Bristol Rovers 2-1 Exeter City: 3 Things we Learned

1. 4-4-2 it is then

We’re 90mins into pre-season and it’s obviously way too early to make any assertions about the rest of the season however we are in the opinion business so here comes one…442 is the base formation this season.

Last seasons defensive security blanket of 3 CBs has been slung to one side and Parkes with McArdle were asked to repel threats with Sparkes and Caprice either side. This at least frees Williams to be more dedicated to his attacking duties rather than tracking back and forth at RWB. However there’ll be extra strain centrally on the two CMs unless pressure can be exerted further up the field. If the front two don’t press/track/chase and cut out passing lanes we might see ourselves exposed. There’s pros and cons with all formations and the season will tell whether this change will enable us to impose ourselves better on oppositions.

2. New Faces show promise

New faces in Jake Caprice and Rory McArdle impressed. Caprice looks like he’s an upgrade at RB while McArdle looks steady at CB. It’s too early to say for sure how they’ll fare in the side but the early signs were promising with Caprice in particular linking up really well with Jake Taylor at RM to cause Rovers some problems as the first half wore on.

Tyler Denton came on at LB and impressed as a trialist. Positionally he looked good and will, if he signs, will push Sparkes for a starting berth. His pace and ability to push on and overlap LM were something which will no doubt interest Matt Taylor but with his involvement limited to around half an hour, only time will tell if he is able to perform on a consistent basis.

3. Young players perform yet again

Grecians fans will be well used to the sight of an academy graduate taking to the field for the first team by now. They’ll be even more used to young players producing the goods when called upon. To my memory, I struggle to think of too many players who have really disappointed when called upon and the trend looks set to continue with the current crop of players coming through.

These lads are the same ones who formed the backbone of the side which took Exeter to the semi-finals of the cup last season and then turned on the style against a full strength Pompey side under the lights and in front of the cameras. They were unlucky not to go through to the final that evening although considering that the final itself was settled by an online game of FIFA, I think its best for everyone associated with the club that we didn’t participate in that facade.

The brightest performers against Rovers were Josh Key, Joel Randall and Jordan Dyer although the graduates on the pitch barely put a foot wrong all second half. Admittedly the game lacked the same intensity in the second half from the first 45 minutes, but if these lads continue on their current trajectory, it won’t be long before they are pushing much more senior players for minutes on the pitch.

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