Preview: Swindon Town vs Exeter City

City were frustrated by 10-man Hartlepool last weekend, but on the upside a fourth successive clean sheet having gone months without one gives Matt Taylor’s side a strong base from which to go forward. Eyebrows were raised on deadline day when George Ray moved on loan to Leyton Orient, but this presumably facilitated the loan move from Huddersfield of Kieran Phillips to fill the gap left by the injuries to Sam Nombe and Offrande Zanzala. Phillips is no stranger to the Park having played against City for Walsall this season and will hope to hit the ground running, while Nombe himself is thought to be close to a return and may even make the bench on Saturday. This fixture will also be fairly bittersweet for Pierce Sweeney – had Swindon’s ownership issues been resolved sooner he may have been appearing for the home side having moved to Swindon in the summer only to return to City when his paycheque bounced.

Having been one of the league’s “crisis clubs” during the summer and the aforementioned ownership struggle, new manager Ben Garner, fresh from a less than impressive spell in charge at Bristol Rovers, had to cobble together a side at the last minute. Pundits were unsure whether they would go straight through the division like Southend or whether they would recover quickly enough to challenge for an immediate return – a convincing 3-1 opening day win at Scunthorpe seemed to herald the latter. Indeed, dazzling away form in particular has seen the Robins sit one place above City in 7th going into Saturday’s fixture. Swindon will have to make do without Louis Reed on Saturday after he managed to get himself sent off after the final whistle of Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Crawley despite being an unused sub, while new loan signing Louie Barry, who scored for Aston Villa’s patched up side against Liverpool in last season’s FA Cup, made his debut from the bench. Harry McKirdy and his short shorts will be one to watch, he has 13 in all competitions this season including Swindon’s consolation against Man City. Former City keeper Lewis Ward is likely to be on the bench having made a number of appearances during January as cover for their injured first choice, Jojo Woollacott.

The reverse fixture has yet to be played after Boxing Day’s match at the Park fell foul of Covid. The last fixture at the County Ground was in last season’s EFL Trophy, where City were 3-0 and 4-1 up before being pegged back to 4-3. Meanwhile the previous season’s fixture was a top of the table clash which Swindon won 2-1. They took the lead through an Archie Collins own goal, Randell Williams equalised before a Hallam Hope goal on the stroke of half time clinched the points. That win extended Swindon’s league head to head lead to 37-25, 26 matches finishing level.

The match officials for the game will be:-

Referee: Declan Bourne
Assistant Referees: Leigh Crowhurst and Andrew Aylott
Fourth Official : Andy Bennett

Declan Bourne refereed the Oldham home game in November which Exeter won 2-1. He has a reputation for being card happy and likes to award penalties!

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