Writer: Kithson Bain
Date:Wednesday March 16 2011
Saturday`s win at Rochdale moved City onto 49 points with 10 matches still remaining in the league this season.
Last year the Grecians amassed 52 points, which proved just enough to retain their League One status. Victory this weekend over Yeovil would see City equal that total.
It`s the time of year when for some teams attentions turn to the summer ahead and they reflect on the season gone. With City on course to far surpass last seasons points total it`s obvious that on the pitch City have taken steps forward. But what has changed from last season to this?
A catalyst in many of City`s victories this season has been dynamic playmaker Ryan Harley. The 26-year-old has weighed in with 14 goals this season and countless assists, sparkling form that prompted Swansea to secure the signing of Harley in January before loaning him back to the Grecians for the remainder of the current campaign. Alongside Harley in the City midfield this season the continued progression of James Dunne and Liam Sercombe is something that Paul Tisdale must be delighted with. Both work tirelessly between the penalty boxes and give the side energy and tempo without compromising the quality. Like Harley, their displays have also drawn admiring glances from other clubs.
Last summer saw Tisdale give his strike force a complete overhaul. Ryan Taylor returned to Rotherham and Barry Corr's contract wasn`t renewed, this coupled with the sad passing of Adam Stansfield in August meant that there were striking slots to be filled at St James` Park, as only Richard Logan and the sparingly used Marcus Stewart were on the books as recognised first team strikers. In came Daniel Nardiello and John O`Flynn both of whom have proved more hit than miss in Devon with half a dozen league goals each to date.
Tisdale saved the best till last though , the signing of Jamie Cureton on the eve of the opening day of the season has proved something of a masterstroke. 35-year-old Cureton has notched 15 strikes this term including the winner at Rochdale last Saturday. Cureton also seems to have struck up a good combination with Logan, who has enjoyed a fruitful season too in front of goal himself with his tally now into double figures.
There is weight to the argument that the league isn`t as strong as it was last season. Sides coming down form the Championship have flattered to deceive in the main. Peterborough are finishing strongly but have been inconsistent and Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle are languishing in the bottom half and have been for sometime. Norwich, Leeds and Millwall were exceptional sides in League One in 2009/10, a point emphasised by how well all three are fairing currently in the Championship.
City have found some steel away from home this season, travelling fans could only celebrate two away victories last term (Stockport & Carlisle) but Tisdale`s men have amassed ten successes already this time round in all competitions. On the road this season there is a certain maturity and professionalism in the performances that has been missing on occasions in years gone by.
Seemingly not going up nor down doesn't mean that City`s season is over by any means. Passing last season`s points total is a target and is achieving the clubs highest ever league finish. To achieve the later the Grecians need to secure 8th spot which on evidence is not beyond the grasp of this group of players.
This challenge will be improving again next season. Keeping hold of prize assets will be just as important as obtaining new ones. For now City fans can enjoy what looks like will be another season of progression under Tisdale and a relatively stress free end to the campaign.
Date:Wednesday March 16 2011
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