The Grecians extended their current record-breaking run to 19 games unbeaten on Tuesday night, with an FA Cup victory over Bradford, and they head into Saturday looking for a fifth consecutive League Two win to add to the list of positive stats tat back up their impressive form.
Undefeated in 14 league games – their last loss was back in August – they’ll certainly provide a test for a United team that’s looking to add to its own run of four clean sheets from the last five games.
On how the squad is preparing to do what 19 other teams haven’t done, manager Keith Millen said: “Well, a win would be nice! We’ve watched a lot of videos of them and they’re obviously on a great run, they’re very consistent in what they’re doing.
“Some of the games are very close and have been decided by the odd goal either way. When you get that momentum, things tend to go for you.
“I’ve just watched the Salford game and over the 90 minutes, Salford should have won. Exeter got a bizarre goal right at the end where their lad had a shot which hit the inside of the post then hit the Salford keeper and went in.
“Things like that go your way when you’re on a good run, but they’re certainly playing well and they know what they’re about. They’ve got people who can score goals and I think that’s the big difference with the teams near the top of the league, they’ve normally got the top goal scorers in their team.”
“Without a doubt it’s the toughest test I’ve faced since I came here,” he continued. “They’re the form team in the league for a reason.
“We’ve done a lot of work on what we’ll do in trying to stop them being so dangerous. We can’t go there and think we’re in a good place, you’ve got to respect what they’re doing because they’re doing it well at the moment.
“We’ve worked on what we’re going to do defensively, but we have to recognise that if we defend well we’ve got to score to win the game. The balance shifts in possession and out of possession.
“The mindset this week has been making sure we’re a solid defensive unit, because it’s going to be a tough game.”
“We know we’ve got to be ready,” he told us. “Normally the start of the game’s important. When you’re going to a team that’s flying and full of confidence, you’ve got to make sure you’re ready for what they’re going to do.
“Whether it’s the tempo of the game, whatever, we have to respect what they’re doing and be ready for it. And as the game progresses, then I want us, like we have done, to get on the ball and star working our patterns with the ball, and then I think we can control it a bit.
“I don’t care who we play in this league. I’ve seen enough now, It’s very close, there are small margins, and from what I’ve seen those margins are certainly going for them, and that’s what happens when you’re in that run of form. Things do tend to drop for you.
“We’ve seen what they’re doing well, and they’re certainly scoring goals, so we have to respect that and make sure we defend as a team and a unit.”
Speaking more on the importance of finding the back of the net, he said: “The first goal is normally really key at this level.
“If we can score first it gives us something to hold onto. Momentum in games is so important. They’ve got momentum, but we’ve lso got a little bit because of the form recently.
“Normally when you have this run of wins, draws and games unbeaten, that momentum tends to go your way a lot more. When you’re struggling it’s difficult to maintain it.
“I thought on Saturday, as an example, we had the momentum early in the game, then lost our way for 10 minutes. But then I was pleased in the second half that we got going again, and there was only one team going to win as the game went on.
“That tells us we’re at a stage where we’ve got an identity, and I’m not changing that. We’ll still go and do what we’ve done in the last three games, but within that you can tweak things.
“You can look at when and where you press, how high you press, or the way you press. There are little things we can do within the structure we’ve created.
“I’m not going to change much with what we’ve been doing, but we can tweak things depending on who we play.”