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Is Exeter City set for promotion from League Two?

Wednesday 20th September 2017
Exeter City is sitting pretty atop League Two in the early doors. Can Paul Tisdale's Grecians go the distance to claim the ultimate gift: promotion?

Eight games played, seven wins, one draw. In League Two, such opening form is seldom seen. England's fourth-tier is perhaps its most competitive division. Any club can beat another. It is a league of ruefully fine margins.

Take Exeter, for example, last season they sat rock bottom at Christmas. Then, four months down the line the Grecians had clinched a playoff spot, made it all the way to Wembley, felled only by a decent Blackpool outfit.

League Two is quite unique in its ability to throw up surprise packages and promotions. The difference between promotion and mid-table a matter of a few points. The same story holds for the bottom.

That City has not yet lost in such a ferocious league is just so impressive. The aura of strength currently pervading from St. James Park (not that one) has many tipping them for promotion.
And why not? Paul Tisdale is league football's second longest serving manager, behind Arsene Wenger. Born in Malta to a UK armed services family, Tisdale is entering his 11th season in charge of the Grecians.

Few understand League football's rigours better than Tisdale. He somehow carved a 21-year playing career from just 37 appearances with 10 clubs. The occasional goal (2) helped.

It appears his intelligence--someone who hung from such a gossamer thread for so long has to be among the smartest men in the game--is translating onto the pitch. His appetite for aesthetically pleasing football, not to mention fashion, has, at times, undermined City's aspirations; yet this season Exeter is playing with a blend of vibrancy and grit. Such industry is essential to League Two success.
Ruben Reid, signed from rivals Plymouth Argyle last summer, is in fine form, netting seven times in eight games. A prolific forward will certainly enhance a team's promotion chances. Reid certainly looks like fitting the championship winning striker's mould.

Behind Reid, City boasts creative and enterprising talents: Lee Holmes, Jake Taylor an Jayden Stockley. Crucially, too, this is a defence that has conceded the second fewest goals in the league (6). Having also scored the second most, City has an enviable balance of potency and solidity. So far, so good for the Grecians. It appears they have all the ingredients necessary for promotion.

Given both League Two's nature and the players no longer with the side, that's a pleasant surprise. David Wheeler was emphatic last season. He moved on to QPR late in the transfer window.
Ollie Watkins, a perennial bright spark, is now a Brentford player. Few would have considered Exeter genuine contenders without them. Granted, City reached the play-off final, last season, but that was mainly on the back of an unprecedented winning streak, powered by Wheeler's goals.

Yet Tisdale has found a way, a style that complements and exploits his current squad's abilities. Backed by a vocal, loyal fan-base who have part ownership in the club, the Grecians have had it all their way so far.

An eight-point gap separates them from fourth. The top three teams gain automatic promotion. Such a lead is rarely spawned, especially this early.

There is always the chance League Two's notorious parity will bring Tisdale's team back to the pack but the sensible money is on Exeter City to return to England's third tier when the season is out.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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