Thanks to City’s 16/17 season extending by almost a month, it feels like this pre-season has gone by more quickly than usual, although the lack of any home pre-season matches will have elongated the break slightly for City supporters, and on Saturday City will take the field in a stadium that is in the process of being rebuilt somewhat.
City’s close season was seemingly all about the stadium development and the inevitable loss of two of the club’s rising stars, and Paul Tisdale begins a new season without the attacking output of Ollie Watkins and the burgeoning talent of Ethan Ampadu. Returning “home” is Dean Moxey, although frustratingly he has missed the pre-season fixtures with an injury and is unlikely to be fit for the first couple of matches.
Luke Croll has returned to City after signing on a contract following his loan spell, although he is likely to be on the bench initially due to the strength of the Brown/Moore-Taylor partnership. Up front Liam McAlinden is likely to feature more prominently having impressed in bursts last season, while Reuben Reid is relishing the prospect of starting with a full pre-season behind him with a target of 20+ goals surely not beyond the realms of possibility.
One possibility out of left field is that Jack Sparkes may feature, the 16 year old having impressed especially in the 6-1 thrashing of Dorchester that brought City’s pre-season to a finish. Ryan Brunt signed after a successful trial but he will likely feature from the bench.
Cambridge have featured quite heavily amongst the “dark horses” in the various prediction articles, having been one of the teams on the fringes of the playoffs last season. Their signings of David Forde (the goalkeeper who was in the League Two PFA team of the year) and journeyman striker Jabo Ibehre both look impressive on paper, while the club has held on to Luke Berry, who was something of a talisman last season. David Amoo is another new signing who will need to be watched closely. Barry Corr, after an injury hit couple of years, was released while fellow ex-City player James Dunne has joined Swindon. Manager Shaun Derry will be under some pressure to perform after it was considered Cambridge slightly underachieved last season.
In recent years City have had an excellent record against Cambridge, but it was not the case last season as the Us recorded a double. The corresponding fixture in October saw Cambridge race into a 2-0 lead through Luke Berry and then Harrison Dunk taking advantage of a brain freeze from Christy Pym before City undeservedly reduced the arrears in the second half through Joel Grant. Easter Monday saw a Leon Legge goal give the hosts the spoils. Cambridge therefore pulled further ahead of City in the league head to heads with 23 wins to City’s 16 (11 draws).
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Assistant Referees: Simon Knapp and Mark Derrien
Fourth Official: Ben Cobb
Kettle has refereed 8 Exeter games (see here for details), the most recent being the 1-1 draw away to Luton in March.
The Club’s preview with Paul Tisdale
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