It’s a story that is becoming all too familiar. City enjoyed the majority of possession, but recording one shot on target is never likely to earn victories, as evidenced by yet another 0-0 draw on Tuesday night – admittedly a more impressive result than the home games against Mansfield and Southend that yielded the same result but still a continuation of a worrying trend. Having been rampant in the first half of the season, City appear to have been found out (with occasional exceptions) and rarely look likely to score. Matt Taylor’s task on Saturday will be made slightly more difficult as his attacking options will be reduced by the absence of Robbie Willmott, ruled out of playing against his parent club. This may lead to a return to three at the back, otherwise Jack Sparkes is likely to deputise.
One saving grace is that other playoff contenders also seem to be limping over the line – Forest Green on Tuesday were in poor form, and the same can be said of Newport. Michael Flynn’s side looked to be serious automatic promotion contenders earlier in the season, but like City have struggled for a while. That said, the Exiles recorded a vital 2-0 win over Crawley on Tuesday night to establish a three point gap back to City. A number of ins and outs during the January window (including the loan to City of Willmott) clearly didn’t help, and Newport have recorded just two wins from their last eight matches which, like City’s scoring woes, have seen just six goals scored. Goals have been shared around but top scorer Padraig Amond has just nine goals in all competitions this season. City welcome former utility player Scot Bennett, who scored a few weeks ago in Newport’s 2-1 defeat at Barrow.
The reverse fixture was dramatic, to say the least, with referee Tom Nield taking centre stage in the 1-1 draw on the bog masquerading as a pitch at Rodney Parade. Nield sent off Alex Hartridge inside the first ten minutes for what he deemed to be a professional foul. Undeterred City took the lead through Ryan Bowman, before the target man also saw red before half time following the alleged use of an elbow. City defended for their lives in the second half but eventually the equaliser came through Dom Telford. Last season’s match at the Park finished 1-0 to City through an early Lee Martin strike. This match, aside from being between two sides that have struggled in front of goal, is one that often produces draws anyway, with seven matches finishing level – each side has won four times. Encounters between the two sides can be found at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?p=9735
The match officials for the game will be:-
Referee: Rob Lewis
Assistant Referees: John Flynn and Ravel Cheosiaua
Fourth Official : Sam Allison
Rob Lewis has taken charge of nine Exeter games, details at: https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=rob+lewis