Us 2 Exeter City 2

As sure as Rob Duffy will be called a lazy bastard, as sure as Chris Tardif will bide his time until another club comes in for him, as sure as the Debt Doctor is prescribing life without debt, Exeter came, saw, fell behind and then conquered… live on TV.

You can set your team up in two ways; the approach where you buy enough class, stick them on the field and let them express themselves. You concede a lot of goals, but you hope to score more. Real Madrid, is, of course, the classic example. But Keegan’s Newcastle did the same. In many ways, by buying in a heap of Premier League has-beens that was last season’s strategy for us; and it didn’t work.

The other way is to have a system and work on it; the way Reading and Bolton have done in recent years. It seems we’ve been set up that way this season. Perhaps it’s because there’s less class in the squad, maybe the Patterson influence means a more didactic coaching style, maybe its simply the fact that the two teams who were promoted last year were unremarkable well drilled units.

Whatever our system is, its not working. At the back we’re missing the class and calm of Willmott; Corcoran, Day and Quinn are fine individuals when it comes to Alamo style defending but as a unit they’re disjointed and easily rattled. It’s difficult to know whether Anaclet and Jeannin are holding back by accident and design.

The middle trio are dogged enough, but nobody is taking charge. Danny Rose was like a terrier last night, but was out on his feet for the last twenty minutes, Trainer is neither creative or enforcer. Why Pettefer didn’t come on to shore things up I don’t know. There’s plenty of choice up front, but we seem indecisive as to what the best option is.

The workrate can’t be faulted, but the set up and execution of the tactics is a real concern. Questions have to be asked about the Smith/Patterson combination. Sure, individually they both have so much to offer. But can they work together? If the approach is to be more regimented, it needs drilling in quicker than it currently is. The last twenty minutes last night was a debacle; what system was in place was thrown out the window in a blizzard of panic.

The table tells you different; the season is far from over, but, at the moment, we feel further away from the league than we ever have.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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