As bizarre as some of the circumstances surrounding and during the match against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday were, to have failed to come out of the game with three points raises some early doubts about the ability of this side.
The risk is that it dents confidence and possibly derails the start to the season if followed up with poor results in our forthcoming league fixtures. Although this upcoming League Cup tie against Exeter City seems irrelevant in the grander picture of the season, getting back to winning ways would be a first step towards putting last Saturday out of mind.
Ordinarily, Mark Robins would pick a second-string team for the First Round in the League Cup, as he has done in each of the past two seasons. However, the manager mentioned last week that a run in this competition could be important in generating funds for improving the squad, which indicates that this is likely to be a stronger than expected team selection.
Starting in goal, possibly the biggest decision is whether to hand new first-choice keeper Marko Marosi further minutes to establish a relationship with his defence or to hand what is likely to be a rare run-out for back-up Ben Wilson.
In defence, Mark Robins may want to hand Dominic Hyam a first start of the season in order to get his fitness levels up after a recent injury. At right-back, Robins may well want to see what Josh Pask can offer after some defensively suspect performances from Fankaty Dabo in the first two league games.
The decisions further forward rest on whether Mark Robins wants to experiment away from the 4-3-3 we’ve started the season with, with a view to providing our strikers with better support. However, Maxime Biamou starting the under-23s fixture the day prior to this game suggests it will be a straight choice between Amadou Bakayoko and Matt Godden to spearhead the front three, with the other left as the option from the bench.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Exeter City was pretty notable.
After a long slog of a campaign in League Two, our promotion chances came down to a Wembley Play-Off Final. After a tense first-half, any anxiety was soon shattered to pieces by a thunderbolt of a strike from Jordan Willis just after half-time to put us ahead. Just before we could reflect on our advantage, Jordan Shipley’s emphatic strike deflected home to make it 2-0. From then on, it was apparent that it was just our day, with Jack Grimmer going on to put us 3-0 ahead before a late consolation from West Brom loanee Kyle Edwards doing little to dampen the party atmosphere.
Manager – Matt Taylor
That Play-Off Final defeat marked the end of an era at Exeter City, with long-serving manager Paul Tisdale stepping down after 12 years in charge. The club decided to keep things in-house in appointing their former centre-back, Matt Taylor into his first managerial posting. However, Taylor’s reign has marked a change in emphasis, seeing the average age of the squad raised and implementing with a more aggressive brand of football.
Last season saw Exeter miss out on a play-off spot fairly narrowly, in adding experienced and proven Football League pros to the squad such as Nicky Ajose, Nigel Atangana and Gary Warren over the summer, Taylor has further hardened the core of this Exeter side as they look to go one better this season.
Who To Look Out For?
It is difficult to assess which players we’ll need to keep an eye on, due to the proclivity of most managers to rest players at this stage of the League Cup due to how early in the season it falls. Last year, Matt Taylor named strong sides for the two rounds that Exeter City played in, which is an indication that he will be looking to keep the momentum from back-to-back league wins into this competition.
The key cog in Taylor’s Exeter City is Nicky Law in midfield. The former Bradford City man can operate centrally or out wide and has consistently been the go-to player for creativity in open play since arriving at the club last summer. Additionally, there are high hopes still around winger Randell Williams, who was brought in to the club in January after an impressive loan spell with Wycombe but he has yet to demonstrate his pace and dribbling ability on a consistent basis since his arrival.
In attack, the selfless work-rate of Ryan Bowman could be key in facilitating Nicky Ajose returning to the goalscoring form he demonstrated during spells with Swindon Town. However, Exeter may opt for a 4-4-1-1 formation with attacking midfielder Lee Martin taking Ajose’s place after some recent impressive performances from the bench.
Areas To Exploit
Although Exeter are yet to concede this season, the lack of pace at the back, along with left-back Dean Moxey being deployed as a makeshift centre-back, pinpoints an area we should be looking to exploit as a team ourselves that has bags of pace in forward areas. Additionally, having registered just two goals, and late-on, thus far, Exeter are still a side finding their flow as an attacking force.
Exeter’s concerns are fairly similar to ours, which indicates that this is set to be a low-scoring game. Both managers seem likely to play something closer to their strongest sides, so this could be a more competitive First Round League Cup tie than usual.