Striker Tom Nichols says he has improved a lot as a footballer of the past few months having netted Exeter City’s equaliser against Bury on Saturday.
It was the 20-year-old’s first goal for the club this season, but not his first in Grecian colours as he netted for City in their 2-1 win over Chesterfield on the eve of his 18th birthday in August 2011.
Since that goal though Nichols has found first team opportunities hard to come by, hardly featuring for the club at all last season and only making a handful of substitute appearances this.
However, Nichols says he has improved a lot in the last few months and is now targeting a run in the team.
“I was really pleased to get a goal, it has been a while,” said Nichols, who reflecting on his previous spell in the first team added. “I came into the team very young and I was a bit naive. But I have been brought back out of the team and haven’t been back for a few years, but a lot of hard work has gone in on the training ground.
“Robbo (Edwards) has done a lot of work with me and I would say these last few months I have improved more than in the last two years. I have really focused on the things I need to be good at whereas before, I was just playing free, which wasn’t the right thing to do.
“I am pleased with how I am doing at the moment.
“I pride myself on being in the right places, being in and around the box and I have always scored goals – ever since a young age.
“I seem to have that knack of being in the right place which is a good thing to have, but that alone won’t get me in the team, as the manager has said to me.
“I have to work on other side’s of my game and I have done that, so I can do both side’s, which is good.”
Nichols first team chances could be helped by the fact that John O’Flynn limped off injured at the end of the first half against Bury. The City youngster said he hoped his fellow striker partner was alright, but would be there to step in if needed.
“Hopefully Flynny’s injury is nothing serious, but I have been patient and I have been playing well for a few months now, I just need the opportunity,” he said.
“Hopefully – although I hope he hasn’t hurt himself – the opportunity is there, because I know I am going to take it.
“We have a couple of weeks now where we don’t have a game, so I will keep working hard and hopefully, I will be in the starting team for the next game.
“I definitely feel I am as close as I have ever been. I feel ready to play now and if I keep coming on and scoring, then he will have to play me.”
Nichols is not the only youngster to break into the first team recently, with Matt Grimes and Matt Jay also making starts for the club.
Nichols admits there are a lot of players like him all keen to get into the team.
“I like playing with Grimesy a lot, what a great player he is,” said Nichols.
“I have played with him for a few years, but there is a great group of young lads here and a lot of them are ready to play.
“Some of them aren’t even on the bench – the likes of Jake Gosling and Jordan Moore-Taylor can play – and they just have to wait for their opportunity as well.”