Exeter City manager Matt Taylor wants his team to go into tomorrow night’s League Two play-off second leg against Colchester United ‘with all guns blazing’, writes Gareth Davies.
The passionate plea comes after the Grecians were defeated 1-0 in Essex on Thursday evening.
With neither team able to create a chance of note as time ticked down, a 0-0 draw seemed the most probable outcome. However, there was a final twist in the tale for City as Connor Bramall’s brilliant free-kick gave John McGreal’s U’s a precious 1-0 advantage going into tomorrow’s second leg at St James Park.
Speaking after the match via zoom to local media, which included The Independent, Taylor was still confident about the chances of his team, despite being behind at the half way stage of a two-legged affair, with a Wembley final for the victor.
“We have to go into Monday’s match with all guns blazing,” he enthused.
“We look forward to playing at home and there will be a few more people who will feel comfortable about the fixture and the travelling.
“We have to look forward to it as we’re well in this tie. If we had come away with a draw, it would have been a fair result from our point of view, but we can’t be negative going into Monday night.”
With Taylor remaining positive – and why should he be anything else as Exeter didn’t deserve to lose on Thursday night – he has to do so with injury worries over 33-year-old former Manchester United man Lee Martin.
He was forced off during the first half and is a major doubt for tomorrow’s match, which will be played behind-closed-doors and kicks off at 5.15pm.
Taylor also explained the rationale behind some of his substitutes with midfielder Nicky Law mid-way through the second half.
“Lee Martin has picked up an injury so that (substitution) was enforced,” he added. “Nicky was on a booking and physically it was a difficult game for Nicky and he was never going to play the full 90 minutes.
“I think you could also see that we were getting tired down our left hand side and although Deano (Dean Moxey) is experieced, Jack (Sparkes, playing his first game since Boxing day) is inexprienced to a certain extent so we were tiring down that side and felt we needed to strengthen that.
“Look, its not ideal as it looks like we will lose Lee for Monday night and he is an influential member of the group.
“We have to dust ourselves down and the lads who played a full 90 minutes will be asked to do so again on Monday night, when we have to be a bit more agressive and test the opposition’s back four and goalkeeper a little bit more than we did.
Although visibly disappointed that his team had lost late on, Taylor once again remained bullish about the chances of his side tomorrow.
“We were in the game for the majority and becaue it’s such a tight margin, it gives us great confidence for Monday. We would have just liked to come away all square,” he enthusd.
“They (Exeter) are an honest bunch and this is two honest teams going at it. There were mistakes all over the pitch, but that wasn’t for the want of trying.
“Perhaps on Monday we will be better for a game in our legs because once you get that first one out the way, you are less rusty.
“It was a good surface, we couldn’t complain about the surface in terms of the way we used the ball, it was just down to fatigue and the way the mind was working.
“We have to move the ball with a little more purpose in the final third if we want to be successful. That is what we have been working on because we know that has been our downfall as we have been relatively strong in our shape and organisation – we have to threaten the opposition goal a bit more.”
With Taylor demanding more in attacking areas, he would not be drawn on the fitness of striker Nicky Ajose after the much-travelled attacker wasn’t named in the Grecians’ matchday squad.
“He picked up an ankle injury on our second day back to full training,” Taylor revealed. “He missed the best part of ten days and when you only have a small time frame to prepare for a big game, when a player misses a big chunk like that, he was going to be fit for Thursday.
“We will assess him physically over the next couple of days and if he is in any kind of shape then he will get an opportunity. If he’s too far off, then we won’t risk playing players who arean’t fully fit I’m afraid.
“It’s not ideal when you pick up a couple of niggles, but I’m sure Colchester are the same and that will always happen in a compact training period.”