Carl Magnay’s loss from the Hartlepool United side has been keenly felt.
The defender had been outstanding in the midfield holding role in front of the back four.
I don’t mind where I play but I like centre mid where I can get on the ball and try to have a bit more input on the gameMATTHEW BATES
Magnay was thrown into the right-back role at Wycombe in place of the injured Michael Duckworth and ended up being sent off.
He has two games of a three-match ban to serve and will miss Saturday’s visit of Cambridge United and the trip to Yeovil.
But Ronnie Moore and Sam Collins seem to have found the perfect man to fill that role.
Matthew Bates got through the 90 minutes at Exeter in imperious fashion, looking assured defensively and getting forward on a number of occasions.
It was a welcome return to the side for the former Middlesbrough star who had played superbly in the wins over York City and Newport County.
He played in the centre of defence as deputy for the injured Harry Worley until being injured himself at Stevenage.
But Bates was calmness personified at St James Park and looks a good man to have for that midfield role.
So where would the 28-year-old prefer to be?
“I’ve played more at centre-half, but I’ve played right and left-back and centre-midfield,” he said.
“I don’t mind where I play but I like centre mid where I can get on the ball and try to have a bit more input on the game.
“I enjoyed it and tried to get on the ball as much as I could.
“I couldn’t do that in the second half because I had a man-to-man marking job on one of their players.
“But it’s not about individual performances.”
It was a selfless line from a player who, for all he’s operated at a higher level than any of his team-mates, is no prima-donna.
He’s ‘in it together’ with the rest of the players in a squad which continues to demonstrate it tight-knit spirit.
Pools showed those qualities against a good Exeter team and left Devon “gutted” not to have collected a point or three.
Christian Ribeiro slotted in the winner in the second minute of stoppage time as Pools looked set for a well-earned point.
The right-back’s goal came after Pools had enjoyed the better of the chances.
Rhys Oates had scooped over the bar after being set-up by Rakish Bingham, who had a penalty saved 20 minutes from time by keeper Bobby Olejnik.
“Gut-wrenching,” was the assessment of Bates.
“It was a fairly even game. Had we scored the penalty I think we’d have nicked it.
“I think we deserved at least a point, if not all three.
“The lads were gutted, the team worked so hard. Exeter are a good football side, who drag you all over the pitch.
“We played good football in parts and when we look back in a day or two, we’ll take positives from it.
“We created chances, kept the ball well at times and defended well for the most part.”
For all the frustration felt by Moore and the entire Pools squad – and the 72 fans – Bates said there were no complaints from the manager afterwards.
“The gaffer was gutted,” he said.
“He said he couldn’t fault the effort of the lads. It was one of them games that could have gone either way.
“That could easily have been us that came away with the points, we’ve got to move on to the next game against Cambridge on Saturday.”