The Opposition View: Exeter City

Last updated : 26 August 2016 By Jim Bonner

How do you assess the start to Exeter's season so far and what are the expectations this season?

Not a great start for us, in all honesty. After winning seven out of seven in pre-season, optimism was pretty high with the City supporters but four defeats from the first six matches has seen it signifacantly reduce.

We've had a number of key players missing but still should have done much better in the games where we conceded late goals to lose at home to both Hartlepool and Crawley.

For me personally, I'm not expecting too much from us this season. Our playing budget looks to have been reduced with the club seemingly intent on investing recent windfalls into the academy side of things.

I don't think we've adequately replaced players such as Christian Ribeiro, Jayden Stockley or David Noble and can't see ourselves being close to challenging for promotion this season. If someone offered me a top half finish and a decent run in the FA Cup, I'd take it, without a shadow of a doubt.

Paul Tisdale has been at Exeter a very long time now. What are Grecians' views on him these days?

These days, there is a very vocal opposition to Tisdale. There is no doubting that he did brilliantly for us in his first five years with us, but the five that have followed has seen the fans opinions of him turn dramatically. It's not so much the league positions which have caused this, but the fact that our home form since we have returned to League Two has been absolutely woeful. Tis hasn't been able to turn it around and find a way of consistently winning matches at St James Park and I think this is the main problem fans have.

Who are the key players in this current Exeter side?

Hard to answer as arguably our two best players in Lee Holmes and David Wheeler have both been missing for a chunk of the season due to injury and personal reasons, respectively. Jake Taylor seems to be finding some form on the right of midfield scoring in both of his last two matches.

However, for me, the main bright spark has been 15-year-old centre back Ethan Ampadu. He's an absolute class act who shows maturity way beyond his years. He's featured in three matches so far this season and has arguably been the best player on the pitch in all of those games. I'd prefer to see him in central midfield where I believe he could really dictate the game, but he's been brilliant so far at centre half so it's more than understandable why Tisdale would want to play him there.

What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of your team?

Our biggest strength would be we have a lot of good, technical players in the side to allow us to try and play good football. Tisdale prides himself on playing football in what he deems to be 'the right way' and has built a side that he feels can follow his instructions as best as possible.

Biggest weakness, for probably the fourth or fifth year straight, will be our inability to defend as a team. With a lack of strength and athleticism in the midfield, we tend to get overrun and find our defence exposed when teams attack quickly and in large numbers.

Exeter are known for playing attacking football so can we expect an open game at St. James' Park on Saturday?

I'd expect so. As mentioned above, we aren't really well equipped to stick 11 men behind the ball and try and hold out for 90 minutes so we need to play to our strengths and come out attacking. We are probably playing one of the best sides on paper on Saturday against Portsmouth so we won't naively be going out all guns blazing but I suspect it will be open game.

Predict the outcome of the game.

Neither side will be entirely satisfied with the start they've had to the season, I think it'll finish up as an entertaining 1-1 draw with Wheeler grabbing an equaliser for us.