Second-placed Valiants stand in way of further upward progress for City
Exeter City could find themselves sitting in second place in npower League Two tonight – if they can depose the present occupants of that rung in the standings.
On a weekend of tussles at the top end of the table, second-placed Port Vale make the trek from Staffordshire to take on fourth-placed Exeter at St James' Park today. At Whaddon Road, fifth-placed Cheltenham Town entertain third-placed Fleetwood Town.
Only two points separate the four teams. The Grecians are one point adrift of both the Valiants, their opponents this afternoon, and the Trawlermen from Lancashire, and are one point better off than the Robins from Gloucestershire.
The opportunity to make upward movement is there, but City know that they have a tough task on their hands. Port Vale, who romped to a 3-1 win at Plymouth Argyle when they came down to Devon last month, are a capable team.
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With experienced manager Micky Adams at the helm, the men from Vale Park are challenging for promotion despite the handicap of having been in administration since March this year. Their squad includes Wales international defender Richard Duffy, who was tempted away from St James' Park back in July.
Exeter manager Paul Tisdale, whose side responded to two defeats in a row by securing a 2-1 win at Barnet on Tuesday, said: "Port Vale have had a very good season so far.
"They will be well organised under Micky Adams, who I know, and they can score goals. They are a threat, and they are above us in the league because they deserve it. We'll have to see if we can match them and put up a show.
"It will be a very difficult game. It felt fantastic winning at Barnet, and we know Port Vale will be a good test for us. The game will certainly go a long way towards proving where we are as a team."
"This game against Port Vale and the other games we've got coming up shortly will give us a really clear indication of where we are."
Adams and Tisdale were on the Southampton playing staff at the same time in the 1990s. The Vale boss respects City but has promised to send out an attacking team today. He said: "They're a good side with a lot of experience, but people have seen my teams this year – we're not set up to defend.
"With the attacking players in our squad, we have to go forward, even if we do it at our own expense sometimes. We're not bothered by Exeter's form. We'll just do what we always do and try to win the game."
If the Grecians are able to vanquish the Valiants this afternoon, Jamie Cureton may well have something to it. The wily goal poacher scored twice at Underhill in midweek to take his tally to nine goals in ten League games this term.
"We know he can score goals, and he has done very, very well," said Tisdale, who has managed the 37-year-old very effectively this term.
"We're asking him to do what he can do and do well, and we're not asking him to dilute his energy or his focus in other areas. We want him in the right place at the right time, and he has responded by doing the right things."
Asked whether Cureton will be rested from time to time, Tisdale answered: "Never say never. I wouldn't rule that out, and every game is different.
"There will be a point in the season where I will have that choice to make, but he'll never want to miss a game. I can assure you of that."
Adams is well aware of the threat posed by City's top scorer. Vale's manager declared: "We'll be mindful of Cureton, particularly in and around the box. We have to keep him quiet, and, if we do, without being disrespectful to the rest of the team, it would be halfway to getting a result."
Exeter City (from): Evans, Krysiak; Amankwaah, Tully, Woodman, Moore-Taylor, Baldwin, Coles, Oakley, Davies, Cureton, Doherty, Sercombe, Gow, Frear, O'Flynn, Bauza, Keohane, Nichols, Chamberlain, Cane, Micklewright, Roper, Wannell.
Doubtful: Sercombe (ankle), Gow (knee).
Unavailable: Bennett (leg).