Pompey v Exeter: The opposition view

Exeter stand nine games unbeaten and last weekend comfortably defeated in-form Colchester United 3-0.

Saturday, 28th January 2017, 9:00 am
Exeter City's Liam McAlinden

It is a far cry from the side which began the season bottom of League Two, racked by injury and with some supporters against the manager.

During that time, seven defenders were out of action. At present, there are two injuries in the entire squad, allowing Paul Tisdale to field a settled side.

Supporters have now started to get really behind the team, there is harmony when before there was none.

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At one stage there was a protest against the manager, with a vote to serve notice on his contract.

It was a situation born out of frustration. Supporters knew the Grecians possessed a good squad – and now it has come to fruition.

In fairness, Tisdale has never always had the fans onside. When he arrived from Team Bath as boss in 2006, some accused him of being nothing more than a teacher.

Crucially, the emptying of the treatment room has enabled the manager to select a settled side.

Players can now focus on their own game and that has been no more evident than in the performances of Ollie Watkins.

The forward has been involved in 11 of Exeter’s past 20 goals. Last weekend’s win over Colchester involved a hat-trick of assists.

Earlier in the season he had to perform five different jobs to compensate for injuries, denying him the chance to be able to concentrate on his own game.

Watkins’ performances have attracted interest from Derby, while Brentford had a bid turned down in the summer.

In addition, this week has seen a £350,000 bid from Mansfield rejected.

The feeling is he will remain beyond the transfer window, before the situation is looked at in the summer.

The 21-year-old is athletic, very quick, strong and has great ball control. Recently, he has grown a little in awareness around the pitch and can pick out a player with a good pass.

He also scored a last-gasp equaliser against Pompey last season.

Another to watch out for is Liam McAlinden, who has done well coming off the bench in recent matches.

The game plan has been to let Reuben Reid run around like a bull in a china shop for an hour to tire out the opposition defence.

Then McAlinden, who is very pacy and strong, comes on around the hour mark to take advantage.

Reid has done fairly well, with six goals in 20 matches, and is a lot more of a selfless player than people give him credit.

It has taken him a while to get fit, but he is a regular.