• Nathan Smith


Exeter City face a tough test as they head to the Priestfield Stadium to take on an inform Gillingham side, looking to stake a place in the FA Cup third round.

Fresh from the 6-1 thrashing of play off contenders Colchester United, the Grecians will be feeling confident, but the congested fixture list may mean Matt Taylor will have to make some changes to his side.

“This might be a game where we see a couple of the faces we might not have seen for the last four to six weeks in Lewis Page and Nigel Atangana.”

The return of Page and Atangana was certainly good news to the City boss as he welcomes back two important players to the team.

“Full credit to Lewis (Page), he’s trained with the group for just over a week now, so he’s available for selection, realistically he probably won’t have 90 minutes in him and we’ll have to look after him to a certain extent.”

Taylor added, “It’s the same for Nigel Atangana, two big players for us, and two players who are going to contribute and we’ve got to keep them both fit and get them in form and firing but more competition for places, which as a manager you want regardless of the fixture congestion.”

Gillingham is certainly a tough test for Exeter, as the League One side are technically five unbeaten, if you exclude a penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal U23’s.

Taylor said, “They’ve got some good players at League One level. We know about some of their opposition, some of their individuals and form is key as well, confidence in football is a key aspect and they’ve started picking up results and gone on a good run themselves.”

However, this test is relished by Taylor and his players, and instead seen as an opportunity to show how good they are.

“I’ve said time and time again, we’ve got a lot of players who feel they’ve got the potential to play higher, and these sort of fixtures are our opportunity to go and prove they can.”

“I think they are midtable but I’m sure they’ll be pushing and with a manager like Steve Evans, he will get them right up for this weekend and he’s always had a good record in the FA Cup as well so he’ll want to win this game. All to play for this weekend, and one which we are really excited about.”

After the good news that fans are soon to be allowed back into games, the upcoming tie against Gillingham could be one of the few behind closed door games Exeter have to play.

One thing most Exeter fans have taken away from games with no fans, is how much of a vocal presence Taylor is on the touchline, but that might not be to the delight of some of the manager’s close family as Taylor joked:

“I’ve got to watch my P and Qs; I get told off by my parents and my Nan!”

Taylor, on a more serious note, added: “It’s one of them, you’ve got to be careful with what you say but also, when it’s so quiet, any feedback is negative or any criticism is out in the open, certainly towards the players, then it can have a really negative effect on some people and how they take that criticism. We try and be positive as much as we can, and try to encourage, try to identify areas we can improve with the game, while the game’s going on.”

With fixtures coming thick and fast, there is no doubt Exeter will want to get back into a good run of form, and there wouldn’t be a better way to build off Tuesday’s performance, then by sealing a place into the FA Cup third round.