Preview: Exeter City vs Sheffield Wednesday

After a brief respite, and an improved performance if not a victory, with the trip to struggling Morecambe, it’s back to the run of fixtures against sides expecting to compete for promotion on Saturday with the visit of Sheffield Wednesday. Gary Caldwell changed things around a little last week with Jonathan Grounds coming in to the left wing back role ahead of the out of form Jack Sparkes, while Josh Key was again played in a forward role, culminating in him scoring the equaliser at Morecambe. With Key now looking to play up front this means Caldwell having to juggle his forwards with one of Brown, Nombe or Stansfield likely to miss out.

Having missed out in the playoffs last season, Sheffield Wednesday have been installed amongst the favourites to return to the second tier, and under Darren Moore they are looking good value for promotion. Unbeaten since their last visit to Devon in early October when they lost 2-1 to that lot down the A38, the Owls represent a formidable foe. The obvious one to watch is Barry Bannan, who would probably walk into most people’s team of the division. Bannan, in addition to being a creative force, is also one of several joint league top scorers, five players each having scored four times as goals have been shared around. Two players with City connections are likely to be on the bench – Cam Dawson is the more memorable one after his starring role in City’s promotion last season, the other is Jaden Brown, who failed to make an appearance on loan at City in early 2019 and who has barely featured in the blue and white since moving from Huddersfield in the summer of 2021.

There were two divisions between the sides when they met in the FA Cup in 2021, Covid-ravaged Wednesday (who could only field four subs) winning 2-0 at the Park. The last league meeting was in the 2011/12 season when promotion-bound Wednesday came unstuck against eventually relegated City 2-1 at the Park – Johnson gave Wednesday the lead but Billy Jones and David Noble (both from free kicks, if your writer’s memory serves him well) turned the tables. The reverse had finished 3-0 to the hosts at Hillsborough, O’Connor and a brace from Madine, one from the spot, securing a comfortable win. That, however, was the only time Wednesday got the better of City during their two seasons together in the third tier in the early 2010s, the previous season being memorable both for the 5-1 thrashing in the snow at the Park and for Troy Archibald-Henville morphing into Ricky Villa in securing a 2-1 win on the final day of the season before Paul Tisdale gave himself a cameo. As a result City have a clear lead in league head to heads with six wins to Wednesday’s three, one match finishing level.

The match day officials for this game will be:-

Referee: Neil Hair
Assistant Referees: Christopher Wade and Louis Marks
Fourth Official : Gary Parsons

The last Exeter game that Neil Hair refereed was the 2-0 reverse by Burton Albion in September.

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