St James Park, Exeter. Social Centre. The Park.

Preview: Exeter City vs Salford City

City returned to winning ways on Tuesday night with a storming 3-1 win over promotion rivals Swindon, but there is no time to relax as the hectic schedule continues with the second of three home games in a week against a side coming into form at the right time. As seems to be usual right now the win came at a price with goalscorer Jonathan Grounds coming off at half time, and he faces a race against time to be fit for Saturday otherwise the fit again Alex Hartridge will come in. Elsewhere Jevani Brown scored on his return after missing the Mansfield match to continue his hot form, while Matt Jay seems to be returning to scoring form with his second in two games. Jake Caprice was rested on Tuesday night and may come back in for Jack Sparkes.

Salford’s recent form after an up and down January means they cannot be discounted from the promotion picture just yet. While they currently sit in 11th place they, like City, have games in hand on most of their rivals, and as Bristol Rovers and especially Mansfield have shown, all it takes is to go on a winning run to close the gap in what is an incredibly tight division. The Ammies go into Saturday’s match on the back of a five match unbeaten run, the last of which a 1-1 draw against a faltering Forest Green. Manager Gary Bowyer augmented his squad in January by signing players like the giant striker Matt Smith (thereby allowing fellow behemoth Tom Elliott to go on loan to Bradford), Ryan Watson from Tranmere and loanee Stephen Kelly, who made two appearances off the bench in cups for Rangers this season. Smith was on the scoresheet on Saturday, but it is in front of goal where Salford have perhaps let themselves down, top scorer Brandon Thomas-Assante has just six in the league to his name.

So far it’s fair to say that City have had the upper hand in this fixture, although all four games have been very close affairs. The return at Moor Lane finished 2-1 – Jay opened the scoring, Elliott equalised but City clinched the points in injury time, Jake Caprice’s shot cannoning off the post and going in via the unfortunate Salford keeper Connor Ripley. Last season saw Salford’s first visit to the Park (the previous season’s fixture falling foul of the Covid curtailment) and finished 1-0 – Matt Jay again doing the damage. All in all that means City have won three and drawn one of the four matches between the sides.

The match officials for this game will be:-

Referee: Andy Woolmer
Assistant Referees: Simon Shaw and Steven Plane
Fourth Official : Paul Howard

Andy Woolmer has handed out 90 yellows in 26 games this season, though only one red card. He’s taken charge of seven Exeter games, see https://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=andy+woolmer



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