Do they have what it takes to get promotion?
Writing this on a cold Saturday night after City romped home to a 3-1 victory against promotion contenders Swindon Town, the answer to the question posed seems obvious, surely League 1 beckons? However, this 17/18 Squad have often taught fans not to get too hopeful as inconsistency and injuries have laid waste to spells of dominance.
After rocketing to the top of League 2 at the start of the season, City were comfortable across August and half of September until the initial cracks started to show. A surprise loss to Coventry at the Ricoh triggered a freefall which arguably City haven’t recovered from. The dismal form of crowd favourite Reuben Reid saw the journeyman striker shipped out to Forest Green Rovers and paved the way for Jayden Stockley to play an increasingly important role in City’s attack. The prolific form of the lanky striker has been a welcome boost to a side that potentially could have struggled more without the dynamism of ex striker Ollie Watkins. Having already doubled his five goal tally last season, Stockley is showing no signs of slowing down and appears to be the talisman of this City side. Having said this, other City players have stepped up to the mark at times this season, one suspects that the form of Christy Pym during the last eight games of this season will be vital to City’s chances of securing a promotion bearth. The Exeter born shot stopper has been excellent and given his youth, I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to ply his trade at City for many years to come.
“boateng has stepped up”
Any threat to City’s chance of promotion can largely be attributed to the men in front of him though; City’s poor goal difference speaks for a shaky defence rather than a poor keeper as manager Paul Tisdale has been forced to play the likes of Pierce Sweeney and Deaney Moxey – both out of position – in the CB position with veteran Seaborne performing woefully at times. The combination of captain Jake Moore Taylor and Troy Brown was unshakable last season, though injuries to both men- most recently to the latter- have broken up the partnership on multiple occasions this season. Looking at the strength of the attack of City’s promotion rivals such as Notts County and Luton, Exeter’s defence will need to be watertight in order to keep us in the mix.
Paul Tisdale noticeably hasn’t settled on a centre midfield partnership, with Lloyd James currently resigned to a bench spot and Ryan Harley bizarrely being played out wide despite his evident lack of pace. Luckily Hiram Boateng has stepped up to the plate on multiple occasions, showing lots of physicality while looking to play positive, attacking football. Most frequently at home we’ve seen Jordan Tillson partner the Ghanian-born playmaker, Tillson’s ability is questionable and many wonder if Tisdale has been justified in starting him so frequently this season. Surprisingly though, Tillson has performed admirably in wins against Port Vale on Tuesday and against Swindon on Saturday so the form of City’s youngster also appears to be vital to any promotion aspirations.
“defence is vital”
Looking at City’s run in, there are a few challenging sides still to come, 2nd placed Accrington Stanley have surprised many this season due to their shoestring budget and will look to test Tisdale’s men who are away from home. Additionally, Chesterfield on the 17th will be a tough one for the Grecians as their opponents are in and around the relegation battle and will be desperate to avoid the conference. There is a warming number of teams rooted in the mid table, with Cambridge, Crawley, Colchester and Stevenage looking like fixtures where Tisdale’s men will want more out of the game then their opposition. Though City’s side this year have less ability than the 16/17 crop, this run-in against mid-table clubs could push the Grecians into the automatic positions. If captain Moore-Taylor and defensive linchpin Brown can return within the next three games and build the foundations for a midfield to provide Stockley with chances, then the automatics are a real possibility. At the time of writing, City lies just 4 points off Wycombe Wanderers (3rd) with a game in hand Paul Tisdale’s men must feel confident of closing the gap in the latter part of the season. Only time will tell…
Grecian Soc Prediction: City to finish 3rd (Final automatic place)