Paul Tisdale will tell his Exeter City players to play the game, not the occasion, when they run out for the Devon derby against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
Both teams go into the game with confidence after the Pilgrims ended a run of nine games without a win by beating York City 2-0 at Home Park last Saturday, while Exeter enjoyed a fine 3-2 success at npower League Two promotion rivals Rochdale.
However, as is often the case in such fixtures, form counts for little on derby day and Tisdale is keen for his players not to get hyped up by the occasion and focus on playing their own game.
“We are looking forward to the derby game now, there is no doubt about it,” Tisdale said. “Any derby at any football club is special and the one on Saturday will be no different.
“We have to try to play our game and not the occasion because it will be a big game for both sets of supporters. We have to play our game because it is not about how much you want to win, it’s whether you know how to win and whether you can play in the right way.
“Being motivated for the game and being determined and up for it and being 100 per cent for it is great. But you also need to know what to do to play correctly and put a performance together.
“There will be no doubt that we will be motivated for the game and my job over the next few days is to make sure that we understand what our game plan will be and that we play to it.”
City prevailed in a penalty shoot-out the last time the two sides met – a Johnstone’s Paint clash at St James’ Park in August last year, which ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The Grecians beat the Pilgrims 1-0 in April 2011, which was the last League encounter between the two. That defeat all but relegated Peter Reid’s Argyle from League One, with James Dunne grabbing the only goal just after half-time.
Exeter will be boosted by the return of Scot Bennett for Saturday’s clash, while Tommy Doherty should also be in contention after missing out last Saturday with a hamstring problem. Arron Davies is the Grecians’ only doubt right now.
“We hope Arron will be OK,” Tisdale said. “He came on as a sub after six weeks out on Saturday and came off feeling his injury again, so we will have to be careful with him.
“I just hope that everyone is fit and training leading up to the game and enjoys the build-up to the game without having to worry about late fitness tests. Tommy was close, but Saturday was probably a week too soon for him.”
Bennett is certainly hoping to be involved after missing last season’s penalty shoot-out win against the Pilgrims.
“Since we went down last season, and with Plymouth being in League Two already, it’s the first one you look for on the fixture list because it’s such a big thing for the club,” the Truro-born midfielder said.
“You want to go and impress and make sure you get the three points over them, so that’s what we’ll definitely be trying to do.
“You see a few fans in the street and they’ll speak to you about the game because they’re so excited about it. They obviously want Exeter to win so that they can be the pride of Devon again.
“Unfortunately I missed out on being involved last year [in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy] but the atmosphere was brilliant and I know the lads thrived off of it. So hopefully this year I can thrive off the atmosphere as well and hopefully get the three points.”
Saturday’s match is the first of three derbies involving all three Devon clubs over the next fortnight.
Following Argyle’s visit to St James’ Park, Exeter make the short trip to Torquay United on Saturday, December 22, and the Gulls then travel to Plymouth on Boxing Day.
Earlier this season, the honours were shared as Torquay were held to a goalless draw by Argyle at Plainmoor.