Preview: Exeter City vs Cambridge Utd

City’s poor run since the unfortunate business with Jevani Brown continued with a tepid display and a red card in defeat at Port Vale last weekend, and with it the vultures started circling with a small groundswell beginning to call for the head of Gary Caldwell. While it’s surely too early to be thinking along those lines, Caldwell will know that there does have to be an improvement in performances. Team selections have raised some eyebrows, not least in the wide positions where Harry Kite was played at right wing back while Jake Caprice moved over to the left leaving Josh Key, Jack Sparkes and Demetri Mitchell all on the bench in what was seen very much as a square pegs and round holes approach. Caldwell’s selection last week would have been interrupted by the withdrawal of Kevin McDonald, who should be back in contention following the birth of his daughter, while there would have to have been a change in any case for Cambridge due to the red card shown, somewhat harshly, to Rekeem Harper – although when you’ve already been booked the foul he committed was asking for trouble. Chance creation remains a big issue with Stansfield, Scott and Nombe feeding off scraps last week, the return of McDonald could help alleviate this while Joe White may come back into contention for a start.

If City think they have it bad right now, Cambridge fans are probably in a deeper funk with the Us currently sitting second from bottom in the table and, having finally registered their first win in 2023 in the “University Derby” last Saturday they lost 1-0 at Fleetwood in midweek. Mark Bonner committed himself to the club in the wake of interest from elsewhere (notably Rotherham before they went in for Matt Taylor) but may now be wishing he had jumped ship as the vultures, somewhat in the distance at City still, are very much in proximity in Cambridge. Bonner, like Caldwell, was busy in January making three permanent and two loan signings, with Michael Morrison from Portsmouth possibly the key signing. Finding a consistent goal scorer has been an issue for Cambridge, with Sam Smith and Joe Ironside joint top league scorers with six each and Harvey Knibbs on five.

Smith was on the scoresheet back in August when Cambridge came back from a goal down at half time to win 2-1 at the Abbey – Jevani Brown had scored against his former club before Smith’s equaliser, Paul Digby netting a late winner. Cambridge last visited during the Covid-hit 20/21 season on their way to promotion, but came unstuck in both matches against City – the match at the Park finished 2-0 thanks to goals from Matt Jay (penalty) and Joel Randall. Cambridge’s win in the reverse fixture extended their league head to head lead to 25-23, 11 matches finishing level.

The match officials for this game will be:-

Referee: Robert Lewis
Assistant Referees: Adam Ricketts and Justin Amey
Fourth Official : Alex James

The last Exeter game that Robert Lewis was the 1-0 defeat at home defeat to Cheltenham in August.

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