City got their season going last Saturday with a 4-1 thumping of local rivals Bristol Rovers before suffering more penalty heartache on Tuesday night following a 1-1 draw with Chelsea’s youngsters in the EFL Trophy. Matt Taylor has boosted his squad this week with the signing of the vastly experienced Colin Samuel and he, like Owura Edwards, will be pressing for inclusion for the long trip to arguably the fledgling season’s surprise package to date. The midfield continues to be wafer thin in resources however following the news that Nigel Atangana has joined Archie Collins on the sidelines having limped off with a hamstring injury against Bristol Rovers. Sam Nombe returned off the bench, though, following his recovery from Covid, and will be hoping to start on Saturday.
Not expected to improve on last season’s impressive mid-table finish, and having been impacted by a Covid outbreak that forced them to postpone two league games and forfeit their EFL Cup place, Harrogate have started their sophomore season like a train, winning their first three fixtures including a 2-0 win at Leyton Orient on Tuesday night in the first of their delayed games. Simon Weaver made some impressive signings during the summer, not least the City pairing of Rory McArdle and Lewis Page, who were both solid additions to Matt Taylor’s squad last season, while Luke Armstrong was prolific on loan at Hartlepool and was instrumental in helping them return to the league. Armstrong has taken the step back up in his stride, hitting three goals in three matches so far. Jack Muldoon has yet to find the net this season but the 32 year old will no doubt soon start adding to the 15 he got last season.
If any pair of fixtures epitomised the frustrations of City’s 20/21 season, the matches against Harrogate were probably the exemplar. City had just thrashed promotion rivals Tranmere 5-0 in mid-December when Harrogate arrived for what appeared to be a formality of a Tuesday night match, but it was the Yorkshire side who left with the points following a 2-1 win that was as much deserved as it was surprising. Harrogate led at the break through Brendan Kiernan, Jake Taylor equalised immediately after the restart but Muldoon sealed the points. The return a month later yielded a scoreline that was to be repeated all too often in the second half of the season as, despite playing against 10 men for the last 20 minutes or so following a red card for Warren Burrell, City couldn’t break down a resolute Harrogate side in a 0-0 draw where City had 63% of possession but just one shot on target. Those were the first meetings between the sides.
The match officials for tomorrow’s game will be:-
Referee: Seb Stockbridge
Scott Williams and Lewis Raper
Fourth Official : Bradley Hall
Seb has refereed nine Exeter games. They can be viewed at https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=seb+stockbridge