Gary Caldwell welcomes international break as Exeter seek ‘respite’ from bad run

By Sports Desk November 11, 2023

Exeter manager Gary Caldwell admits he is looking forward to an international break after witnessing his side’s 3-0 defeat at Fleetwood.

The visitors shipped three goals in a disastrous first half, never really looked like salvaging anything from their long trip north and left the field to a chorus of boos from their travelling fans.

Caldwell held his hands up and is prepared to carry the can for his team, who have not tasted victory in Sky Bet League One since mid-September.

“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb and although we improved in the second half we were 3-0 down so that was the least you’d expect,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do and we need to stand up and be counted, but at this moment in time we’re not doing that.

“Ultimately I pick the team and I have to take responsibility for that. We have a bit of respite now with the international break and we can do a lot of work on the training ground because so many things need to be better.

“I understand that the fans are frustrated, we’re all frustrated. They come a long way to watch us and in the first half that wasn’t good enough. They are well within their rights to boo and criticise and we all have to work hard on the training pitch to change that momentum at the moment.

“The window doesn’t open until January and then we will look at it so we have to work with the players we’ve got, and they were fantastic early season.

“We have a few injuries that we have to get back but as individuals we have to look at ourselves and be better.”

Fleetwood boss Lee Johnson admitted things could hardly have gone better for his team in that first period, when Ryan Broom, Brendan Wiredu and Phoenix Patterson all found the net.

Patterson’s strike came after he had been sent tumbling in the box by Pierce Sweeney, referee Thomas Kirk awarding a free-kick just outside.

Patterson sent it perfectly into the near corner, leaving Johnson delighted with his young winger.

“Phoenix has been on it for the last two or three weeks,” he said. “He’s had to ‘unlearn’ some things, I wasn’t fully happy with his application, not in terms of his effort, work rate and professionalism, but his attitude to turn and drive at people, and I say that lovingly because I know how good he is.

“He’s got a great centre of gravity, a great end product and a little shift of pace and dynamism in the final third and he’s got real quality. If he was timid like I’d seen earlier in my tenure it wasn’t enough, but he’s deserved his chance and he’s taken it, he’s been excellent.

“It was a very satisfying win, I thought the first half in particular was excellent, we had a 15-minute spell where we stopped working hard early enough but we could have been 5-0 up at half-time, I think that would have probably been a fair assessment of the first half.

“Key for us is that we know what good looks like now and we know when we’re not playing well what that looks like as well and that allows the players to self-coach and manage each other, so I was really pleased to see that. It’s a really positive sign for us.

“As a general rule we feel like we’re going in the right direction.”

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