Otters boss craving clean sheets

Footie. Ref miscsp 43-17TI 2278. Picture: Terry Ife

Footie. Ref miscsp 43-17TI 2278. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Ottery St Mary head for Exeter tomorrow (Saturday) and a Macron League Division Three meeting with Priory, looking to bounce back to winning ways following last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Royal Oak.

The Otters’ recent record in terms of keeping clean sheets does not make for good reading!

Whilst the Otters have shipped at least two goals in each of their seven league and cup ties this season to date – they have conceded three in all but one of them – last season they did not keep a clean sheet until their ninth outing and they went on to have just three further ‘shut-outs’ in what was a campaign of 29 games.

In the 2015/16 season it was a similar story with just five clean sheets in 33 matches when the club was plying their trade in Division Five of the Devon and Exeter League – that season they bagged their first clean sheet in game nine, a Halloween meeting with Sandford.

By far their best season, in terms of keeping clean sheets in recent campaigns, has to be the Division Six title-winning season of 2014/15 when they had a shut-out on match day one – a 4-0 home win over Bradninch – and they went on to keep 13 clean sheets in 33 matches.

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Indeed, the last time the Otters recorded back-to-back clean sheets was in that 14/15 campaign when they kept three successive clean sheets in April 2015 during a run that saw them beat HT Dons 5-0, Silverton 6-0 and then Exwick 5-0 – all in the space of 11 days.

No doubt Otters boss Dave Fairweather is hoping it’s not too long before his side is once again chalking up clean sheets!

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He says: “There are reasons for our continued leakage in terms of goals conceded and it’s very much down to the fact that we are rarely able to field the same back line. This season so far, I think we have been able to name the same back four in just two of our games and, against Royal Oak, it was very much a ‘make-shift’ defence that had a regular right back filling in at centre back, which is always a tough ask.”

He continued: “They [Royal Oak] are a difficult side to play at the best of times and I figured it would be tough as we had beaten them at their place a fortnight before and they clearly came to us with a point to prove.

“That said, we played so well in the first 45 minutes and I do think an element of complacency kicked in and we started the second half in something of a slumber that we found impossible to get out of, and once we gifted them a way back with a daft penalty, we were always back-pedalling and they had the momentum.”

On the matter of the defensive record, Fairweather says: “Defending is an art, but you need consistency of availability and a disciplined and well-drilled back line to keep clean sheets. Of course it’s something I’d like to put right immediately, but it cannot be done over night. There is no doubt we have the players at the club to sort his out, but the key is them training – and playing – together on a consistent basis.”

Making life a little easier for the Otter boss is that he has regular defenders James Gosney and Dave Weeks – who both missed last weekend’s defeat – back available for the game at Priory. However, Jonny De Cruz, who is one of his central defenders, misses the game through injury.

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