Paul Tisdale pleased with settled defence
As far as freak results go, then Morecambe's win at Exeter City on the opening day of this season was right up there.
Today, the two meet again with the Grecians looking to avenge that 3-0 defeat, which is remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Hopes were high back in August that City could start the campaign well. The sun shone, the pitch looked immaculate and pre-season optimism sprung eternal. But errors from Artur Krysiak and a new-look defence contributed to a downfall that left everyone inside St James' Park shells-hocked as Morecambe capitalised on the home team's generosity to win comfortably.
Today is not so much a case of revenge for Exeter, but an opportunity to show just how far they have progressed. It is also a chance to get back to winning ways after the disappointment of back-to-back home games in which they failed to score and collected just a solitary point.
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"At the time, I thought it was a freak result, but, when you look back over the course of the year, maybe it wasn't so unusual," City boss Paul Tisdale said, referring to Exeter's poor home form this season.
"We didn't play badly on the day and, at the time, that defence was still settling into a pattern, learning differences and getting to know each other.
"When you look at the past six games, that back four, or five, if you include Artur [Krysiak] in that as well, have been very, very consistent."
Of the back line that started on the opening day, only Danny Coles had been at the club the previous season. He was partnered by Pat Baldwin, who ended the campaign on loan at Exeter and signed permanently that summer, while full-backs Kevin Amankwaah and Craig Woodman were making their league debuts for the Grecians. Artur Krysiak was in goal and those five are all expected to start again today, having improved greatly individually and collectively as the season's unfolded.
"The halfway point is a conjuncture that I will always look at and we have been very strong at the back," Tisdale said. "I don't want to tempt fate, but I don't think we would make those mistakes now.
"Morecambe did really well on the day, whether we made mistakes or not. I am sure, if we played the game again, it wouldn't be the same result, but they deserved the win given the way they played and the mistakes we made.
"I am more than happy with the way the defence have played, given that it has had to reinvent itself and we have two great leaders in Danny Coles and Pat Baldwin.
"They get on very well together, which helps, and enjoy playing as a partnership. They will only improve the more they play together and I think it's fair to say you have to put Artur Krysiak into the equation as well."
Tisdale will be forced into making at least one change today, with Matt Oakley set to miss the next month with a hip injury. The former Southampton, Derby County and Leicester City playmaker has featured in every game for the Grecians this season.
"John O'Flynn will still be a couple of weeks, Matt Oakley is injured and will be out for a month and Liam Sercombe is still out, so we are not 100% this week, but I think we are strong enough to go into the game with expectation," Tisdale said. "Matt has been very energetic and mobile for a senior player and I think he has surprised himself with how fit he has been.
"It is a big loss for us and, with Liam Sercombe out as well, it depletes us somewhat. But we have some good players that can come in and play, but it is one of those things that you have to expect at this time of the year."
Tommy Doherty and Arron Davies are the likely candidates to replace Oakley, while Jimmy Keohane may be in line for a recall, having played so well in Exeter's last away game at York City.
The Grecians won 2-1 that day to make it nine away wins for the season so far. One more would create a new club record, but Tisdale was reluctant to talk about it. "We haven't achieved it yet and I will talk about it when we have achieved it," Tisdale said.
Exeter City (from): Krysiak, Evans; Tully, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Gow, Cureton, Davies, Doherty, Amankwaah, Bauza, Keohane, Molesley, Dawson, Moore-Taylor, Gosling, Jagger-Cane, Micklewright, Roper, Wannell, Anderson.
Unavailable: Sercombe (ankle), O'Flynn (hamstring), Oakley (hip).