WHAT a difference five days make!
Rewind to Chesterfield, and Peter Clarke cut a frustrated figure as he watched Town tumble out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy from the Saltergate stand.
Fast forward to Exeter City and the club captain was in his element as Lee Clark’s side finally ended their barren run.
The thumping 4-0 Galpharm win over the Grecians was Town’s first success in seven, and the 27-year-old, back from the one-match ban which followed his red card at Colchester United, certainly enjoyed the afternoon.
“That performance certainly put a brighter complexion on things,” said the summer signing from Southend United ahead of today’s capital test as League I pacesetters Charlton Athletic.
“It was great to get back to winning ways with a few goals and a clean sheet, and now we have to go forward with another positive display.”
An experienced professional who has also served Everton, where he came through the youth ranks, and Blackpool, Southport-born former England Under 21 international Clarke, had been through winless runs before.
“It’s part and parcel of football, and how you react to setbacks is very important,” he explained.
“It’s an old cliche, but a true one. You have to stick together as a team, keep working hard on the training ground, try to pinpoint where things are going wrong and do something about it and ensure you do the basics of the game as well as you possibly can.
“Even though we weren’t getting the results we would have wanted, I knew we weren’t that far away in terms of performances, because apart from Millwall, we weren’t getting battered.
“I was always confident we would turn the corner, but it’s crucial to remember it’s only a start. We have to build from the Exeter win.”
Clarke’s sending off in the 1-0 defeat at Colchester ruined his hopes of playing in every Town match this season.
And the dismissal for two bookable offences still rankles.
“As a professional, you want to play in every match you possibly can, and it was tough having to watch at Chesterfield,” he added.
“I certainly thought the sending off was harsh. I didn’t thin either offence warranted a yellow card, and while I’m obviously a bit biased, other people have said it too.
“There was nothing malicious about either challenge, and with the second (when Clarke was ruled to have used his arm in aerial contest with full-back John White) a clash of bodies is as much as it was.
“I was surprised and disappointed to see the cards come out – I think the picture on the back of the Examiner showed that – and for them to get the winning goal soon after simply compounded the misery.
“Up until my sending off, I thought we were looking the better team and the more likely to get something from the game.”
Red cards and barren runs aside, Clarke is enjoying his latest career challenge.
“I love the place to bits,” said the man who will be making a 306th club career appearance at The Valley today.
“It’s a top club, the people around the place are brilliant and the backing I’ve had from the supporters has been fantastic. I’ll do everything possible to give them something to cheer.”