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Experienced players let down Exeter City who suffer more home frustration

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 24, 2014

Exeter's John O'Flynn has a shot on goal while Rochdale's Matthew Lund closes in

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IF SATURDAY’s latest home defeat to Rochdale is anything to go by, then Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale may be genuinely tempted to do away with his experienced players and throw all of his promising youngsters into the first team.

Not for the first time this season, the elder statesmen in the starting XI let City down with a poor performance as the Grecians suffered a seventh home defeat of the campaign, 1-0, to an impressive Rochdale side.

Only Wycombe, who Exeter face at St James’ Park tomorrow, have a worse record on home soil and this latest defeat stretches City’s winless home run to ten matches.

Their 13 goals scored at the Park is the joint-worst in the division, along with Devon rivals Torquay and Plymouth, while the latest blank was City’s seventh in the last ten home games.

No wonder the natives are getting restless and people are staying away.

The floating fans are seemingly long gone and the patience of the most ardent home fan is being severely tested by what is nothing more than a shocking home record.

Yes, there have been some hard luck stories in that run, but an underlying factor in all of those games is Exeter’s poor defensive record. They have kept only two clean sheets at home this campaign – five all campaign – and the performance of the entire backline on Saturday was very poor.

None more so than on the stroke of half-time when Jamie Allen scored the only goal of the game.

Danny Butterfield was caught out as Dale took a quick throw and Christy Pym could only parry Ian Henderson’s hooked shot into the path of Jamie Allen, who was free to tap into an empty net.

That goal had been coming and the Grecians were indebted to Pym for keeping them in the game. The youngster again showed what a great prospect he looks and it was little surprise to hear him named as the sponsors’ man of the match after a game where he made several good saves.

However, he was not helped by a back four that looked slow, lethargic and incapable of communicating. Whether Exeter’s gruelling run of games had finally caught up with them, who knows. But it is certainly an area Tisdale must look at for next season because it was another poor goal in a catalogue of soft ones conceded this campaign.

Morecambe’s goal on Tuesday may have been a good finish from an incisive through ball, but the gaping hole in the Exeter backline was quite alarming.

The two goals at Southend were almost identical as the Grecians were unable to defend two routine set pieces and Portsmouth also benefited from poor defending at a set piece – there are many more examples if you go back over the season.

You cannot be perfect every week admittedly, but it is all too easy for opposing teams and it leaves Exeter having to score at least twice if they are to stand a chance of winning a game. At the moment, they rarely look like scoring one at home.

Perhaps I am doing them a disservice, because they did have chances against Rochdale. Saturday’s match could have had a far different outcome had Danny Coles and John O’Flynn finished off a superb Matt Grimes free-kick, while O’Flynn’s horrendous sky over the bar from eight yards was more forgivable when you see the equally horrendous bobble the ball took just before he made contact.

Grimes, Liam Sercombe and second-half substitute David Wheeler came out of the match with some credit, but the same cannot be said for the rest.

It was no great surprise to see Jimmy Keohane and Arron Davies depart at the interval as neither player had a good game and one of the replacements, Tom Nichols, at least brought an energy and freshness to Exeter’s attacking play and was arguably City’s best outfield player.

He came closest to levelling with a fierce drive that was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Josh Lillis, but all too often, Exeter were wasteful from the good positions they got into.

Time and again, balls were delivered into the box and the minutes ticked by, but time and again, there was no one there to connect with the ball.

Rochdale always posed a threat on the counter and Matt Lund was denied by the inside of the post after another counter-attack that cut City like a hot knife through butter.

The rumblings of discontent at full-time told its own story. The loyal fanbase that still turns out week after week are growing increasingly restless. They just want to see a home win.

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