16 September 2023

Gary Caldwell praises Exeter players after going top with win over Cheltenham

16 September 2023

Exeter manager Gary Caldwell was delighted with the patience his side showed as they returned to the top of the League One table with a deserved 1-0 win over Cheltenham.

The Grecians dominated form the start but found Cheltenham obdurate opponents and it took until the 68th minute for the only goal of the game to arrive as substitute Caleb Watts marked his debut with the winner.

“It is never easy when a team come and set up the way that Cheltenham set up,” Caldwell said.

“They parked the bus very early and sat every man behind the ball and they wanted to counter-attack, which we thought they would do, but we didn’t think they’d be as defensive as they were.

“When you don’t break that down with the opportunities we created, then the frustration can come and you can start searching for something that isn’t there.

“We kept playing our way, we kept believing in what we were doing and we eventually got our rewards.

“We had an incredible moment just before with three chances inside the six-yard box and when they don’t go in, you wonder if it’s going to be your day.

“But all credit to the players, they kept going and Caleb, on his debut, scored a brilliant goal.

“I said to them at half-time to keep doing what we are doing, but do it quicker and more often and I said to bring the Big Bank into the game by playing faster and getting the ball in the box, corners, and creating momentum at that end because we see so often the ball gets sucked into that goal.”

Underwhelming Cheltenham are still searching for their first league goal of the season.

Manager Wade Elliott said: “I never felt uncomfortable apart from a 10-minute spell when they scored and we were trying to get the subs on.

“One or two of the players were flagging a little bit and we were desperately trying to make the subs.

“We knew they were going to have possession, but aside from that we never felt uncomfortable. We had enough opportunities on the counter and turnovers for it to fall our way rather than against us.

“We were trying to make changes and we were just 30 seconds the wrong side of it.

“I understand where we are at the minute and it puts extra emphasis on everything. It is difficult to say it was 10 minutes away from being a good performance.

“They are going to have to be bold enough to keep putting themselves in there, the number of times balls have gone into the box and we have had chances, our play is crying out for someone to get on the end of it.”

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