A Devon Derby defeat is always a dampener on the spirits, and so it is that City go into a televised match on Sunday hoping for a boost. Paul Tisdale will be sweating on the fitness of the mercurial Christian Ribeiro, who was used in the last half hour on Tuesday night despite carrying a knock, although the return to fitness of Jamie McAllister provides some extra competition for places. Lee Holmes, David Noble and Matt Oakley are expected to return to the line-up on Saturday, while Tom Nichols will be pressing for a start.
When Graham Westley left the club in the summer amidst rumours of a bust-up with Chairman Phil Wallace over budgets, Stevenage decided to take a punt on a so-called “celebrity manager” in the previously untried Teddy Sheringham. Would he prove to be another Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink or another John Barnes? So far the considered opinion appears to be heading towards the latter as Stevenage go into Sunday’s fixture in 20th place in the table and having lost at home to the hitherto rubbish Dagenham & Redbridge in the JPT on Wednesday night, the club’s fifth straight defeat – funnily enough their last victory, back at the beginning of September, was against that lot down the A38. The natives are pretty restless, and another defeat in front of the Sky cameras could be the final straw. Finding a regular goal scorer has been an issue – the signing of Brett Williams in the summer, a player City were rumoured to be chasing, should have solved this but he has found the net just once so far. At the back Stevenage will be marshalled by Dean Wells, who always carries plenty of fight – if sometimes manifested off the pitch when confronted with Leyton Orient supporters, while Steven Schumacher brings plenty of experience to the side.
City’s poor record against Graham Westley continued last season in the fixtures between the sides with a return of one point from six. Just before Christmas Stevenage came away with the points thanks to a late strike from Charlie Lee, while the return on a Tuesday night in March was a thoroughly forgettable 0-0 draw. The league head to head is all square with four wins apiece (six draws).