When your side goes into the hat for the FA Cup First Round, you generally hope for a home tie against the lowest ranked side left in the competition, and so it has come to pass with City the penultimate name drawn to play against Heybridge Swifts. Paul Tisdale’s selection options have reduced drastically in recent weeks with a spate of injuries, although Pierce Sweeney being a sickness victim at Mansfield should mean he is fit to resume his place after his replacement, West Brom loanee Kane Wilson, saw red for a second booking in injury time in the 1-1 draw in Nottinghamshire. Tisdale is unlikely to shuffle his pack too much although players like Alex Byrne, Matt Jay and Liam McAlinden could be in line for a start.
It’s fair to say Heybridge Swifts’ 17/18 season shows a side on the up – after narrowly avoiding relegation to the depths of non-league last season they have made a storming start to the season in the Isthmian League Division 1 North – although only 8th in the table this is because they have up to six games in hand on the teams above them having won seven and lost one of their first eight league fixtures. Their FA Cup run explains this, the Swifts (from Essex, in case you were wondering) booking their passage to the First Round, ironically with several of City’s Exiles present, with a 4-2 win at Haringey Borough from the same division. Used to playing in front of around 200 people at their Scraley Road ground, Sunday’s trip will be something of a step up. The Swifts, under the management of former Welling boss Jody Brown, already have three players in double figures for goals this season – Juan Luque (14), Samuel Bantick (13) and Luke Callander (11), so City’s rearguard will expect to be busy. Former Football League striker Ricky Sappleton has recently signed to further increase their firepower.
Given the gulf between the sides it may be a surprise to know Sunday will not be the first time Heybridge have made the long journey to Devon, and indeed the previous fixture took place with Paul Tisdale in charge of City – in December 2006 the sides met in the first round of that season’s FA Trophy and, after problems with travel delays, City eventually cruised to a 3-0 win with goals from Matt Gill, Billy Jones and Bertie Cozic. A look at Wikipedia’s list of former Heybridge players suggests a couple with City connections – Alan Kimble, who played a single game on loan at City in 1985 before playing in the top flight with Wimbledon, played at Heybridge late in his career, while the lightning striker Leon Braithwaite, a cult hero at City under Peter Fox, also wound down his career with a brief spell at Heybridge.
The match officials for this game are:-
Referee: Neil Hair
Assistant Referee: Benn Cobb and Sam Ogles
Fourth Official: Adam Bromley
Neil Hair normally referees games in the National League so hasn’t taken charge of an Exeter before.
If you intend to watch via iFollow then you need to be aware of these restrictions that the Club have announced https://www.exetercityfc.co.uk/news/2017/november/ifollow/