Friday, 25 September 2009

Exeter City Preview

It’s a sign of heightened expectations and performances that two drawn games in succession is being considered a ‘dip’ by some. Whilst the games against Southampton and Norwich were both winnable, maintaining our unbeaten record against two teams who finished higher than us last season shouldn’t really be considered too disastrous. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard people booing the team off against Southampton at half time!

So a chance to make everybody happy again tomorrow when Exeter City come to The Valley. Like many of our opponents this season, I don’t know very much about them other than that we were playing two leagues apart this time last year, and that they have had a solid if not spectacular start to life in League One. Paul Tisdale is considered to be one of the brightest managerial prospects on the circuit and there is little doubt he will put out a well organised and disciplined side.

It is dangerous to start to think that we will just roll sides like this over when they come to SE7 and I’m sure Phil Parkinson will have prepared accordingly, knowing that dropped points may allow Bristol Rovers to sneak into the second automatic promotion spot. This is a game we should be looking to win however, allowing to us to capitalise on any potential slip up by Leeds who face a tough away fixture at the MK Dons.

In terms of personnel, there are reports that Nicky Bailey and Frazer Richardson may not be fit to play, although I am sure we have heard this before a game more than once this season! Hopefully they will take to the field and if so then it doesn’t really make sense to ‘shuffle the pack’. If not, I would expect Matthew Spring and Chris Solly to deputise, and Exeter will probably fancy their chances a bit more.

When you’re unbeaten in eight, criticism seems a bit churlish but I do continue to worry about us defensively. On the opening day of the season we twice let Wycombe back into the game, and against Southampton I thought we were poor. Throwing away three points in injury time against Norwich wasn’t exactly smart either. Hopefully the team will have benefited from the realisation that they are not invincible and have to stay switched on for the full 90 minutes (or 93 minutes in the case of the Norwich City game).

Another worry (I’m sorry, it wouldn’t be a post about Charlton if there wasn’t something to moan about!), is our options up front. Deon Burton has surpassed my wildest expectations this season, but should he get injured, or Parkinson decide to play a more orthodox 4-4-2, then we only have Izale McLeod or a not yet fit Leon McKenzie to turn to. Whilst the jury is still out on McKenzie as we have yet to see him play, I can’t say I have much confidence in McLeod. Did someone mention Chris Dickson?

I guess this nitpicking is owing to the fact that I’m starting to worry about the next two games, away to Colchester and Leeds. These are surely the litmus test of our promotion credentials and we need to make sure we are going into them on firing on all cylinders. Stuart Fleetwood in an interview this week said that there was clear water between the top two (us and Leeds) and the rest of the league. I’m not convinced of that and think there will be 5 or 6 teams in the mix come May.

I can’t make the game tomorrow owing to plans made in advance of the season starting (I really must stop doing that) but I am hoping for a win to boost confidence ahead of the next two trips. Enjoy the match and I look forward to reading the reports.

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