In mid-June, City’s players are usually off sunning themselves somewhere, but in these crazy times they instead find themselves taking the field in front of some cardboard cutouts in the playoffs. After a lot of back and forth the season was finally confirmed as being curtailed last week, thus enabling the EFL to hastily arrange the playoffs. The points per game ratio meant Cheltenham moved above City meaning they instead take on Northampton while City have an intriguing tie against Colchester, a fixture which failed to produce a winner during the regular season. City are likely to have a full squad to choose from – the one player who wouldn’t have featured had these matches taken place a month ago as they should have done was Jack Sparkes, who has worked hard to regain fitness from his leg injury sustained on Boxing Day against Newport. Matt Taylor is wary, however, that Sparkes may not be quite ready, which would likely mean Brennan Dickenson gets the nod on the left against his former side. One thing that is unclear is which players are likely to be let go by City at the end of June, with the board already making it clear that in common with most clubs, the squad will be smaller next season. That could mean that players are taking the field on Thursday night knowing they’ll be unemployed a fortnight later – although this could equally apply to Colchester.
There’s very little point talking about form after a break of over three months, but Colchester snuck into the playoffs despite their form being patchy (particularly at home) in the games leading to the enforced shutdown. Their playoff place ended up being secured by a 3-0 win at Carlisle in the final match before lockdown, having lost three of their previous four matches. Much will depend on loanee Theo Robinson, top scorer with 11 in the league in 19 starts, while John McGreal can call on the likes of Frank Nouble and Luke Norris, and Harry Pell is a distinctive figure in midfield.
During the regular season (remember that?) the sides met twice in the space of a few weeks thanks to the fixture computer – just after Christmas City made the trip to Essex and played a full part in an entertaining 2-2 draw. Jake Taylor put City ahead only for Colchester to come back through Pell and Robinson. City earned a point from a Bowman penalty that saw Tom Lapslie sent off. The return fixture was altogether less eventful, finishing 0-0. City have the slight edge in league head to heads with 29 wins to Colchester’s 25 (22 draws). Information on the last 22 encounters can be found at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?p=9529
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Josh Smith
Assistant Referees: Michael Webb and Anthony Da Costa
Fourth Official: Christopher Pollard
Josh Smith has refereed two Exeter games, the home tie against Hartlepool in the FA Cup this season, the and the dramatic EFL Trophy game against Ipswich. Details of those two games can be found at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=josh+smith
Pre-match interview with manager Matt Taylor
Pre-match interview with Captain Jake Taylor
Pre-match interview with Nicky Law