Matt Oakley seeks defensive improvement at Exeter City
Matt Oakley believes that, if Exeter City can cut out the silly goals that are threatening to ruin their season, then they will be well on course for a promotion push.
A run of four defeats in the last five games has seen the Grecians stumble of late, yet they remain high in the npower League Two table as a result of their fine start to the campaign. But an unwelcome knack of conceding soft goals has been their Achilles heel, leaving Oakley and his team-mates frustrated.
"When you look overall, there doesn't look to be too much wrong, but it is the small details that we need to get right at home. We concede poor goals at the moment," he said.
"We play some nice football and, generally, teams looking at us will say that – a good footballing team, but can get under pressure and concede goals. We have looked at ourselves and we know we can improve on that.
"We have a really experienced side and our plan is to get promoted from this league. Paul [Tisdale] has put a good team together and you have to remember it has only been together for a couple of months, but it does take time.
"We have started well and got points on the board, but we have slipped up in the last few weeks, but we are still in the top six. It's not far away from falling into place."
Part of Exeter's problem has been their poor home form. They have lost their last two League games at St James' Park and won only two out of eight League and cup games at the Park this season.
"We have started really well away from home, but we haven't worked out what works best for us at home," Oakley added. "Chesterfield is our next game and, hopefully, it's the one where we can get it right.
"We just need to toughen up a little bit and cut out the soft goals," Oakley added.
"If you have a team that is not playing so well and they get a goal, it gives them confidence and something to hold on to. They will try that little bit harder and it does make it difficult. But on the flip side, if you are a team like us, if we get in front, we will go on and win comfortably, so it is so important to get that first goal."
That was the case at Northampton Town, where Exeter missed two good chances before the Cobblers went in front. They went on to win 3-0 when City had done more than enough to have taken something from the game. "We are pleased with our attacking play, but we are really disappointed with the goals we are conceding. It is those goals that are changing it and giving us an uphill task," Oakley added.
"Once we get it right and start taking those chances, then I don't think teams will be able to live with us. We will go on and win quite comfortably, I think.
"Sometimes, when you are trying to break a team down and you release your full-backs, you are leaving yourself more open at the back. You are exposed to counter-attacks and, if you look at the goals we have conceded, they have been like that – goals on the counter-attack and balls to the back post, stuff like that.
"It is frustrating, but the fans are sticking with us and I am sure we will get it right. I am sure our home form will turn into promotion."
As for the experienced Oakley, he is enjoying a new lease of life in League Two. The former Southampton, Derby and Leicester midfielder had never played in English football's bottom division before the start of this campaign.
"It is similar to League One, there isn't much difference," he said. "There are some teams that know what they are capable of and play in a certain way and, at the moment, they are the ones that we are struggling against.
"I had a bad injury last year and didn't think I would get back, I spent four months trying to get right and I sometimes wondered if it would ever be right.
"I am playing more games than I expected, but I want to start adding goals to my game. I am in a position where I can start using my legs as I used to. I wasn't capable earlier in the season, but the confidence is coming back, so I am pleased."