Matt Taylor on how Exeter City have bounced back from lowest moment in football

Matt Taylor has said that he hopes 2020 can be remembered in a ‘positive way’ for Exeter City – despite experiencing his lowest moment in football with the 4-0 play-off final defeat.

The Grecians ended the year as they began – by facing Forest Green Rovers – but with a global pandemic, suspension of football, a financial crisis, and the emergence of some of the youngsters as first team regulars.

Taylor said that he has been left incredibly excited by the current group of players – who have scored more goals this season than any team in English football – and hopes that once again they can be challenging for that elusive promotion to League One.

Exeter City vs Forest Green Rovers

The 2020/21 season saw the club put together a record ten match unbeaten run, and the 57 goals in 25 games is more than any of other team in the top division divisions of English football.

Goal celebrations for Archie Collins of Exeter City during the Sky Bet League 2 Match between Exeter City and Forest Green Rovers at St James Park, Exeter on 26 December. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK
Goal celebrations for Archie Collins of Exeter City during the Sky Bet League 2 Match between Exeter City and Forest Green Rovers at St James Park, Exeter on 26 December. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK
(Image: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“2020 has been incredible,” Taylor said. “You look back at what the year has been and how it started. New Year’s Day, away to Forest Green Rovers, ten men for half the game, a rear-guard action, and a vital three points, and we were so close to where we needed to be in the league campaign.”

Having spent large parts of the 2019/20 season in the automatic promotion spots, a run of just three wins in ten games saw City drop down to fourth when football was forced to stop as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

League Two saw the season curtailed and a points-per-game system used to determine the final places, with City dropping down to fifth and taking part in the play-offs.

Having overcome Colchester United 3-2 in the semi-finals, the Grecians went to Wembley for the third time in four years for the League Two play-off final, but produced a dreadful performance, losing 4-0 to Northampton Town.

Exeter City vs Northampton Town

Taylor said: “We were so disappointed when the league was suspended with 10 games left and it meant we missed our best chance of promotion. And then to go through the play-offs and lose in such devastating fashion, that was our lowest point as a group and my lowest point in football.

“But then we have to quickly rebuild and to see some of the young players step to the mark and the way we have played this season has been really pleasing.

Dejection at the final whistle for Wayne Carlisle, Assistant Manager of Exeter City and Matt Taylor Manager of Exeter City as Northampton town celebrate being promoted during the Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final between Exeter City and Northampton Town on 29th June 2020 at Wembley Stadium, London Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK.
(Image: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK.)

“In the background to all this has been the pandemic which was changed all our lives and the world and I am having to deal with that on a daily basis and I am so pleased with how the club has responded and players and staff stepped up to the mark.

“For 2021, I am excited about this group and want to keep them together for as long as we can – might not be possible for the long term, but we want to keep them together and add any improvements, and we are aiming to be there or thereabouts in the league.

“We have to be realistic budget wise and we achieve more than we should in relation to money we spend but we want to be and hope to be close again and achieve this season.”

With the January transfer window having opened, Taylor said that he expects there to be some ins and outs to his squad.

“We know what we are working towards and where we want improvement in certain areas of the squad, and we don’t want any players who aren’t providing value,” he said.

“We are looking at improvements and I don’t want to keep players around the place who are just making up the numbers. If they are here then they have to affect the outcome of games and they will only do that by getting game time.”

Devon Live