• Nathan Smith

"PUSHING TOWARDS THE TOP IS WHERE WE WANT TO BE": MATT TAYLOR SPEAKS AHEAD OF HARTLEPOOL CLASH


Exeter City will look to extend their unbeaten run as they make the long trip up to fellow promotion chasers Hartlepool United.


After beating Sutton United 2-0, the Grecians will play their second straight newly promoted team in Hartlepool who have encountered a slight blip as of late, only winning one of their last four games.


Despite the run of form, manager Matt Taylor is well aware of the Pools strengths, especially at Victoria Park.


“They’ve not conceded many goals, certainly at home.


“You can sense the feel factor, something that can’t merely be measured, where it’s the fact that their fans haven’t been able to attend for a long period of time, a town in the Northeast of England who are desperate for success.


“It would’ve hurt them a lot when they got relegated but the fact they were able to share their promotion, only at the latter stages, in small amounts and in small numbers, was great for their fans and they’ve really bought in to what they did last season, and what they are trying to do this season.”


After their third win of the season last Saturday, Exeter have now gone six games undefeated, but Taylor believes the squad are remaining level-headed, as they were when they started the season.


“We are eight games in, it’s barely even started yet!


“Everyone judges it differently. When we hadn’t won for the first three games and we hadn’t scored a goal and all the doomers and gloomers were questioning what we were doing, we were pretty level.


“Then you win a couple of games, you’re unbeaten in a certain amount of games, people give you praise but it’s no different, it’s just who we’ve got available, and how the team’s functioning.”


With both sides in play-off contention, this game could be an early look into how will be competing for a place in League One, somewhere that the Grecians boss wants his side to be.


“We are pleased with where we have ended up after eight games, considering the first three games we didn’t win, and we didn’t score.


“The fact that we are pushing towards the top of the table is where we want to be, we always want to be competitive first and foremost, but we always want to be challenging as well, and this weekend will give me more ideas in terms of what this group can achieve.”


Taylor will have a strong squad at his disposal, as Archie Collins and Josh Coley are both available for selection this weekend, with Jonathan Grounds being the only fresh doubt for Exeter.


“Jonathan Grounds picked up a calf injury of some sort, but he’s trained today, it’s the first time he’s trained in probably ten days, so we’ll assess him in relation to making the journey because there’s no point taking players up to Hartlepool if we are not going to use them.


“The rest of the group aren’t in a bad position. Josh Coley is now classed as fully fit, we just need to keep getting him more and more game time, Sam Stubbs and Jack Sparkes are the longer-term absentees.”


That depth is something Taylor isn’t taking for granted, but he’s pleased with the flexibility his squad provides him in-game.


“We were able to affect the game to a certain extent last weekend and we might have to do the same in different capacities and different ways this weekend.


“But the bench is getting stronger and the fact we’ve got players who we expect to improve the team, waiting in the wings is a real strong aspect of where we are. Archie Collins has been a standout performer for a long period of time, and he’s not had any game time in the league for ourselves.


“Josh Coley still to come and affect it and you saw what Kyle (Taylor) and (Owura) Edwards and Nigel (Atangana) to a certain extent did last weekend, so I’m really pleased with the competitive aspect of the squad.”


A win could take either team as high as second in the league, and a defeat could see them drop down as low as 14th.