Paul Tisdale knows his Exeter City side have a tough task on their hands after dropping into the npower League One relegation zone, but says the challenge is what gets him out of bed in the morning.
An insipid 2-0 defeat at Brentford on Tuesday, coupled with Walsall’s surprise win over Sheffield United, saw the Grecians drop into the bottom four for the first time since late October, but Tisdale is confident he has the players and the spirit to pull through and preserve Exeter‘s place in the third tier of English football for a fourth year.
“There are 11 games to go, we had wonderful support at Brentford that clapped us off again, and it’s a brilliant challenge. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning,” City’s manager said.
“We are already moving, I’m already talking about Saturday’s game in the dressing room and the players have to be ready for it. It’s a big challenge, but it’s a great one. The players have to focus now and do the necessary.”
Saido Berahino’s brace condemned the Grecians to another loss and their task was not helped by a red card to captain David Noble midway through the second half with the score at 1-0.
Noble was deemed to have elbowed Harlee Dean in the face as the two players challenged for a high ball. Tisdale refused to say too much on the incident, but said he may appeal it if his captain was harshly treated.
“I saw the ball 60-40 in favour of the defender and David very bravely close that space down and jump,” Tisdale said. “I didn’t think he was going to quite get it, I could see he was going to fall short, but I don’t think he raised his arms, I think he jumped for the ball.
“After his lunge in the first half, for which he got a talking to, he was on a tightrope, I suppose. I was amazed it was a red card, I thought it may have been a yellow. But the referee has to give what he sees.”
Noble will miss Exeter’s next three matches – at Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday and home clashes with Preston North End and Wycombe Wanderers. Tisdale added: “He’s the captain, he’s one of the first selections and it’s not too difficult to work out that he’s going to be a miss. But we have players that need to play and can play. He will miss three games, as it was a straight red card. So there we are.
“To punish David is not something I do, and I don’t see the benefit of it. I will look at it and see if it’s worth appealing. But I’m not wanting to punish anyone. We need to be together for the next two months.”
With chances and goals at a premium right now, a defence that has not kept a clean-sheet in the last eight matches, only two wins away from home all season, and City now in the bottom four, things make for pretty grim reading at St James’ Park right now. On the plus side, Exeter do have enough games in which to turn their season round.
“It’s about where we finish in 11 games’ time,” Tisdale said. “That’s what it boils down to. We know what we have to do. We have a hell of a challenge in front of us, there is no question of it. The players, myself and everyone have to put a really focused two months in, but it’s within our grasp and we can do it.
“We lost [at Brentford], but I loved the way we played. This is what we are at the moment, we are where we are, it’s a great challenge and I am not going to get frustrated and downbeat.”