City made it three wins from their last four with a 2-1 win at struggling Colchester that was far more comfortable than the scoreline suggested, and led to the sacking of Colchester manager Steve Ball after the match. Matt Taylor’s side will therefore be looking to continue this recent resurgence with another positive display at Crawley, a side that has been making headlines this season but is in a poor run of form. Taylor will be relieved that his squad came through Colchester unscathed, while he is able to welcome Alex Hartridge back after suspension. Ben Seymour spoke about seizing the opportunity to shine in Ryan Bowman’s absence, and he did just that with a fine display capped by his first league goal for City. Rory McArdle returned to the squad following his injury at Stevenage and may feature.
Nobody could have failed to be impressed by Crawley’s 3-0 thumping of Leeds in the FA Cup this season, but rather than kicking on and launching a promotion bid having been in fantastic form leading in to that match, the Red Devils have slumped since, their only win being a late 1-0 victory over Colchester, a side in greater freefall. Off-field events may have been a distraction, with the signing of reality TV star Mark Wright bringing a lot of publicity to the club – Wright made a late cameo in the Leeds win. A player considered good enough to represent the England “C” team (a representative side featuring the best players in non-league) in 2008, his signing for Crawley at the age of 34 having not played since 2011 had all the hallmarks of a marketing gimmick, even if both player and club denied this. However, when he was given his first start against Harrogate, he was hauled off at half time with his side 3-0 down and hasn’t been seen since, Crawley even not fielding a full bench at times. However, there is genuine quality available to ex-City assistant manager John Yems, including former City striker Tom Nichols, who has 11 goals in all competitions. Max Watters, though, was rewarded for his fine form with a move to Cardiff in January.
City would count themselves fortunate to record a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture in October. Crawley led 1-0 at half time through Watters, Taylor equalised before Ryan Bowman “scored” a late winner when goalkeeper Morris’ clearance rebounded off his backside. City won this fixture last season, on a bleak November afternoon Dean Moxey scored the only goal, again late in the game. Those wins extended City’s impressive league head to head lead, with ten wins to Crawley’s three, six matches finishing level. The head to head can be seen at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?p=9487
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Declan Bourne
Assistant Referees: James Vallance and Michael Begley
Fourth Official: Charles Breakspear
This will be Declan Bourne’s first game in charge of Exeter, being his first season in the EFL.