Calm Determination at Exeter City
A fortnight ago, I wrote effusively of Oxford United’s strong start to the season; Chris Wilder’s charges having reached the summit of the League 2 table with a win over Plymouth.
But with Wilder installed as the bookmakers’ favourite for the vacant Coventry City job, York City having ended the Us’ unbeaten run last Saturday and Exeter City plundering a terrifically impressive 4-2 win at the Kassam at the weekend, the situation is now less rosy for the Thames Valley Club.
Another man linked with the Coventry hot seat has been Saturday’s opposing manager, Paul Tisdale, a gentleman long admired by our team of writers and the subject of speculation himself in the past.
The Malta born fan of Ted Baker once turned down the opportunity to move to Swansea City and his integrity and belief in his own methods was once again there for all to see throughout Saturday’s game.
In short, Exeter haven’t panicked. Relegation last season after several years of upwardly mobile progress was a blow – but fans and employees alike were always conscious of the realities of being one of the smaller clubs in League 1. The Grecians had won admirers with their style of play and to have enjoyed quality time in the third level of English football was actually some achievement.
Just as the likes of West Bromwich Albion have used a truncated spell in a higher league in order to build for a long term future, the Devonshire club might be reckoned to be adopting the same strategy – following on from an anomalous hiding by Morecambe in the season opener, they have now dished out four sprightly wins of their own – victories at Aldershot and Accrington having been supplemented by a 3-0 defeat of Burton Albion.
Only Gillingham lie above Exeter now and it was a side that looked comfortable in its own skin that took to the pitch at the Kassam. An injury to Alan Gow, their most prominent performer thus far this campaign, was easily forgotten as John O’Flynn provided a masterclass in tireless front running, capping a fine performance with the final goal.
Behind him, Jamie Cureton deters anyone not to use the word ‘evergreen’ – always lively, he raced forward with the ball on eleven minutes before thundering home a screamer into the top left hand corner.
That set the tone and City were rampant. Long touted local lad Liam Sercombe moved forward with continual purpose from a position on the right while Cornishman Scot Bennett enjoyed an especially good match, thundering in a header that rightly deserved the description ‘bullet’. Having signed a new contract in April, Bennett looks set to be a fixture at St. James Park.
After Cureton had made it 3-0 after the break, Oxford rallied but their resistance was short lived as O’Flynn closed out the process. Strong defending from Kevin Amankwaah at right back in particular saw the light blue shirted visitors hold firm while Pat Baldwin and the no nonsense Danny Coles did the business at centre back.
Even more importantly, veteran Matt Oakley was joined by another midfield screen and old timer in Tommy Doherty and their ability to close out the game snuffed out a second Oxford challenge.
Question marks perhaps surround Polish keeper Artur Krysiak and a left sided combination of Craig Woodman and Arron Davies that occasionally allowed the once again nippy Alfie Potter the odd run, but the Grecians seem well placed to launch an immediate bounce back.
Longer term, the tininess of the ground and budget, the organizational challenges facing the Supporters Trust, as well as potential renewed interest in Tisdale from suitors previously deterred by the recent relegation may cause flutters but for now, Exeter City are right to look to the future with optimism.