Saturday, 1 November 2008

Carry on, but not regardless

First published in The Grecian, 01 November 2008, Exeter City -v- Chester City

No-one likes to see their team get whipped 6-1, to put it mildly. So although at one level I’m sorry I had to miss the Grecians’ last home game against Chesterfield for work reasons, in another way I’m obviously not. We entered the game against a side in mid-table and we had high hopes based on third place in League Two after thirteen games. Unlucky for some.

The killer proved to be the fourteenth, though. The BBC’s comment that “Chesterfield stunned high-flying Exeter with a crushing win at St James Park” was no exaggeration. It’s just one game, that much is true. But you don’t ship six goals unless something has gone badly wrong or you’re very unlucky. Last Tuesday night it was down to plain errors at the back.

No doubt that Paul Tisdale will have been on to the situation very quickly, and we will see an improved performance today. A defeat on this scale can be a body blow, but Exeter must show real character and carry on – not regardless, but regardful of what has happened. If the lessons of this defeat and the one against Macclesfield in September are absorbed, then no lasting damage need be incurred.

It is interesting that City have had a harder time against some of what may be regarded as the ‘lesser’ teams in the league (though that term is strictly relative, of course) than against those who the bookmakers have as promotion contenders. You can’t read too much into these things, however. It is the details of specific performances that count.

From the fans’ point of view, other ‘patterns’ are sometimes noticed. Not so long ago there was talk of a “television jinx”. When the cameras turned up, the players seemed to flounder. That one was well and truly torpedoed by the Grecians’ astonishing fight back against Oxford United in the Conference play-off semis two seasons back, among other examples.

I’m not someone who has much time for ‘omens’ or superstitions. But I have sometimes wondered why it is that we often seem to suffer a hiccup when a big crowd turns up at St James Park. The gate of 5,093 against Chesterfield was by far the most encouraging statistic of that grim evening. What’s needed now is for the supporter enthusiasm to continue, spurring the lads on to keep in the play-off zone into the New Year. This is not a time for discouragement.

Chester, currently seventeenth and licking wounds from their own 1-6 nightmare against Rochdale on 21 October, won’t be sitting on their laurels just because they secured an impressive 3-0 win against Brentford on Tuesday… or because they share the first seven letters of our most recent tormentors! A bounce-back home win for the Grecians is important, and that’s what we’ll all be rooting for this afternoon.

On a happier note, former Grecians boss Alex Inglethorpe, who helped keep City in contention for promotion back to the League before Paul Tisdale came in from Team Bath and finished the job in some style, found himself unexpectedly in the national media spotlight last weekend. Along with Clive Allen, the Spurs youth team coach ended up picking and preparing the winning Tottenham side against Bolton, after the sacking of Juande Ramos and equally sudden arrival of Harry Redknapp. Exeter enjoy a good relationship with Spurs, not least as a result of North London hero Steve Perryman’s work down here at St James’.

One of the upshots of the latest comings and goings in the Premier League is that homegrown managers are once again occupying poll position in many top clubs. It was good to see Tony Adams given the berth at Fratton Park following ’Arry’s departure. Tony has worked incredibly hard since he graduated from Arsene Wenger’s academy and the school of hard knocks. He’s a decent man with the potential to be a top manager. Much like someone sitting on the bench here at Exeter City this afternoon.

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