Disappointing as it was not to beat Bury on Saturday, a 2-2 draw and a second successive game without defeat was another step in the right direction.
What’s more, as we had done against Wycombe four days earlier, we created plenty of chances – which is something we weren’t always doing a few weeks ago – so you’d like to think that if we haven’t quite turned the corner yet we’re at least on the way to doing so.
That aside, I thought the performances of David Wheeler and Tom Nichols were further grounds for optimism. David has been in fantastic form since he got back in the starting line-up a week ago and it was great to see him grab his first goal for the club.
And I was even more chuffed to see my old mate Tom Nichols get his name on the scoresheet. When Tom scored the winning goal against Chesterfield in August 2011, I don’t suppose there were too many people – least of all Tom – who thought it’d be more than two years before he added to his tally.
I think it’s fair to say things haven’t always gone to plan for him in that time but he’s got his head down, worked hard and, as I said a week or two ago, appears set to reap the rewards for his dedication and commitment.
Certainly, he made a real impact off the bench on Saturday – he’d have had his name on the scoresheet even sooner were it not for a great stop from the Bury keeper – and if he carries on performing as he is at the minute he will make it hard for Tis to leave him out of the starting line-up.
While there were undoubtedly a few positives to take from Saturday’s game, I don’t think Ronnie Jepson’s side were any great shakes and had we not all but gifted them their two goals then we could easily have been celebrating our first win in eight games. Conceding soft goals has been a feature of too many of our performances this season and it’s something we have to eliminate.
Artur Krysiak has been one of our outstanding performers so far this season, but he was disappointed he let Dan Nardiello’s 15th-minute effort squirm beyond his grasp and at half-time apologised to the rest of the team for his gaffe.
In fairness to Artur, it ought to be pointed out he went on to make a string of good saves and was easily back in credit come the end of the game.
The second Bury goal, which came from a corner, was even more disappointing; defending set-pieces is something we’ve been working particularly hard on at the Cat & Fiddle over recent weeks and we went into the game determined not to be undone by another one.
Much has been made of the reaction of some sections of the crowd to the substitution of David Wheeler, which prompted chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing!’
As I said earlier, David had a great game on Saturday and I’m sure his substitution was no reflection whatsoever on his performance.
Rather, Tis was intent on winning the game and thought that a change in personnel and formation would increase our chances of doing so.
And, while hindsight is a wonderful thing, in light of what happened in the final 20 or so minutes it’s hard to argue with that. We got the equaliser we were looking for and from thereon in looked much the more likely of the two sides to grab all three points.
I thought Nards showed some real class when he declined the opportunity to celebrate his opener.
He’d had a couple fairly mediocre years before Tis brought him to Exeter and gave him the opportunity to rebuild his career and, I guess, his reaction to his goal was an acknowledgement of that.
Having come up through the youth ranks at St James’s Park, it’s hard for me to imagine playing for any other club, let alone lining up against Exeter, but I’d like to think that if I ever found myself in Nards’ situation my response would be very similar.
While we’d have loved to have been involved in the FA Cup on Saturday, we thought we might as well make the most of our free weekend and, with that in mind, myself and the rest of the squad are heading to Cardiff for our Christmas shindig.
I’m sure there will be one or two people who suggest our time might be better spent on the training pitch but, take it from me, there’s been no let up at the Cat & Fiddle this week and just occasionally you need to relax and let your hair down.
Everyone’s going to be in fancy dress and I’ve narrowed it down to either Scooby-Doo or Captain America; John O’Flynn is going to be Jigsaw from the horror flick Saw and Jake Gosling, Jacob Jagger Kane, Jimmy Keohane and Tom Nichols are threatening to dress as the Teletubbies. It promises to be quite an occasion!