It has been said many times already, but for emphasis, if you said to a City supporter prior to the trip to Leyton Orient on November 22nd that six months later they’d be watching their side walk out at Wembley, your sanity would have been called into question. After all, following a heartbreaking stoppage time 3-2 defeat to Carlisle, City were bottom of the league. However, following the ultimate revenge – a stoppage time 3-2 victory over Carlisle, City do indeed find themselves heading to Wembley on Sunday – again symmetry comes into play as the match takes place against City’s opposition on the opening day of the season. With a mostly fit squad to choose from bar long-term absentees McCready and Simpson, choosing who to select and who to leave out is one of Paul Tisdale’s biggest headaches, as everyone who misses out will be gutted. It may be that Tisdale keeps faith with the starting eleven that served so well against Carlisle, which would naturally be harsh on the likes of Lloyd James and Reuben Reid. As we all know by now, though, picking City’s starting eleven can be something of a lottery.
There are a number of clubs in League Two that have resembled a soap opera this season. Whether it’s Leyton Orient and their 28 managers, Morecambe and their 28 owners or Wycombe and their 28 minutes of injury time, life hasn’t been dull. Add into the mix Blackpool, where a civil war between the clubs owners and their supporters has continued apace this season. Legal action and boycotts have overshadowed matters on the pitch where Gary Bowyer got his side ticking late in the season to sneak into the playoff picture at the death, a place confirmed on the final day with victory over doomed Leyton Orient. Like with City their playoff semi-final with Luton had goals aplenty with so many parallels – the tie finishing 6-5 on aggregate with the winning goal coming deep into injury time. There was something of poetic justice for Blackpool after the notorious Danny Hylton did what he does best in conning the referee into giving a penalty that looked to have clinched Wembley for Luton before Armand Gnanduillet and a late Own Goal wrested the tie back. The likes of Gnanduillet and ex-Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso will be the ones to watch especially assuming Kyle Vassell again misses out with injury.
City were in optimistic mood following a sterling pre-season as they headed up the M5/M6 to Bloomfield Road on the opening day of the season, but the first match between the sides in more than 15 years saw the hosts ease to a 2-0 win (Vassell and a Troy Brown OG). The return looked no better when, following Robbie Simpson’s horror injury the Seasiders went 2-0 up through Daniel and Potts, but Ollie Watkins just before half time and a 90th minute equaliser from Reuben Reid completed the fightback. Blackpool have the edge in Football League head to heads with seven wins to City’s four (five draws).
Match officials for this game are:-
Barnsley born Darren England has officiated just the one Exeter fixture this season, the 3-1 away win at Cheltenham booking 6 players including the non-playing Exeter substitute Ethan Ampadu.