Defender-turned-striker Scot Bennett has set himself a target of scoring 10 or more goals for Exeter City this season – after admitting he is happy to continue playing up front.
Bennett has scored three goals in his past two games for the Grecians, including a well-taken 90th-minute strike against arch-rivals Plymouth Argyle last Saturday.
He started the derby game up front, after first-choice strikers Sam Parkin and John O’Flynn were both ruled out with hamstring problems.
It is unclear whether either player will recover in time to face Hartlepool United at home in Saturday’s League Two fixture, but Bennett says he is getting used to his new role and has no objections to filling in up front if needed.
“If they [O’Flynn and Parkin] aren’t fit this weekend, then I’ll be happy to play up there again,” he said.
“I’ll keep trying to do the job that I’m doing and keep trying to bring players into the game. We worked on it in the week leading up to the Plymouth match and it is a joy to play up front when the boys are in the form that they are in and, if I can keep putting the ball in the back of the net, then I’ll be a happy boy.
“I set a goal target at the start of the season of eight, after getting six last campaign, but I’m hoping I can go on now and get over ten.”
Bennett started the first five games of the season as a central midfielder, but he switched to the centre of defence in September to help the club overcome their problem position at right-back.
He put in some impressive displays alongside Danny Coles at centre-half, most notably in the 1-1 draw away at Dagenham and Redbridge.
His success in that position was little surprise, though, as Bennett trained in the youth scheme as centre-back, but his successful switch to a striking role has shocked a few – including Bennett himself.
“If at the start of the season you had told me I would be playing up front, I wouldn’t have believed you, but now I’m up there and I’m doing a job for the team and I’m just happy to be playing,” he said. “I don’t mind if it is centre-back, midfield or up front. as long as I’m on the pitch.
“We did work on it a bit towards the end of last season. I played the last game [against Chesterfield] as a striker and we have done a few little bits since then. Gary Haydock, the strikers coach, always calls me over when he is working with the strikers to get me to work on the finishing and to work on chances in case I get those chances in games. It seems to be doing the trick.”
Bennett’s re-think on his goal target mirrors that of the club. Many supporters went into the new campaign fearing the St James’ Park outfit might not be able to mount a promotion push, but having beaten Argyle last Saturday the Grecians have climbed to third in the table.
Bennett said the players always believed that they could be up there challenging. “We knew the ability we had and the players that we’ve got, so we always believed that we could be up there,” he said. “It was just about putting the run together and getting the wins.
“Last Saturday was a massive win for us, because it was a Devon derby win and it kept us moving up the table and that is what we want to do. The team is in high spirits at the minute, but I think we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground, keep playing the way we are playing, and keep picking up the points.”