Exmouth Town assistant manager Andy Rawlings said that it was good to get another 90 minutes of pre-season action despite all the on-going problems with covid and subsequent ‘pinging’ from the NHS app that is seeing so many folk – involved in football and away from the game – forced into self isolation, or indeed battling covid.
The day after the 3-0 win over Sidmouth Town, the Town assistant manager said: “It was a strange game because anyone reading of a 3-0 win for us will likely think it was another comfortable evening, but the first 45 minutes belonged to them [Sidmouth Town] and I did say at half time to Danny and Kev, [Sidmouth Town manager Danny Burwood and his number two Kev Tooze], a pair of lads I have a lot of time for, on and off the pitch, that clearly, football can be such a cruel game at times for they had spent 45 minutes using the ball so well, but always without that final punch that would have meant work for Robbie [Town goalkeeper Robbie Powell] and then, shortly before the break, we play a long ball up and over the top and Jordan [Harris] is in and bang – its 1-0 us at the break.”
Town went on to win the game with a second from Harris, albeit with a deflection that took it past the visiting goalkeeper before Harris netted the third to complete the scoring.
James Richards made a welcome return to action after a year out and Rawlings said of his contribution: “What a class act he is – it was so good to get him back onto the pitch and he played as if he’d never been away. He was comfortably the Man of the Match. James has spent the past year getting over a troublesome back problem, but, based on what the Town faithful saw last night, he looks as good as ever and it will be such a boost to us to be able to call on his talents on a regular basis this season. I have no doubt he could play at a higher level, but again, its testimony to the atmosphere we have at Town, in and out of the dressing room as well as on and off the pitch, that the likes of James are clearly happy to be where they are.”
The Town number two was also quick to praise the performance of Ace High of whom he said: “Ace is another who we have not seen for a good six months owing to the pandemic and Lockdown. He played in an unfamiliar wing back role last night and gave a typical Ace performance, one that oozed of energy and mobility- he spent the whole game charging up and down the Southern Road pitch to such a degree that you’d have been forgiven for thinking he had played the wing back role all his life!”
The Town faithful got a second look at another of the new players; explained by Rawlings who said: “Josh Cann is a lad who has come to us this season. We have been missing a genuine left back for some time and he fits that particular bill so well. He came to the area with a job at Exeter City and I fancy there were a number of clubs who would have liked to have got him signed up. Luckily we got him here and he has settled in as if he’s been with the lads for ever – that’s a real plus to our team and the dressing room ‘all-in-this-together’ feeling that they have created. For new players to come in and settle right away is a luxury that not all clubs are able to enjoy, and it is a huge credit to Kev [Town boss Kevin Hill] and the general feel-good factor he likes to have running through the dressing room, that a new lad can come to us and immediately feel part of the ‘family’.”
With covid and subsequent ‘pinging’ leaving Town missing a number of players, Town boss Kevin Hill was able to use his links to Torquay United to bring in a couple of youngsters from the Gulls. Rawlings says: “Having and indeed, using, links with other folk in the game is a huge part of making it all work and Kev’s link to Torquay is invaluable and it certainly helped us in our bid to field a team against Sidmouth Town.”
Tom Gardner also put in his usual masterly performance. Rawlings said: “Tom is another seriously class act who brings so much composure to the side. We are certainly a better side with Tom in the ranks.”
Next up for Town in terms of pre-season is a Saturday (July 17) game at St Blazey of which Rawlings says: “Given the ever increasing issues with the ‘pinging’ and indeed, unfortunate folk getting covid, we genuinely don’t know from one day to the next who is going to be available and who is not. That makes planning for games very difficult. That said, two games into the pre-season, we look to be in a good place. Kev is, as ever, on top of all we do and I fancy that if we can keep everyone fit and away from the dreaded covid and ‘pinging’ then we will continue to have a good pre-season and so be able to hit the ground running in 16 days when we launch our new league campaign at home to Clevedon Town.”