• Kieran Horn

Matt Taylor on promotion pressure, Carlisle & how he compares his current squad to previous years

Matt Taylor insists his players must “enjoy and embrace” the pressure of their final seven games as the Grecians aim to strengthen their claim on automatic promotion this Saturday against Carlisle United.

Exeter stretched their latest unbeaten run to seven games last weekend with an excellent victory against fellow promotion-chasers Newport County which took the Grecians five points clear in the automatic promotion slots.

With the season coming closer to its climax, whether or not the Grecians will be playing League One football next season is very much in their own hands.

But Taylor believes that his players shouldn’t feel the pressure of being so close to promotion, yet if they do, to at least embrace it positively.

“I think the real pressure is fighting for your lives down the bottom of the table,” Taylor said. “Our pressure we have to embrace and enjoy and you can spread that pressure out any way you want to, but we’ve said constantly that we have to enjoy this run-in.

“These next six or seven games is going to be critical in terms of where we end up this season.

“We know exactly what position we’re in. We know where we want to finish and we know how we want to get there.

“But there’s seven big games to come starting this weekend and there’s so much more football to be played elsewhere which can have an effect as well.”

The Grecians are set to still be without their long-term absentees for this weekend’s game with Harry Kite, Sam Nombe and Kyle Taylor all recovering from serious injuries.

However, Taylor does have some extra bodies he can call on at the weekend with Padraig Amond available to play again after missing the Newport win as the Welsh side are his parent club. While Nigel Atangana’s three game suspension has finished.

After having one spot free on the bench last Saturday, Exeter can travel to Cumbria with more options and Taylor is expecting a challenging test with the boss giving a possible scenario as to how the game might unfold.

“They’re safe, (an) incredible position to be in from when the manager (Paul Simpson) took over nine or ten games ago,” he said.

“He’s done a fantastic job and has picked up some incredible results. But it also means there’s no pressure or expectation as the game progresses.

“The reason I say that is because in the Newport game when we scored with 20 minutes to go, the onus is on Newport to try and change the outcome of the game. Whether Carlisle will do the same or our future opponents that remains to be seen.”

Following the win over Oldham just under three weeks ago, Taylor had just one fit midfielder at his disposal leading to Callum Rowe being recalled from his loan at Bath City.

His two dominating performances against Port Vale and Stevenage led to him starting against Newport even though Tim Dieng was fit to start, with club captain Matt Jay the player missing out.

The competition for places in Devon is arguably the best it has been for a few seasons and while Taylor believes during previous seasons, he has had more players capable of producing magical moments, his current squad is the best he has had during his time at Exeter.

“In terms of size and number of players it’s the best,” he said. “In terms of ultimate quality, in my first season and certainly second season there were some outstanding players within those two groups.

"With no disrespect to this group of players, we’ve got no stand out or no exceptions. We’ve got a whole host of honest players. Good players within that and ones who enjoy each other’s company.

“In terms of out and out quality that first part of my stint as manager there was more individual quality, but collectively this is the best group I’ve worked with based on their attitude, endeavour, their will and their team spirit.”