who has shown three yellow cards and no red in two games so far this season.
Huxtable has never previously refereed a Town game but he has taken charge of four Exeter fixtures in which they are unbeaten having won three and drawn one.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Donacien, Spence, Emmanuel, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Edun, Downes, Nydam, Bishop, Sears, Ward, Roberts, Rowe, Nolan, Harrison, Jackson.
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