Opposition view: Exeter (A)

Before we look at the game, could you give us a memory from previous games against the Gas?

I’ve actually only ever seen Exeter play Rovers once. I’m recent seasons we’ve been like passing ships, mainly avoiding each other with various promotions and relegations. The one memory I have though is of a 1-1 draw against Rovers in your double promotion season out of League Two. Not the most memorable of scorelines but two late goals and a late late equaliser from Jamie Reid I think eventually earning us a point. Looking back on both teams out that day though, there was plenty of talent on both sides!

How has your season been going so far?

We’re yet to score a goal! 2 points on the board and an abysmal performance against Leyton Orient alongside a Carabao Cup loss on pens at home to Wycombe thrown in for good measure.

We’re missing lots of key players through covid or injury (Sparkes, Collins, Nombe) and we’ve just let Joel Randall go to Peterborough for a fee of around £1.2m so recent line ups have been lacking in strength.

The good news is that we’ve kept 3 clean sheets already this season and for a side that loved throwing away a win to become a 2-2 draw last season, that’s good news.

If we can find a way to score, the results will pick up.

And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?

It has to be a top 7 finish. The group is talented enough to make the play offs and that’s what we should be aiming for without a doubt. We are slightly lacking in creativity in the midfield, especially with Archie Collins missing at present but with the transfer window still open, I hope we see another face or two come in to add depth. If that happens, we should be making the play offs.

How is your form coming into the game?

Three 0-0 draws and one 3-0 loss away from home don’t make for the best reading. As I’ve mentioned, we’re missing some key players and it’s early in the season so you don’t want to read into it too much but we’d have hoped to have at least one win on the board by now.

Having said that, Orient were my dark horses this season and they were excellent against us last weekend. Hopefully we can maintain the defensive stability (ignoring the Orient game) and build on it with adding a goal or two at the other end.

How do you think you’ll setup for our game?

We’ve moved to a 5 at the back this season after being far too soft in defence last campaign. The width will come from the full backs pushing on and we will likely see Dieng and Atangana both sitting in midfield with Matt Jay and Jevani Brown supproting Sam Nombe (if available) up top.

We’ve been asking our full backs to swing lots of crosses into the box but having let Bowman leave this summer, there’s no one really there to get on the end of them.

Any weak links in your side?

With Sparkes out, it’s likely that Jake Caprice will fill in at LWB like he did last night against Barrow. He’s not played there an awful lot so it’s an obvious target.

Our defence is aerially dominant but lacks pace so can be vulnerable to balls into space behind for pacy forwards to latch on to.

Out front three are also looking pretty isolated at the moment. With no Archie Collins in the side to progress the ball from midfield, Matt Jay is having to drop deeper to gain possession and hasn’t quite looked like hitting the form he was able to achieve last season.

Who are your standout players?

Before Jack Sparkes broke his collarbone last week, I’d have to say it was him! He’s looked really bright this season and has progressed as a player over the summer.

In his absence, it’s got to be Jevani Brown. Comfortable on the ball but with some pace and physicality, he has the potential to cause teams some trouble this season. If we can get players closer to him in the final third, he could be a handful to deal with.

Game prediction

I think we’re finally going to get off the mark this weekend. I think we’ll only score the one goal but it will be good to finally get past that hurdle and hopefully build some confidence.

My heart says a 1-0 win but my head says a 1-1 draw.

Where do you think you’ll be come the end of the season?

I’m still confident that we will pick up form and start winning games. My prediction of 6th/7th is still what I’d go for.