Goal number seven of the season from Lewis Alessandra on Saturday afternoon proved to be the difference between the two sides on the day as the Blues went on to keep a fifth clean sheet from their last seven league games to mark a winning return to action.
The strike, a crisp volley from an Omari Patrick assist, was one of those that needed maximum concentration as it dropped onto his boot as he moved into space at the back stick.
“It was a satisfying finish,” the striker admitted. “It was one of those where you’ve really got to concentrate and watch it onto your foot because if you miss from there it looks really bad.
“I was happy to get good contact on it and see the net bulge. I know that more often than not Omari will beat his man so you’ve got to try and anticipate where the ball will land.
“At the start of the move I noticed there was a bit of space at the back post and it was a great lofted ball from Jack, which I managed to get onto the end of. I put it across and Omari did his bit of magic and gave it back to me. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
With his goals tally ticking over nicely (all six of his league goals, by the way, have been scored at the Waterworks End here at Brunton Park) he still insisted that he wants more as the chances continue to come his way.
“I’m pleased with the amount of goals I’ve scored so far, but you can always score more and work the target more,” he commented. “As a team we didn’t hit the target as much as we usually do on Saturday, but I think the time we’ve had off maybe showed.
“Exeter are a good side and it isn’t a coincidence that they’re always there or thereabouts at the end of the season. It was a tough game and it wasn’t pretty at all. I felt like all I did was run back and forward between the two centre halves and have a bit of a fight with them, but I got the goal and we got the three points.
“After the turbulence of the past few weeks it was important to hit the ground running, especially in a home game where we’ve been so good.”
“We know it’s a big three points,” he continued. “We hadn’t played since the start of January, and Nick Anderton hadn’t played since the Forest Green game in December, so we knew there would be a bit of rustiness because of that inactivity.
“We’ve just got to recover well now, because of what’s happened we’ve got games coming thick and fast, but that’s what we’re here to do.
“It’s been a frustrating period really. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time sat outside Harrogate’s stadium, but it is what it is. It’s nobody’s fault, we’ve had games called off for all sorts of reasons which nobody could have predicted, and we’ve just got to get on with it.
“We got to Birmingham on Tuesday then had to turn around, but it’s just the way it is. We came in on Wednesday and played a game instead, so we were ready for Saturday, so we just adapt and crack on.
“We’ve talked about the team spirit and there are times when you face adversity, with the games being cancelled and things like that, but if everyone is pulling in the right direction it builds that feeling up and it makes you stronger.
“When you win games it just breeds that confidence and spirit within the dressing room. We’ve got a group of lads who are working hard for each other. The gaffer has got us playing in a certain way and all of us are buying into it and working our butt’s off because it’s just what we do. It’s a great group, I love being here and being part of a great group of lads.”
Another part of the game the players stood up to was the physical approach which is utilised so well by the Grecians.
“I think it was a more physical game than normal and I didn’t think there was much quality in it at all, especially from ourselves,” he admitted. “I can’t remember us stringing four or five passes together, and usually we do that really well.
“We tend to look to get it forward, and once it’s forward we start to play a bit. It didn’t go that way for us, it was very scrappy, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The inactivity is going to affect us but hopefully with every minute that passes we’ll be getting back to our old selves.
“It’s a busy spell coming up with eight games in 26 days but, again, it is what it is. You play Saturday – Tuesday games from time to time anyway so it will just be more frequent because of what’s happened.
“We’re professional footballers, so we’ll just recover right and make sure we’re as ready as we can be for all of them.
“We’ve got new faces in and that helps. It’s good, we’ve got strength in depth now. You make changes and we don’t become weaker, which is a good thing.
“I can imagine the gaffer will have looked at it and said that we have a real chance of doing something this year, if we continue the way we’ve been going. We’re only half way so they might have looked at it as not wanting the complications with Covid and injuries to affect it, but I’d like to think that if we do lose some people to whatever it may be that we’ll stay as strong.
“That’s probably the reason for bringing in the people of the quality he’s brought in. Whoever is picked, it doesn’t matter, we just want the points and the wins in whatever way we get them.”
As one of the more experienced members of the group, with his place in the side earned from a string of impressive performances, he also admitted that it was strange to think of himself as one of the older heads amongst a relatively young group of lads.
“I’m definitely one of the older heads but I still feel the same way I did when I was 23 or 24,2 he said. “It’s my birthday in a few weeks and that’s frustrating because you don’t want them to come round as much.
“I am really enjoying it at the moment, even though I didn’t enjoy Saturday as much as some of the games we’ve played where we’ve been really dominant and had 20-plus attempts on target.
“I don’t know the stats from this but I don’t imagine they’ll be anywhere near that. That doesn’t really matter because we won, but any player will tell you that if you score the winner and get three points it’s the best feeling you can have.”
Next up for United is tomorrow’s visit of Forest Green.
“They beat us down there and they’re a decent side, but we’re a decent side as well,” he told us. “Their reaction when they beat us down there, 1-0 at home, in a scrappy, cold, windy game, in fact some of the worst conditions I’ve played in, but the way they reacted shows that they think we’re a tough side to play against.
“We’ve got nothing to fear, we’ve just got to do everything the way we always do. We’ll make sure we recover properly and we’ll be ready to go again against another team that’s at the right end of the table.”
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