• Kieran Horn

Matt Taylor on feel-good factor at Exeter & injuries ahead of clash with "impressive" Bristol Rovers

Updated: Mar 11

Exeter City manager Matt Taylor believes fans attending matches this season supporting the Grecians are feeling something different than what they've experienced before.

Since January 4 the Grecians are unbeaten in League Two - a run that spans eight games with the most recent four all being victories - and have thus surged up the table now finding themselves in 4th place, three points off the automatic promotion spots, but with several games in hand on the teams above them.

Many of the victories have come via dramatic late goals, with the wins over Swindon Town and Leyton Orient both coming through goals in the final stages, but the best example of this came in the unbelievable comeback against Harrogate Town ten days ago where City came from behind twice with Jack Sparkes scoring the winner in the fifth minute of added time.

Ahead of the huge match with in-form Bristol Rovers on Saturday, Taylor admitted himself and the players are firmly focused on the task at hand, but does believe that supporters are feeling different about the club than how they may have before.

"I think the best way to describe it would be that if you speak to people, just anyone who’s been at the games recently, they’ve felt something more," Taylor said.

"Certainly, the Swindon game whether it was messages or people who were at that game felt that was a really good game to be at first and foremost, but a good game for the club and the support we had up at Bradford.

"There’s been some exciting moments and some dull moments. The feel good factor is only there if you’re producing good performance and winning games of football.

"I cast my mind back to 20 minutes into the Harrogate game and there wasn’t really a feel-good factor, when I’m getting boo’s for taking Cheick Diabate off.

"So we know how quickly football can change and as much as we’ve been pleased with the winning run and our form since the new year, we know how difficult this league is.

"There are still 16 games and at some stage we’ll need the support to see us through as much as we’re trying to pull them through.

Taylor's side had the opportunity to extend their winning streak and thus unbeaten run last Saturday but their home match against Barrow was called off following damage to the Big Bank because of Storm Eunice.

While it was a chance for the Grecians to keep their momentum going after a miraculous mid-week victory, the extra rest has allowed for important players to come back into the fold, with the four first team players who were doubts for the game against Barrow, available to play at the weekend.

"Kieran's (Phillips) swelling went down substantially enough to the point he would’ve possibly played a part against barrow," Taylor revealed. "He might not have been able to start the game, but he was going to be available.

"Sam (Stubbs) was going to be unavailable for that game (Barrow) but it’s given him an extra few days to get his shoulder healed first and foremost and then do some strength work.

"So we’ll just have to keep him going and see how he reacts when he next takes a knock on it.

"We were able to look after Josh Key for the game on Tuesday and then the few days afterwards. So he’s had a mini break as has Archie Collins.

"There’s no Offrande Zanzala, Harry Kite or Padraig Amond this week, but the rest of the group including Alex Hartridge, Nigel Atangana and Josh Coley who all played 90 minutes or close to 90 minutes on Tuesday (against Wolves U23s) are ready.

"So I’m pleased with where the squad is you always want it to be full strength but it’s never full strength let’s be honest."

Only two teams sit above Exeter in the form table over the last ten games, Mansfield are top having not lost once in ten, while Bristol Rovers, who will face Exeter at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday, sit in second place.

The Grecians are familiar with the Gas, having played them twice at St James Park already this season. In their first meeting a few games into the League Two season, Exeter were up 4-0 at half time then a few months later in the Papa John's Trophy the home side were five goals in front.

However, Rovers, guided by Joey Barton, have only lost one of their last eleven league games, keeping four consecutive clean sheets in the process, and Taylor is expecting an entirely different story to their previous two games.

"They are the form team," he said. "Our form is pretty good, but they’re off the back of a four-game not only winning run but clean sheet run as well.

"Some convincing victories and performances along the way as well, so they’ve been really impressive. A totally different team to what we’ve faced a couple of times earlier on in the season.

"So we go to a relatively local away fixture and I’m sure we’ll be well supported as we always do and I’m sure the home fans we’ll be in good voice.

"So we’re looking forward to what’s going to be a good game of league two football and hopefully a good pitch with two good teams in a good position at the moment."