Exeter City pay for lack of attacking intent in first half of Devon derby
The chance to play in front of a worldwide television audience in Monday's Devon derby with Torquay United was an opportunity for Exeter City to showcase themselves as a football club.
Unfortunately, it was an opportunity spurned by the Grecians on and off the pitch on what was a night to forget at St James' Park.
As a glutton for punishment, I watched a re-run of the game the following day for various reasons, including the pre-match and post-match stuff. One of those reasons being that I like to see what the Sky team say about City as a football club and, by the time the programme had finished, I felt almost as deflated as I had on the Monday when the Gulls claimed all three points from a 1-0 win.
Credit to Torquay, they came to St James' Park and, in many respects, were value for their win. They did not have the chances or possession that Exeter had, but they defended well. And, once again – like Plymouth did in December – the derby rivals showed the fighting qualities supporters expect of their side in local combat. City, on the other hand, let the fans down.
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Tisdale's 4-6-0 formation was a negative team selection as far as I am concerned, especially for a home game. It was clear from Exeter's first attack, when Alan Gow crossed to Mark Molesley, the sole Exeter player in the penalty box, that they lacked a goal threat and numbers in the penalty box.
Yet it took the manager an hour to change it. It was the same at Torquay. Tisdale said his selection for the home game was because Exeter had finished so well at Plainmoor, but what was evident again that day was that Exeter lacked bodies in the box.
Tisdale told of the importance of the first goal in games at the Park, so it again raises the question why he went into the game without an out-and-out striker on the pitch?
By playing Gow in that advanced role, you are nullifying the threat of Exeter's most creative player, who loves to drop deep and play in the hole.
Cheltenham manager Mark Yates was Sky's guest on Monday night and, at half-time, he was quick to comment on the moaning and the negative atmosphere of the home crowd. But can you blame them when the team they have paid to watch look more set up for a 0-0 draw than to win a game of football?
City played into the hands of a Torquay side who set up with a back four and two defensive midfielders in front of them, and it was not until the introduction of Jamie Cureton and Guillem Bauza on the hour mark that the Gulls' defence really had much to think about.
Exeter had an opportunity to lay down a marker on Monday night and show the likes of Port Vale and Gillingham they are ready to play catch-up. It was a chance to put on a dominant performance, show which side is the best in Devon and move into the top three.
Instead, for someone watching Sky on Monday night and watching Exeter for the first time, they will think City are an overly cautious team that have no goal threat, despite possessing the division's second top goalscorer in their ranks, and a support base that likes a good moan. Is that really what Exeter City Football Club have become?
The good thing about football is that there is always another game just around the corner and, today, City have the chance of redemption against Aldershot Town.
Perhaps redemption is too strong a word. I mean, it is not as if that Torquay defeat has killed any hopes City have for this season, is it?
It was a hugely disappointing result, but City remain in promotion contention and that, ultimately, is the bigger goal. I just hope that the Grecians attack it with genuine purpose and do not let more opportunities like Monday pass them by.