Salford 2-2 Exeter City: 3 things we learned

1. Slow Starters

Despite a whole pre-season of conceding soft goals soon after kick-off, you’d think that Matt Taylor’s side would have enough warning to address their defensive issues heading into the new campaign. Think again.

Ian Henderson’s strike in the opening moments of the game was a poor effort to concede and exposed the defensive fragilities in the side. Despite looking threatening going forward, if the Grecians are to compete this season, they will need to shore up the defence and especially deal with aerial balls in more effectively. I can’t help thinking that if Aaron Martin had been playing today, we wouldn’t have conceded that goal and we would likely have won the game.

2. Jay is here to stay?

While other academy products have either managed to establish themselves in the first team before moving on to bigger things, or been released before they had the chance to make a start, Matt Jay has been in Exeter City selection purgatory for some years now. Despite announcing “it’s now or never” almost every season for the past half a decade, Jay has struggled to get a consistent run in the first team and find his feet for the Grecians.

But maybe all that looks like changing. Jay was the stand out performer in the team this afternoon and looked dangerous every time the Grecians attacked. His goal was vindication for his selection in the starting line up and after impressing last weekend against Bristol City, maybe now is his chance to finally have a sustained run in Matt Taylor’s side.

3. Balancing act

When news of Randell Williams’ likely departure broke on Thursday afternoon, many Exeter fans were understandably concerned about where the goals were coming from in the season ahead. Indeed, even before the news broke, Dom even asked on our season preview podcast where the creativity would be found in the side if Williams’ wasn’t able to match his production last season. A side so heavily reliant on the pacy winger last campaign, you’d be forgiven for expecting a flatter performance in attack for the Grecians without Williams this weekend.

The reality against Salford this afternoon couldn’t have been any more different. With Jake Taylor slotting in on the right hand side of midfield, and Joel Randall adding flair on the left hand side, the exclusion of Williams actually made Exeter more balanced in attack. By removing the obvious out ball to the right wing, the game opened up for Matt Taylor’s side and allowed the likes of Randall and Jay to link well going forward, giving an aging Salford more problems to consider than just the pony tailed Williams.

If Randell Williams is to leave Devon this summer, no doubt a replacement will be sought after. Squad depth is arguably at its weakest on the wings despite young players coming through and a new face will be required in a squad which will likely be heavily rotated. What today proved, if anything, however is that life without Williams can certainly go on.

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