Exeter City Season Preview: Holmes impressing

exeterIt seems Exeter City, as a football club, are in a state of limbo. Some fans are happy with the current setup, nurturing players to hand to bigger clubs whilst playing pretty football in mid-table of League Two. Others however, believe the club’s priorities have come at the cost of a competitive, winning mentality. It is fair to say that supporter Chris Bidgood – on Twitter @Bigtrees1973 – is in the latter camp. Here are his views.

Exeter finished 14th last season. Do some fans feel that with the quality of your squad, you could have been closer to the top seven?

Exeter’s 14th place finish was a big let down, particularly with the squad assembled last summer. Quality players throughout the squad, but the tactical short-comings of Paul Tisdale were a major factor in just six home wins last season, the inability to see out home results was the reason we fell short come May.

In an interview last season, manager Paul Tisdale said that his third priority was winning football matches. He’s clearly an intelligent man, but is he sometimes so philosophical that he lacks that competitive drive?

I’m certainly not Paul Tisdales’ biggest fan, that’s well documented by my rants on Twitter & City forums, I would never say the mans not a great orator or very intelligent, he’s just not my kind of manager. His priorities are the wrong way round for me, creating players to sell & keeping Exeter City solvent are of course important, but a managers first priority should always be winning matches [especially at home]. Win matches and the finances take care of themselves, pretty simple really.

Bobby Olejnik saved you a fair few points last season. Have your younger goalkeepers, such as Christy Pym, found it harder to get game time?

Before Bobby Olejnik arrived at City, the club operated with two young inexperienced goalies, they worked together with the goalie coach but didn’t have an experienced goalie to feed off, so results/performances were up & down. Now with Bobby as no.1 they can learn from his experiences, plus possibly go on loan to gain more experience for the future.

You looked a threat in wide areas last season. What do you put this down to?

The signing of last summer, which got all fans excited was Lee Holmes. His wing play was a joy to watch & got bums off seats. His crossing ability is of a higher league quality & the reason a lot of our goals come from crosses. One to watch again.

Jordan Moore-Taylor is shorter than one would expect a centre-back to be. What do you make of his partnership with Troy Brown? And will new signing Troy Archibald-Henville provide competition in this area?

I have it on good authority that Jordon Moore-Taylor [JMT] will play LB this season, this frees up the two Troys [Brown & Archibald-Henville] to play as the CBs. JMT is a very capable full back & 100% improvement on Woodman who has inexplicably been given another contract. At RB there will be a new signing as Christian Ribeiro was released in the summer. This is a big loss as his roving runs were great to watch, but injuries and a decent wage probably made Tisdale’s mind up, plus offers of higher league football sealed his exit.

Arguably the three most physical sides in League Two last season were Wycombe, Barnet and AFC Wimbledon, against whom you took one point from a possible 18. Would you like to see more power in the team?

Struggling against physical teams who are very streetwise was a typical City trait last season, our fair play award we win year after year doesn’t help when we don’t mix it with the likes of WWFC etc, we fall foul of refs who don’t show us the same respect we garner them, when being kicked off the park versus the Dons/Chairboys/Bees. Hopefully new signing Lloyd James can bring some steel to midfield & fight fire with fire. He will be direct replacement for fans favourite David Noble, who hasn’t been kept on this season. We love Nobes at SJP, great creator & showed real passion for the shirt. Sadly like Ribeiro, too many missed matches through injury and too high a wage to justify carrying this season.

Tom Nichols and Jayden Stockley were your top two goalscorers last year despite only playing half a season. With both no longer at the club, who do you see replacing their goals?

With Stockley turning down a contract & Morrison retiring from pro football, Tis has brought in young Wolves striker Liam McAlinden & proven lower league striker Robbie Simpson to compliment starlet Ollie Watson. More height and physicality in attack would be a welcome addition with those crosses from Holmes raining in. Hopefully Ollie Watkins can kick on and have the second season bounce, a good six months could see a January exit to higher leagues [Tisdale will be pleased].

What are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I see League 2 being very open this year, lots of players available so plenty for everyone to add to their squads. The two promoted National League teams will be competitive, Relegated League 1 teams will offer a major challenge in the title race, maybe Crewe might struggle with their youthful squad. Exeter’s opening day trip to Bloomfield Road to play Blackpool will probably be a good time to catch the Tangerines cold [hopefully].

Where will you finish?

I see a 10th place finish for Exeter City, with hopefully a few more wins at SJP, averaging 6 home wins a season in the last 4 years is starting to take its toll on the Grecian faithful [especially this one].

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Exeter have a capable squad, particularly in midfield, but one that is stagnating under Tisdale. Until the team acquires a more competitive mentality, their potential will remain unfilled. 16th

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