First published in The Grecian, 18 October 2008, Exeter City -v- Grimsby Town
So the global economy is in a mess, the polar icecaps are melting and according to some the world is generally going to hell in a hand-basket. But, on the bright side, Exeter City took three points off league leaders Bury in a 1-0 away win last week and sit convincingly in seventh place after ten games. Football helps you get these things in perspective. Well, sort of!
The point is, things are looking good for the Grecians, and if we can stay in the top eight through to the New Year then it is clearly realistic to talk about aiming for a play-off place come April 2009. But there is a good deal of hard work to be done before then, and much of it will take the shape of games like today’s tough home encounter with Grimsby Town.
There’s plenty of past form between theses two sides, of course. No that long ago our former striker Steve Flack turned down a move to the Mariners in order to complete his service with then Conference located Exeter, and to seek his hundred goals. Good old Flacky, we said. Grimsby, who were fighting for promotion from League Two around that time, were less than thrilled by his decision. Sadly, they lost the 2005-6 play-off final at the Millennium Stadium 1-0 to Cheltenham Town. Grecians fans know what that’s like from our first Wembley visit the season before last.
Since then, Grimsby have lost a Football League Trophy to Milton Keynes Dons on 30 March this year (my birthday, as it happens) and ditched their third manager in a row after a depressing spell of 15 consecutive games without a win. Under the experienced Mike Newell, late of Luton Town’s relative glory years, they are now seeking a revival. But it’s not proving easy. Indeed it’s been ten games without a victory this term alone, and the Grimsby still sit a worrying 21st place in the League.
In short, the past few years have been grim for football fans from the Humber Estuary, laced with financial goings on and sadly broken dreams on two big occasions. An away win here at St James’ Park against an up-and-coming Grecians side will therefore be a much sought after prize for the Mariners, and Paul Tisdale and his coaching staff will no doubt have been working hard over the past week to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
But while Exeter are not (and ought not to be) in any sense desperate about winning, it is still extremely important that we try to build on the momentum of our recent form. This has seen not only some superb victories home and away, but some really attractive, flowing football, too.
What a positive message that sends out. Sometimes you have to grind out results when things aren’t going your way or when you’re feeling slightly off the pace. That’s the mark of a side that can go places rather than just tread water. But it isn’t what packs the stands and terraces in the lower leagues. For that everyone wants to see a bit of flair and invention.
The new Exeter – as I think we can justifiably refer to this carefully crafted squad – also want to play football to the best of their ability, with a bit of love and devotion as well as grit and determination. So far, it’s going rather well. The signs are that this is a side that can continue to step up a gear. For that, however, we need consistency and the ability to iron out the blemishes and mistakes which can be the main difference between life at the top and bottom of this league, and (dare to mention it quietly) ascent to the one above.