Tom Parkes on keeping a clean sheet and the youngsters ‘biting at his ankles’

Centre back Tom Parkes has said that the blend of youth and experience in the new look Exeter City backline gives the Grecians a platform to build from.

The 2-0 win on Saturday over Cambridge United was the first time since January 25 – a run of 23 games – that they had kept a clean sheet.

There have been plenty of changes to defence since last season with Aaron Martin and Dean Moxey leaving the club, with Rory McArdle, Lewis Page and Jake Caprice joining, and youngsters like Josh Key and Will Dean coming into the first team picture.

And Parkes, 28, said that his emergency partnership with 33-year-old McArdle is progressing well so far, but that the pair of them can help the youngsters around them and ‘biting at their ankles’ to take their spots.

Tom Parkes of Exeter City during Exeter City training after COVID-19 lockdown at Exeter City's Cliff Hill Training Ground, Exeter, Devon on June 13th 2020. - PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
Tom Parkes of Exeter City during Exeter City training after COVID-19 lockdown at Exeter City’s Cliff Hill Training Ground, Exeter, Devon on June 13th 2020. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“It was a great performance and great shift,” Parkes said, after Saturday’s win. “The main thing is the three points and the clean sheet. They had chances early on and Lewis made the saves, and then we settled down and dug in deep and put our bodies on the line when he had to.

“It was good to get a clean sheet and something to build on, and if we keep them, we have a chance to win games. It was a good win today and we hope to take the momentum onto the next game.”

Exeter City vs Cambridge United

Parkes missed the start of the season with a knee injury but having recovered, has been selected alongside McArdle in the heart of the defence since, and the ex-Carlisle United man said it is a great experience playing along him and they can help the youngsters develop their game.

Will Dean started the season ahead of Parkes due to his injury, and he said: “He was good against Salford and put in a shift, and he is biting at my ankles for the spot, and the young kids coming through, they are taking their chances when they get them.”

One such player who has grabbed their opportunity in the side is 20-year-old Josh Key, who having been given a chance due to Caprice’s injury, has cemented himself in the side.

Key, after his winner at Mansfield Town last week, said how valuable it was to play alongside Parkes and McArdle, but the centre-back played down his own role and said that he was ‘showing was he was capable of’.

Tom Parkes of Exeter City during the first day of Pre Season Training at the Cliff Hill Training Ground in Exeter, Devon on 6 Aug. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK.
Tom Parkes of Exeter City during the first day of Pre Season Training at the Cliff Hill Training Ground in Exeter, Devon on 6 Aug. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK.
(Image: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK.)

Parkes added: “Josh has been fantastic. He has done it himself, and when he need to have a word with him and get him in the right position, we can. He has been fantastic so far.

“The youngsters are hungry and when they get their chance, they have taken them, but playing along the experienced players, we can help them when they need it, but they are doing well when they have a chance.”

Manager Matt Taylor was once again in full praise of the performance of Key and said that even though Caprice is fully fit, he is keeping him out of the side on merit, and on Saturday, marked ex-Premier League man Wes Hoolahan out of the game.

Josh Key of Exeter City battles for the ball with Wesley Hoolahan of Cambridge United during the Sky Bet League 2 Match between Exeter City and Cambridge United at St James Park, Exeter on 3 Oct. Photo: Cameron Geran/PPAUK
Josh Key of Exeter City battles for the ball with Wesley Hoolahan of Cambridge United during the Sky Bet League 2 Match between Exeter City and Cambridge United at St James Park, Exeter on 3 Oct. Photo: Cameron Geran/PPAUK
(Image: Cameron Geran/PPAUK)

“He has the potential to play at a high level,” Taylor said. “He is keeping his place in the team for a reason. He has been a bit of surprise as to how well he has done but that he is keeping Jake Caprice out of team is a signal of his intent. He can play further up the pitch if needed and it can give another dynamic there.

“He kept marauding forward and I tried to put the reins on him at the end, but I don’t want to take that away from him. Hs fitness and speed and attacking mentality is fantastic, and I have been keep him grounded and keep his game simple.”

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