Tisdale gets creative with training
The rolling hills, the picturesque beaches, the idyllic dense forests and the beautiful countryside are what attract many people to live in Devon, but Exeter City are having to use the county's best features to stay fit and keep alive their promotion dream this season.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, manager Paul Tisdale had just returned from a training session with his players in Milber, near Newton Abbot, where the Grecians are making use of the facilities on offer to prepare for today's npower League Two clash with Aldershot Town.
It is not ideal, but due to the horrendous recent weather, the Grecians have not been able to hold a proper session at their Cat and Fiddle training ground for the best part of two months, so Tisdale and his trusted band of coaches have sought alternative ways to keep the squad in tip-top condition.
"It's very frustrating for us, especially when you are a manager that employs a number of very good coaches and the ethos of the club is to develop players," Tisdale said.
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"We have been very creative and we have had to be patient with the weather we have had. We are trying to come up with as many athletic exercises as we can that doesn't involve keeping the ball on the floor.
"We are having to use alternative facilities and go running in the forest, running on the heath, training indoors and on five-a-side courts and we haven't had any continuity for the past few months."
However, Tisdale was very keen to stress: "I don't want that to be seen as an excuse because it's not. We are capable of winning games and those facilities haven't cost us in the game against Torquay or defending the lead against Barnet.
"It's just not handy and I am sure that there are other clubs at our level that have issues themselves. We are happy with what we have got, it has just been very difficult with the unusually bad weather we have had this winter.
"In the last fortnight, we have trained at the university and had 28 players on half a pitch, we had 16 at Milber, we ran in the forest last Wednesday, we ran on to heath, we went to the beach, so it has not been conducive to continuity.
"All of our tactical work is being done on a video screen, but there we are. It's not the first winter where we have had these problems. We just long for the first signs of spring as it gives us an opportunity to coach the team."
You can understand Tisdale's frustrations, but it is part and parcel of life at St James' Park. The Grecians are blessed with a wonderful facility at the Cat and Fiddle, but you only have to look at the grass to see how squelchy and waterlogged the ground is.
Thankfully, St James' Park is a far better surface today and justifies the club's investment in it two and a half years ago. The only thing lacking is consistent results on home turf, but the Grecians will look to put that right against an Aldershot side who ran Middlesbrough mightily close in last week's FA Cup fourth round.
"That can't harm them," Tisdale said. "They've been very close to taking a Championship side to a replay and they've needed a lot of effort and team work, determination and organisation to achieve such a close game.
"If they're able to do it against Middlesbrough, then I'm sure they'll be able to put some kind of similar performance in against us."
The Grecians will hope for a better result than they managed last time out on home soil. That came on Monday night when Devon rivals Torquay United capitalised on a defensive-looking City to a 1-0 derby victory.
Tisdale came in for some heavy criticism for his decision to leave Jamie Cureton on the substitutes' bench for that clash, where he remained for an hour. His introduction improved the Grecians, but Tisdale has no regrets.
"Supporters will always have an opinion," he said. "There are ones that believe in one thing and ones that believe in another. That game has gone, we have moved on to the next and I don't regret the selection I made.
"I have been here for nearly seven years now, there has been plenty of times where supporters haven't agreed with my selection, and I am not going to start worrying about that now."
Exeter City (from): Krysiak, Evans; Tully, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Oakley, Gow, Cureton, Davies, Doherty, Amankwaah, Bauza, Keohane, Molesley, Dawson, Moore-Taylor, Gosling, Jagger-Cane, Micklewright, Roper, Wannell, Anderson.
Unavailable: Frear, Nichols, Chamberlain (out on loan), Sercombe (ankle), O'Flynn (hamstring).