• Nathan Smith

"Never say never": Exeter City boss Matt Taylor previews Oldham clash, provides Nombe update

Exeter City manager Matt Taylor believes his Exeter City side will have to be at their best as they travel to Boundary Park to travel to a relegation fighting Oldham Athletic.

Despite being at opposite ends of the table, both teams will be looking to come out victorious to help boost their respective campaigns, as Exeter look for promotion and Oldham look to avoid the drop.

The Grecians grinded their way to a scrappy win last Tuesday against Crawley Town, a game where Taylor was not happy with the performance, but delighted with the result, and he expects a similar test this Saturday.

"Perhaps anxiety and nerves fed into the players games on Tuesday night, cause there is expectation, there is pressure, the game produces pressure and we’ve got to withstand those moments but we’ve played a lot better than that at times and not won a game of football.

"I said to the players today, that I’ve sat in so many meetings with managers after the game and been complimented on, in terms of how the teams played, how the teams performed, what direction the team is going in, but I’ve just been beaten, whereas on Tuesday night, Crawley probably deserved something from that game of football and I was able to congratulate their manager, but sit there satisfied that we’d won the game.

"Somehow we’ve got to keep producing wins and producing points, and that was a big hurdle for us to overcome, and the extra day rest puts us in a good position going into Saturday’s fixture which will be no different.

A team scrapping and fighting for everything, they’ve got some good quality players, some players in certain positions we know so well from playing them over the years, over the seasons and a community that is supporting their football club in an impressive manner but a game that if we go in and perform at a certain level, we give ourselves a chance of coming back down the motorway with some points."

The news that Exeter will be without star striker Sam Nombe is certainly not good news, but Taylor hasn't yet ruled out the possibility of the former MK Dons man coming back before the end of the season.

"It is difficult to know, the scan could’ve been better, but it could’ve been worse, it’s probably a mid-range tear in terms of the grading systems.

"But symptoms wise, he’s presenting quite well and in a positive fashion, but with all muscle injuries, for that profile of player, we’ve got to be mindful that when he does come back to fitness, he doesn’t damage it again.

"The next couple of weeks will give us a better indication on whether or not he’ll play on the pitch again this season, but we are hopeful that this time the symptoms are nowhere near what they were last time, and then he returned around the eight week mark, so hopefully we are looking at a smaller time frame then previously.

"You can never say never, if we didn’t scan him and just looked at his symptoms today, his symptoms are in a good place, but we know our scan said there was a significant amount of damage to that hamstring muscle, and we’ve got to be respectful of that.

"We’ll see how he progresses as he starts more aggressive rehab and strength work, that will indicate whether the tear or the strain is there or still significantly that, and obviously the moment he gets outside on the pitch doing more work with the physios and the S & C staff."

Offrande Zanzala lead the line alongside Jevani Brown against Crawley, and Taylor is happy with his forward options in Nombe's absence, although mindful of Zanzala's recent surgery.

"He’s still coming back from surgery after his knee injury, you never want to take players off at certain times during football games but I felt we protected him quite well, we’ve got Kieran (Phillips) and Padraig (Amond) waiting to affect it as well.

"We’ve got options at the top of the pitch who are fresh and ready, keeping them fit is going to be a key aspect of my job, but good to have him back because of what he is, he’s a bit of a bulldozer, a battering ram, I thought he was unlucky on Tuesday, I thought he got pulled back a few times and got given a foul against him!"

In terms of the rest of the squad, Taylor said: "The rest of the group’s not in a bad place, Harry Kite and Jonathan Grounds with their respective muscle injuries will still be a period of time, we don’t expect to see them available or out on the pitch in the next few weeks, which tells you where there original injuries where.

"We are in a positive position, Sam Stubbs would have been borderline for Tuesday, he was outside today, and we’ll assess him tomorrow with a view for the weekend.

"There are some tired bodies, I’m not going to lie, tired bodies both physically and mentally, but really pleased to get through it with three points and all our focus is to put input a performance and some energy on the pitch at Oldham."

A win could send the Grecians into the automatic promotion places, whereas a win for the home side could see them out of the relegation zone.