The inside track on Colchester United's play-off semi-final opponents Exeter City

EXETER City have been in and around League Two's top three all season and were unlucky to miss out on automatic promotion, when the campaign ended early.

Former Colchester United loanee Matt Taylor has done an impressive job since taking over as Grecians manager at St James Park in June, 2018.

However, the Grecians had not won in five matches in all competitions, prior to the League Two season being prematurely ended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

DevonLive's Digital Sports Editor Stuart James gives an insight into Exeter's season so far and examines how they might fare in the upcoming play-off semi-final against Colchester United.

Like Colchester, Exeter have had a great season – what’s been the secret to their success so far?

Hard work. There is no real secret to it.

The team doesn't have a 25 goal-a-season striker, it is very much based on a strong team ethic with good, solid players throughout the team and a strength in depth, supplemented by some very promising young players.

They are also a very close-knit group and that has helped them, they are well coached and fit as well. 
Exeter had picked up only two points from a possible 12 when the season was suspended back in March – in these unfortunate circumstances, do you think the break in matches might be beneficial heading into the play-offs?

Yes, that was very disappointing. It kind of feels like we have lost a football equivalent game of musical chairs having been in the top three all season, but the break will hopefully help, especially with those players that were playing with knocks and niggles.

City have started seasons well in recent years, so hopefully, they will flourish with the sun on their backs!
Overall, how do you reflect on Exeter’s season so far?

Very good. It was just a shame the season - for all of League Two - couldn't have concluded on the pitch as it was really gearing up to be a fascinating conclusion.

The 4-0 mauling of Plymouth in the Devon Derby will live long in the memory and was the undoubted highlight of the campaign, but so too was the terrific run in the EFL Trophy, where we only lost to Portsmouth in the semi-final after the craziest finish to a game I think I have ever seen.
What can you tell us about Matt Taylor and his style of play?

I've been very fortunate to work with some great managers at Exeter and Matt is right up there, without doubt.

He's not afraid to get his hands dirty and has a real eye for a player as some of his signings have shown.

He likes to play an attacking style and he isn't afraid to tell it how it is... that may be to his detriment at times as players don't always like to hear and see things in the public domain, but there's no doubt the fans like his honesty. 
Who are the key players and why?

Randell Williams has had an outstanding season and is one of the best players in the division.

Nicky Law is a classy playmaker, Archie Collins is a star of the future and in goal, Lewis Ward has had a very good first season at the club, despite the nasty broken arm he suffered in a 1-1 draw at Crewe.

I single out those players, but as I said earlier, it is a talented squad with quality throughout really, and plenty of strength in depth.

The likes of youngsters Joel Randall, Jordan Dyer, Alex Hartridge and Harry Kite give fans genuine belief that the future is bright. 
What is your best guess at a starting line-up, in formation order, against Colchester?

Wow, this is so hard because you don't know who will be fit, who is in form or whether anyone is ruled out having returned a positive CV19 test.

But if everyone is available, I think it would be a 3-5-2... Ward; Sweeney, A Martin, Parkes; Williams, Taylor, Collins, Law, Sparkes; Bowman, Ajose.