Preview: Forest Green Rovers vs Exeter City

Successive defeats, including a woeful 2-0 reverse at home to hitherto whipping boys Burton last Saturday, have put a dampener on City’s optimism at the start of the season. Matt Taylor goes into Saturday’s televised encounter at Forest Green with defensive issues that have moved beyond “crisis” after Jonathan Grounds limped out against Burton. If Grounds doesn’t make it back in time for Saturday that leaves Taylor with two fit centre backs. Should Taylor decide to stick to his preferred 3-5-2 formation this would probably mean either Josh Key or Harry Kite (who did an excellent job in this fixture last season) deputising in defence. Elsewhere Taylor has a juggling act up front with Nombe, Brown, Jay, Smith and Stansfield (plus Sonny Cox) vying for the three attacking spots.

Having pipped City to the League Two title on the final day of last season, it was something of a turbulent summer for Forest Green who lost their manager, Rob Edwards, to Watford. In his place came Ian Burchnall, who joined from Notts County. In addition, the form of their players saw the vultures circling, and out of the door to sunnier climes went the likes of Ebou Adams to Cardiff, former City loanee Kane Wilson to Bristol City and Nicky Cadden to Barnsley. Burchnall was able to make a number of signings, the key one probably Connor Wickham, who has made a decent start with three goals in five matches so far. Following an opening day win at Bristol Rovers it has been a difficult start to life in the third tier, with just one further victory against Accrington, although cups have been better with a midweek victory over Newport in the EFL Trophy all but confirming their passage into the knockout stages. As well as Wickham, Josh March is one to watch while Jordan Moore-Taylor will want to perform well against his first club.

If the Sky TV schedulers chose this game expecting goals, they probably didn’t look at recent results, where the last three matches between the sides have finished 0-0. That said, the 0-0 at the New Lawn was arguably one of City’s best performances of the season where despite a depleted side City dominated and were only denied by a fine performance by Forest Green goalkeeper Luke McGhee. City have a sizeable league head to head lead with eight wins to Forest Green’s two, but Pools players may put their X in this column as 10 matches have finished level.

The match officials for this game will be:-

Referee: Benjamin Speedie
Assistant Referees: Ollie Williams and Lisa Rashid
Fourth Official : Tom Reeves

Ben Speedie last refereed Exeter in the March encounter with Crawley at the Park which City won 2-1.

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