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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exeter City Preview

First of all a big thank you very much must go to the seven directors participating in the 7 million investment to secure our finances for the remainder of the season. They are plc chairman Derek Chappell, club president and plc director Sir Maurice Hatter, football club chairman Richard Murray, deputy plc chairman Robert Whitehand, plc directors David Sumners and David White, and football company director David Hughes. And further news is that there'll be no sale and lease back of any of our assets and significantly the return of Richard Murray as plc chairman.
New investment is still being looked for but if Parky needed any reassurance of his immediate future then surely this is it. Whether any cash is available for new players is not mentioned but its a pity that it didn't happen earlier and not prevented the purchase of local boy, midfielder Jason Puncheon from Plymouth, currently on loan at MK Dons. Because at some point in the season our reliance on a scheme of filling any holes due to injury and suspension currently rests on Sodje, Spring, a misfiring McLeod and a variety of talented but unproven youngsters and may come unstuck in the winter mud.
So back to the football. Our unbeaten run continues at Norwich although not without a kick in the teeth to give away such a goal in the 93th minute. We knew that the last two games would be different to all the others and so it has proved with both Southampton and Norwich treating us more as equals than the other sides we have played. And it was surely a sign of the different abilities of both managers that Pardew sent his team out for a very strong first half (after a few choice words no doubt), while it was the new belief that new Norwich manager Lambert has given Norwich that caused them to keep fighting and to finish so strongly last Saturday. Or did we tire, as in the first game of the season - the only other time we have conceded two goals. And its worth pointing out that on both occasions, Parky has bought on attackers to get more goals rather that defenders to perserve the lead. Shame that in both games we failed to score again and instead did concede another goal, so will Parky bring on a defender/midfielder next time?
And although our good start to the season continues with a settled team and 20 points, perhaps any on-field luck just isn't on our side with goals disallowed, penalties not given and now fouls on keepers ignored. And our 9th game is against another midtable team. In fact of the eight teams we've faced, not one of them is in the current top 10. But after Exeter that's all going to change for our fixture list over the next nine games after the Grecians contains all the other five teams in the top six plus a tough away derby against ninth placed Gills. Colchester, Leeds and the Gills are all away with home games against Huddersfield, MK Dons and Bristol Rovers.
A good start is important to a teams confidence and gives a points base to build on but it's inevitable that changes will have to be made in those nine games when injuries and suspensions start to affect the team.
So its doubly vital that we get back to winning ways this weekend before we embark on that tough run. Manager at Exeter is Paul Tisdale, at 36 surely the youngest man in charge in League One. He's been there since June 2006 when Exeter were a Conference side and he lead them to the Play-Off final against Morecombe at Wembley in his first year where they lost 2-1. The following season, Tisdale again led them into play-offs and this time did even better with a 1-0 win against Cambridge United at Wembley on 18 May 2008 they won promotion back to the Football League after 5 years in the Conference. And a clear sign on the state of football in Exeter is that he is one of only four managers to have lead the Grecians to any sort of promotion.

And to add to his managerial status Tisdale then cemented his place as one of Exeter City's most successful managers ever by guiding the club to second place in their first season back in the Football League, in so doing becoming the first Exeter City manager to win successive promotions. Exeter are currently 15th with 9 points from 2 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats.

Promoted teams always enjoy their first game in their new league and its not usually the best time to play them. We experienced this with Scunthorpe, Swansea and Wycombe over the last three years and Leeds had more of the same against Exeter on the opening day of the season.

They don't start tougher than an away game at Elland Rd, but despite Leeds renowned home record, and with only 10 men for the last 30 minutes, the Grecians held out until the 88th minute before the inevitable Beckford scored the winner in a 2-1 defeat.

After that, two home games against Norwich and the derby game with Yeovil both finished 1-1 before they travelled to Carlisle, in what must be the longest trip anywhere in the UK to play football, and won 1-0.

Their only real bad result then came at Gillingham where they lost 3-0 before an away draw with Orient 1-1. Last weekend they followed everyone's example and beat the hapless Tranmere - on a run of 6 straight defeats - at the smaller St. James Park 2-1, so as far as away games are concerned its one win, one draw and two defeats with only 3 goals scored and 6 conceded.

Of course, they have Stuart Fleetwood, who played 68 minutes last weekend but, according to the terms of his season long loan, won't be allowed to play on Saturday.

Who Are Yeh
In goal is an 18 year old Swede, number 46 Oscar Jansson, on loan from Spurs. And at centre-back they have number 29 Troy Archibald-Henville, another 20 year Spurs "starlet" on loan since January. Troy was hailed as "terrific" by boss Paul Tisdale during his loan last season. And the only player that you could possibly have heard of is Marcus Stewart, ex striker of Ipswich and Sunderland, now 36 and has dropped into midfield.

And their fourth loanee is the 21 year old winger Craig Noone from Plymouth who scored on his debut at Orient with a 35 yarder from the left wing. They also have 19 year old Liam Sercombe in midfield.

The Dangerman
Number nine is local boy 31 year old Adam Stansfield now in his 4th season at Exeter and who finally got off the mark last weekend with two goals against Tranmere in only his second game back after injury since Easter and is now top scorer. He was also named in last weekends Football League Tier Three Team of the Week.

What's The Secret?
Exeter are a team of a heady mixture of youth and old age. Two 36 year olds, Alex Russell and Marcus Stewart, control the midfield whilst an 18 year old goalkeeper and a 20 year old Spurs starlet are loanees in defence whilst midfielder Liam Sercombe is still only 19 and another loanee, new winger Craig Noone, is only 21.

To tell the truth, Exeter don't really like coming to SE7. Eleven league visits, plus two cup ties, makes thirteen games with 10 defeats, 3 draws and no wins and 1927 was the last time they avoided defeat in a League game at the Valley. Since then they've been back 6 times, 4 defeats in the League, all in Tier 3, a 2-2 draw in the FA cup, in distance pre-war 1934, and a cup defeat last time we played in 2003.

Although having said that neither team can be said to travel well for in our eleven visits to Exeter we've only won once, a 5-2 tonking in 1929 if you can remember that far back. So overall then is 11-9 to the Addicks with 5 draws.

But don't get to confident with home advantage, Parky, you may recall that two teams came to the Valley last season never having won there - Barnsley and Doncaster - and you know what happened next.

What Are They Saying?

Manager Tisdale after their away draw at Orient two weeks ago, "It was a slightly different set-up with the winger (Noone) coming into the side so it took a bit of time to find our pattern. Craig Noone got a goal which gave us the point, but he made so much space for himself and contributed so much to our build-up play, I'm very pleased."
So pleased that he'll probably repeat the 4-5-1 format this Saturday expecially as he's without the non-playing Stuart Fleetwood.

Unchanged for the ninth time? Seems like it and we can only enjoy the privilege of seeing eleven players who want to play for the club after hearing reports from the Fans Q and A last week.
A couple of comments from Cheltenham Addick on what Parky had to say make very revealing reading. Not only does he want players that want to play for Charlton first and foremost but at last gives a reason for our slide into Tier Three - too many players at the Valley for the money rather than the football. Obviously really, we could easily have guessed as much - but it's a new and refreshing side to Charlton that we have someone we comes out and says it in clear English.

Here's the eleven then:

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.

Midtable or not Exeter have to be taken seriously. They have never won at the Valley, but they hadn't at Elland Rd either and in their first ever trip there for a League game on opening day in August they came close to grabbing a draw and stopping Leeds' home winning run which at that point was eleven straight wins.

And after winning promotion for the second year running, their confidence has only really been punctured by that 3-0 defeat at Gillingham and they will arrive at the Valley quite happy to be in midtable on nine points with only 3 defeats in 8 games and only a minus 3 goal difference.

So they will give us a game but after only 2 points from the last six, its time to get back on track. A 2-0 win for the Addicks and I don't care who scores them.

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