Matt Taylor says he will take past experiences of playing two games in a week into account when he selects an Exeter City team to take on League Two leaders Newport County at Rodney Parade tonight.
The Grecians drew 1-1 with a Forest Green Rovers side that started Boxing Day in second place and with the trip to South Wales coming around so soon after that game, the City chief admits that past experience will play a part when it comes to selecting a team.
The City chief was referring to the recent clash with Harrogate Town, which a somewhat subdued and flat Exeter side lost 2-1, three days after the same XI had thrashed Tranmere Rovers 5-1 with arguably their best display of the campaign so far.
Taylor felt the Grecians showed signs of tiredness that day and for such an important game, he is keen to make sure it does not happen again.
“I have to be mindful that our last big performance on a Saturday was the Tranmere game and we didn’t quite have it in our legs the following Tuesday against Harrogate,” Taylor said. “Newport comes around pretty quickly.
“I may need to freshen a few bodies up in relation to that but I can’t criticise the performance against Forest Green too much because we were not too far away.”
Josh Key is likely to miss the game as he is isolating, while Pierce Sweeney limped out of Boxing Day’s draw with Forest Green after picking up a hamstring injury.
Jake Caprice came on and performed superbly well, but as he has just returned from a hamstring issue of his own, Taylor will be anxious that he doesn’t suffer any kind of relapse.
Lewis Page is in contention and could replace Jack Sparkes, while Nicky Law and Nigel Atangana could also offer some freshness to the Grecians team.
“Lewis Page is available but we just felt with Alex Hartridge, Tom Parkes and Jack Sparkes all on the pitch, we had enough left footers there and he wasn’t needed for the bench,” Taylor said. “The issue will be the injury to Pierce. His flexibility allows us to play with a back three, so we may have lost that to a certain extent.
“We will look at it but we had Josh Key’s absence and Jake Caprice having an issue, although I was so pleased he got through the game as he only trained with us for two days at the end of the week, which is why we didn’t start with him or a back four.
“He’s had a recurrence of a hamstring issue and we think it may be a nerve problem and a spasm, so we hope that he stays fit now, moving forward.”
Another player back in the fold is goalkeeper Lewis Ward, who started the season as City’s number one, but has not played since the 3-1 win over Scunthorpe United after picking up an injury in that game.
“Goalkeepers are a difficult position because you don’t want to be chopping and changing in relation to goalkeepers too much,” taylor said when asked if the former Reading man could return to the team. “Goalkeepers need to find rhythm to their game.
“We will have to assess that going into January, but I know he is desperate to play. He has been unlucky with injury – as was Jonny when Jokkul was here on an emergency loan – so we will assess that as time goes on.
“The goal aside, Jonny didn’t have too much to do on Boxing Day and it is so important that, when our goalkeepers don’t get worked too much, we keep clean sheets, or keep the score at zero for a longer period… maybe I am being ultra critical if I am nit-picking at that.”
City head to a Newport side that may well be on top of the table right now, but they have had something of a blip in recent weeks having lost two and strawn two of their last four games.
“We are still only 19, 20 games in, so it is still such early days.,” Taylor said. “These are always good markers.”