As Exeter City reach the half-way mark in the 2012-13 season, now is the perfect time to look back on how they have fared up until this stage. Alex Bonner looks back and outlines what the Grecians should aim to achieve come May
How City have fared so far
At the time of writing, City sit 13th in the League Two table, having accumulated 32 points thus far. This puts them seven points away from the play-off positions, with some tough fixtures yet to come – including the likes of Oxford United and Burton Albion, currently seventh and third in the league respectively.
Following early exits in both the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, the club’s full attention is currently focused towards mounting a challenge for a top-seven finish. Suffering from the loss of star striker Jamie Cureton, who departed for fellow League Two side Cheltenham at the start of the season, the Grecians are desperate for some kind of form, with a position in the play-offs right now looking at best an outside possibility.
Such a state of affairs is a far cry from the opening few months of City’s campaign, with early momentum achieved with wins against Bristol Rovers, AFC Wimbledon and York. Further away wins against Northampton and Fleetwood town were then followed up by a barnstorming performance in the Devon Derby against Plymouth Argyle at St. James Park and an equally impressive 4-0 victory away to Scunthorpe – after which the Grecians were occupying the lofty position of third in the league.
That proved to be the high water mark of the campaign so far, however, as City failed to win in the next seven games, suffering four consecutive losses. The rot was stopped by an away win against Accrington Stanley in December, after which City still sat a respectable fifth in the table, but a recent run of poor form, a 3-1 away win to Torquay the only time the squad hasn’t lost in the last five games, has seen them slump all the way down to their current mid-table position.
Most Promising Performers
Alan Gow (Striker) – Having been at the club since 2012, Gow has adapted well to the demands of League Two this season. With six goals and a handful of assists in the league so far, Gow has been one of Exeter’s more consistent performers. Having signed a new two-year contract for the club, Exeter have been rewarded by Gow’s consistency of late.
Arron Davies (Winger) – Having featured in all of Exeter’s league games this season, Davies has been an ever present figure for the Grecians. This season has seen the Welshman add more elements to his game, now contributing more assists and goals to the team. Davies’s best moment of the season so far came against Scunthorpe, scoring a goal that was executed with both extreme control and power:
David Wheeler (Winger) – Accompanying Davies at the position of winger, Wheeler has performed well this season, with the Englishman putting in some consistent performances of late. Having signed with Exeter in August 2013, after impressing on trial, Wheeler has gone on to represent City in 19 league games, with his direct running and tireless work rate proving an enormous asset to the team.
Most Disappointing Performers
Pat Baldwin (Defender) – Following a strong season for the defender last year, this season has proved to be a torrid one so for Baldwin. City have been criticized for their poor defensive record, having conceded 34 goals this season, meaning players like Baldwin will need to improve if the Grecians are to have any chances of reaching the play–offs.
Arthur Krysiak (Goalkeeper) – Though Exeter’s defence has been lacklustre this year, some blame should also be apportioned to Exeter’s goalkeeper, Krysiak, for the unacceptably high number of goals that have been conceded. This one scored by Portsmouth epitomises the Pole’s poor form of late:
Prospects for the remainder of the season
Following a shaky first half of the 2013–14 season, City will have to achieve far greater consistency in the coming months to have any chance of achieving a much sought-after play–off spot. March will likely prove pivotal for City, as the team will encounter a tough run of fixtures that will likely determine the outcome of their season.
Following just five away wins, City will need to improve their away form to have any chance of climbing the table. Despite sitting 13th, Exeter are in fact alarmingly close to the relegation zone, with local rivals Torquay, who currently occupy one of the relegation spots, just six points off City.
Despite boasting some strength in depth, the top clubs in League Two still boast stronger line-ups than the current Exeter squad, meaning a return to League One simply isn’t feasible at the present time. With the lack of financial resources available to City, the club are unlikely to strengthen considerably over January, further denting their promotion ambitions.
That said, achieving a top 10 league standing come the end of the season should prove a realistic objective for City, and, if realised, will prove a solid platform on which to build in subsequent seasons.