Entering the last, last chance saloon as City go to Exeter

2013-03-02 14.54.47

Exeter City vs Bradford City preview

@St. James Park on Saturday 16 March, 2013

By Mark Scully

As City prepare for their second game in Devon of the week, in my eyes they have finally entered the last, last chance saloon. Lose, and it’s yet another year in the basement division. But win, and suddenly the late charge for a play off place might finally start to take place.

After myself and fellow Width of the Post writers Jason McKeown and Gareth Walker made the long trip to Plymouth in the ‘Green Bullet’ midweek, I think we were all in agreement that, realistically, the play offs are now a long shot, but not completely out of reach.

The game in midweek probably should have seen Bradford come away with all three points having created the better of the chances throughout the 90 minutes with Reid/Thompson/McHugh/Connell all going close. Having said that, were it not for the superb goal line clearance in stoppage time from Stephen Darby, the whole picture might look completely different. That one more dropped point, making it 10 from the top seven, would have made it harder to reach the play offs.

Exeter come into the game without a win in their last three games, and without a goal in all three of those fixtures after drawing blanks against table toppers Gillingham on Tuesday night and fellow play off chasers Fleetwood Town last Saturday. Prior to those fixtures, Exeter lost 2-0 away at in-form Bristol Rovers. Despite the last three results, The Grecians had been in great form in recent weeks having brushed aside with ease promotion chasers Northampton Town and Port Vale 3-0 and 2-0 respectively.

The home side come into Saturday’s game with a few injuries. Their central midfield has been dismantled, with ex-City flop Tommy Doherty injured and former Southampton and Leicester player Matt Oakley also ruled out. Playmaker Alan Gow is expected to miss out which will be good news for Phil Parkinson’s troops. Gow has impressed for Paul Tisdale’s side this season.

One thing Bradford need to be wary of is 20 goal striker Jamie Cureton. The veteran sits five goals behind the league’s top marksmen, Tom Pope, but has rolled back the years. After scoring at Valley Parade in the early part of the season, the Bradford back line will need no introduction to the small forward.

I made the last City trip to St James Park, the year Exeter went up. It was shortly before Stuart McCall’s outburst, after losing the subsequent midweek game at AFC Bournemouth. The Exeter match game was undermined by off the field activities of Barry Conlon and Matthew Clarke. Hopefully this time around Bradford can get all three points. It isn’t necessary a must win game, but it would certainly setup up the three home games on the bounce rather nicely.

After the draw at Home Park on Tuesday I would expect Phil Parkinson to once again shuffle his pack. James Meredith is back in the squad, but I’d be very surprised if he got much more than a 20 minutes run out – a lot will depend how the game is panning out, I suppose. I would personally start with the same back five with Matt Duke in goal. There isn’t much between the two keepers in my opinion but, going slightly off track, I would let Jonny Mac depart in the summer, whilst retaining Duke as No.2 but having him primarily as goalkeeping coach and bring in a new No.1. The back four until Meredith is fully fit picks itself with the excellent Stephen Darby at right back, Carl McHugh on the left and a defensive partnership of Rory McArdle and Andrew Davies the best pairing we have available to us.

Into midfield, I would drop Kyel Reid to the bench. The winger is clearly lacking form at the moment and isn’t doing the things, which at the end of last season and the start of this, he was doing superbly well. Hopefully Reid will get his mojo back in time for the run in. In Reid’s place I would start Will Atkinson. To be fair to Reid, Atkinson has also had a little dip in form but would get the nod ahead of Reid on this occasion.

In the centre, magic man Gary Jones will come back into the fold, probably alongside Ricky Ravenhill. This might surprise some people, but the former Doncaster midfielder has played really well in recent weeks and I think his ‘spoiling’ style of play is quite effective especially when playing away from home. Ravenhill also gets the nod for me due to the lack of form being shown by Nathan Doyle at the moment. On the right, Zavon Hines deservedly should retain his place. In recent weeks the right hand side of Darby and Hines is working really well and looks a huge threat – both players work really hard for the team and seemingly have built up a good understanding.

Up front this is where opinions are split amongst the fans – do you start Connell, who, in the last three games I’ve seen him come on in, has completely changed the game, or do you bring back the big guns Hanson and Wells? I thought Hanson and Connell linked up really well when they came on at Plymouth, but at the same time I thought Garry Thompson played really well. Then there’s Andy Gray – I think most fans are in agreement that Gray probably shouldn’t be in the starting line up. I’m not going to Gray-bash but, in my opinion he is our fifth best striker. That isn’t to say he’s a bad player, just the others currently are better and offer different options to us.

I don’t actually think Parky will go with Connell from the start at Exeter and, to be honest, I’d agree. I’m not sure it’s the sort of game to start Connell in. Whilst walking away from Home Park I thought he’d go with Hanson and Thompson from the start at Exeter and, looking forward to Wycombe on Tuesday, I’d then expect Wells to be brought back into the fold at Valley Parade. I don’t think you can drop Thompson at the moment. Yes, on Tuesday he should have scored early on. But his all round game is really impressive and, to me, by dropping a ‘form’ player it sends out the wrong signals to the rest of the squad.

The spark that Parky has said is missing at the moment has coincided with the lack of form being shown by the likes of Wells and Reid – the ultimate spark in our armour. They will of course regain that spark. I just hope it comes back in time for a promotion push.

If we can win on Saturday we will hopefully go six points off the top seven. That to me should give the Bradford players and management some real belief that the play offs can be achieved. Hopefully early next week Phil Parkinson will sign the new contract. I can’t see for the life of me that he will go to Reading.

All of a sudden we could be closer to the play offs and a manager signed up mid to long term, with Valley Parade starting to look like a bed of roses again. We are, after all, unbeaten since Wembley. Yes, results have been indifferent. But we are unbeaten. Let’s win at Exeter and really go full steam into the three homes games, believing that promotion is still well within our grasp.

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12 replies

  1. Positive Scully!

    • I find it strange that you say we should bring in another keeper but theres nothing between them? Poor john mac been written off ?

      • Wayne, I don’t think either of them are outstanding both are ok but I believe there is better out on the market. Jonny Mac in my eyes hasn’t been written off, but given Duke’s age it makes sense to make more and more use of him as GK coach therefore retain his services.

  2. I’m not negative. I love this site. But, please, shake your head lad.

    We would need to pretty much win every game from now until the end of the season. We can’t win two on the bounce. Christ, you’re deluded.

    • I wasn’t quite sure I should publish your comment. I think it is bang out of order for you to attack any of my writers for being deluded. Just because you don’t think City can get promoted, it does not give you the right to attack and insult people who might do. I am shaking my head straight back at you.

    • Deluded? Think the word you should be looking for is positive. I’ve said it’s a long shot but not impossible. Until its out of reach, why not believe that it can be done?!

      • There nothing deluded about Mark’s comment . Although I think the play offs are over myself in no way would I say to any other Cty supporter who is positive enough to still believe it can happen deluded.
        Mark could be right a win at Exeter this afternoon , we then have 3 home games on the bounce if pp gets the selection right and a bit of luck (which we’ve lacked all season) end of march mark would have every reason to ask me and the gentleman with the deluded comment to ask us to eat humble pie!

    • One of the (many) good things about this site is that the comments can contain debate and disagreement without descending into the name-calling and personal attacks we often get on other forums. If you love this site please help us all to keep it that way.
      Play offs are certainly a long shot unless one of our strikers discovers some shooting boots pretty quickly, which looks unlikely. I don’t agree with Parky that we have enough in the building to make it happen up front; we have struggled to convert our dominance into goals all season. I think he should gamble on giving Connell an extended run. If that doesn’t work it will be no different from what is already happening so he might as well try it.

      • Just to pick up Steve on your assessment of our forwards.
        I do find it strange Mr Parkinson’s stubborness on the Connell debate.
        When pp signed gray I was shocked he hadn’t played much football at Leeds and to give one 35 year old an 18month contract straight away when Manchester united only offer 12 month deals to players over 32 was very strange!.
        If there’s one little criticism it’s the gray signing.
        We needed either a stong target man or another forward who has a threat behind!
        We also needed the striker to come in and be upto speed straight away rather than looking for match fitness.
        So we have two strikers in Connell , gray that one isn’t fancied to start and another looking for match fitness.
        I’ve been very impressed with thommo upfront recently he’s looked
        Every bit the player I remember when McCall tried to sign him.

    • I may be wrong but the style of Mr Jamming’s comment sounds remarkably like OMB_CTID, who has been permanently banned from C&B for persistent personal comments and WUMming. If that is the case, please don’t attempt to bring down the level of debate on here. If you are not OMB_CTID, I apologise.

  3. Bloody hell I’m now offended. To call someone deluded is not a personal insult. And it was certainly not meant as such. To be delusional is to believe in the un obtainable. I believed the ask of reaching the play offs was uncontainable and therefore deluded. That is backed by FACT ( Rafa!). The fact we simply haven’t got that form. The fact to that to win the amount of games required would almost double our wins for the entire season.

    The fact that our form is shocking. Our points tally per game is not agreeable to what was being suggested. The fact we don’t score more goals than we conceded.

    I don’t know Scully. I know who he hangs around with and they are all good lads. So Scully most probably, and will be, a good lad. I have my debates with Jason, but he enhances this club in debate and reporting.

    His response to my post is a bit beyond what I expected frankly. I have an opinion like he does. Just because mine does not accord with his does not merit such a response. Nor do the other comments.

    I write this at midnight after a 4-1 defeat. I really don’t want to say it. I take no joy from it. But…..

    • Hi Ben

      Firstly I did not realise this comment was from you. I’ve spoke with you several times on Twitter and you seem a good bloke.

      However, I do stand by my comment that yours was out or order. Your definition of what deluded means is simply wrong. Delusion means to hold misleading views or to have made a misleading judgement. Basically you are not saying that Mark believes in something that cannot be obtained by using the term ‘deluded’, you are insultingly saying that he has made an incorrect judgement or that he, to quote an online dictionary, is “deceiving someone into believing something which is false”. Whatever your opinion on City’s promotion hopes (I agree they are all but over), it is not false to say we still have a chance. Even now.

      Equally writing “please shake your head lad” is dismissive and rude. Again, as I originally wrote, just because you do not agree with an article does not mean it is wrong or that the person who wrote the article is less intelligent or has some sort of agenda.

      If your original comment was not meant in the above way then fine, make that clear. But that is not how it reads to other people; it comes across aggressive and spiteful. I can tell you now that the author of the piece was hurt and offended by it as well.

      At the end of the day, as editor of this site I have a duty to protect my writing team. There is little glory in what they do for me and the readers. They do not get paid a penny, they give up their spare time and typically an article will take two hours plus to write. That doesn’t mean their articles are above criticism or question, but it also doesn’t mean they deserve to have their efforts and views insulted.

      I have no problem with you disagreeing with Mark’s article and I doubt he does either. But the tone and use of language in your original comment does not come across in the manner that it appears you intended it to.

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