Exeter City v Hartlepool United scout report: Inside track on Grecians' form, tactics and key players

Dave Challinor on the touchline.Dave Challinor on the touchline.
Dave Challinor on the touchline.
Hartlepool United are in FA Cup action on Sunday - but they will have to keep Exeter City star man Randell Williams under wraps if they are to make the third round.

That’s the message from Exeter City reporter Daniel Clark, who covers the promotion-chasing Grecians for Devon Live.

And Clark also warns a hotly tipped youngster could wreck Dave Challinor’s hopes of delivering a money-spinning tie in round three.

Here's the inside track ahead of the 2pm KO on Sunday.

Form guide:

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Pools make the trip to the West Country off the back of a stunning 5-1 win at Chesterfield on Tuesday night, and have now scored 11 goals in three away games under new boss Challinor.

But Williams’ pace and creativity from wide areas will be the toughest obstacle to their hopes of bridging a one-division gap and upsetting their League Two opponents.

Exeter are also in form, with a 1-0 victory at Crawley on Saturday extending their unbeaten run to five games.

They lie fourth in League Two, just three points off top spot.

Exeter’s formation?

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Clark said: "So far this season, manager Matt Taylor has favoured a 3-4-1-2 system, with three centre-backs and then either Craig Woodman or Jack Sparkes as the left wing-back, and Randell Williams as the right wing-back - but who plays much like a winger.

"Then there are two in the centre of midfield whose job is to break up play, and Nicky Law as the number 10, behind Lee Martin and Ryan Bowman up front."

Exeter’s playing style?

Clark said: "When Taylor took over last season, he mentioned how he wanted the side to be a running team, and they don’t give up and always keep carrying on until the 90th minute and beyond.

"Randell Williams, playing in the right-wing back role, has been City’s most important attacking threat this season, and has the ability to go inside or outside of the full-back.

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"With Ryan Bowman up front, City have a physical and an aerial threat and get a lot of crosses into the box.

"But with the likes of Archie Collins, Nicky Law and Lee Martin, they also have the ability to play through sides, with Law and Martin often found playing triangle passes around the edge of the box, awaiting the perfect moment to slide their pass into an oncoming runner.

"Recent games have been very attritional but that has been down to opponents “parking the bus” and putting 10 men behind the ball."

Exeter players to watch?

Clark said: "With eight assists so far this season, Williams has been the star man. He has the pace to beat his full-back on the outside but loves to cut inside onto his favoured left foot.

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"Up front, Bowman and Martin have combined well, but are both in need of a goal, with Bowman having not scored in eight and Martin in 10.

"Bowman seems to find himself in the right position a lot of the time but doesn’t quite have the cutting edge to score the goals perhaps Grecians fans would want of him, but he holds the ball up well, brings the more creative players into the game, and enrages opposition fans by winning a lot of cheap fouls.

"In midfield, Archie Collins is getting more and more impressive game-by-game. He breaks up play and can do the simple things, but also has the ability to pick up a pass and create chances going forward.

"He is perhaps the next one of the youngsters from the academy to move on up the leagues to a bigger club."