Colchester United vs. Exeter City 1st Semi-final
Colchester United played Exeter city in the first leg of the league two play-off semi-finals
Colchester United line up:
Colchester lined up in a 442 shape with Norris and Nouble up front. Bramall at left back who had a very very good game.
Exeter city line up:
Exeter on the other hand played in their normal asymmetric 442/4411 which appears as a back three during certain phases of possession.
Exeter is a team that very reliant on the creativity of their right-hand flank specifically Randell Williams who has the most assists for Exeter. however he is a one footed player which means he needs cut inside to get onto his stronger foot (much like Robben did). the difference is instead of driving in the box for a shot Randell looks to give assists.
During this game Randell creating one of the best chances of the game for Exeter when Nicky Law had shot that was blocked in the first half.
One of the problems in the first half for Exeter was their pressing - throughout the season I have critical of Exeter’s pressing style. By the fact there does not seem to be one. There were huge inconsistencies in the moments the players chose to close or to stand off. Some of this may be down to a lack of energy. It was noted that Exeter have chosen not to play any friendlies, and this may have come back to haunt them during this game. In the second half Exeter seem to drop off, into a defensive mid to low block, rather than continue to pursue their aggressive pressure as they have done in most games throughout the season. And to a certain point this was amazingly effective at pushing Colchester into a playing style that did not particularly suit the line-up.
Exeter did get quite a bit of time on the ball in certain moments of the game. However, their control and management of space was not so good when in possession.
Specifically, there players struggled to free themselves of the aggressive man marking. In the second half there was a moment where Exeter had control possession and got stuck into circulating the ball around the halfway line looking for an opening but finding that quite a large number of the team were maintaining static positions. This lack of flexibility meant it was quite easy to use man zonal marking scheme to control the space and block off passing options to the final third.
When Exeter did effectively rotate, especially at one point when Nicky Law switched positions with Randal Williams and near the end of the game. It did lead to a combination that allowed the ball to progress towards the final third.
More interchange and more rotation may have helped progress the ball and lead to more chances for Exeter. However, the game ended for Exeter with 0 shots on target.
Colchester’s initial plan was to use long balls to try and get behind Exeter’s high line. However, this did not achieve its desired aim of breaking the offside line but did lead to a number of set piece opportunities.
Defensively Colchester were very well organised and followed a man zonal marking scheme specifically marking out Exeter’s midfield and marking up Randal Williams to prevent him from cutting inside.
This is largely effective in nullifying Exeter’s build-up play. In many situations the midfield struggled to hold onto the ball and to create anything of meaningful through the centre of the pitch. This meant that Exeter’s attacks were forced down the right-hand side where Randal Williams was positioned much higher up the pitch with Pearce Sweeney covering the space in behind. On the left-hand side of Exeter (right-hand side of Colchester) jacks sparks didn’t present as much of a threat and seem to stay back to give Exeter a more solid defensive line. as a result there was clear space for colchester to push up there full back into the space and used this space well to progress the ball.
This lack of threats made Colchester’s defensive job slightly easier but nonetheless they were very well organised and structured. in this game they showed why they have done very well specifically in cup games against bigger opposition where they can hold on and stay in the game and then score from the few opportunities that emerge.
One of Exeter’s weaknesses is their ability to give away fouls in dangerous areas. This gave Colchester opportunities that they may not have got from open play and the goal came from such set piece.
Colchester as a team have a lot of strength specifically around their ability in defending set pieces, winning the ball back in a very organised manner but also they are exceptionally good at scoring from direct free kick situations.
In the first half such a situation took place when Lewis Ward was forced into pushing the ball over the bar.
As mentioned before Exeter has a problem with giving away fouls around the box which is highly dangerous when facing a team who has such a good record of scoring from direct free kick situations.
It was revealed in the post-match interviews that Colchester have practised a lot of direct free kicks including the routine from which they scored from.
As we can see in the setup Lewis Ward is positioned to protect his far post. He seems more worried and concerned about a ball into the box for Harry Pell. This is not surprising as during most of this game nearly all of Colchester indirect set pieces where aimed for him. from the position of the kick it may have been reasonable to assume it would be an indirect kick rather then a shot.
Exeter used a man zonal marking set up and were attempting to hold an offside line. However, this may have contributed to the goal itself. Because there was no one standing on the goal line with the goalkeeper. This ment the goalkeeper was now having to defend the entire length of the Goal. As a result the goalkeeper should positioned himself in a more central position rather than standing as he is in the photo closer to his far post.
The ball goes over the wall (which is 5ft 7inch high – reaching 7ft 3 inches assume an above average spring). However the jump is mistimed and the ball goes over the wall.
Admittedly he does get close to saving it and dose make contact. Nevertheless the ball still goes in.
For Colchester they need to show the defensive resolution to whether what is likely to be an extremely aggressive approach from Exeter in the second leg. Again they need to take advantage of spaces for the counter-attack and again seek to win those fouls around the box so they can get those direct free kicks from which they have shown already in the first leg they can be deadly from.
Exeter were quite defensively sound however there are the ongoing issue of the unorganised nature of there pressure. In the second leg it likely Exeter will go for a very aggressive start and then may seek to manage the game at 1-1 in order to conserve energy and then look to score a second as the game progresses.
In the second leg Exeter must have more fluidity during the possession phase. They must also seek to take advantage of some of the spaces that were created in Colchester back line when Ryan Bowman dropped deeper and attracted a defender with him. There may be opportunities to exploit this with runners into that space for example a player like Matt Jay who could play in a wide position to run into those spaces.