City’s tactic now must surely be to let the opposition score from the kick off, as it seems they only start playing after going a goal down – as evidenced in the 2-1 win against Lincoln last week where City weren’t at the races until being gifted an equaliser before coming through to a deserved win. There will definitely be two changes to Gary Caldwell’s line-up at Cheltenham with Alex Hartridge sitting it out after his red card against Lincoln, while recent signing Gary Woods limped off at half time, the diagnosis being a hamstring injury that will end the goalkeeper’s season. Jamal Blackman had to be patient after recovering from his own injury but he now takes the shirt with Harry Lee recalled from his loan spell at Plymouth Parkway to provide back-up. Jonathan Grounds is expected to fill the void left by Hartridge’s absence. Elsewhere Caldwell should have Harry Kite and Kevin McDonald available again after they missed the Lincoln match.
Cheltenham have been battling the drop all season but, like City, they have gained seven points from nine in their last three games, keeping three straight clean sheets and thrashing high-flying Peterborough 3-0 at the weekend, so Wade Elliott’s side will be confident that they are doing enough to steer clear of the drop entering the final stages of the season. Alfie May netted a brace against Peterborough to take his tally to 14 across all competitions, although if he is kept quiet it would appear Cheltenham would be kept quiet in total, as only one other player (Dan N’Lundulu) with four has more than two league goals this season. One player who has haunted his former employers over the years has been Liam Sercombe, and he will hope to notch another goal against the side where his long career began.
City will be hoping for a repeat of their last visit to Whaddon Road back in August in the EFL Cup, where a dominating display saw them record seven goals for the first time in around 50 years – City led 5-0 at the break through Nombe (2), Collins, Jay and Sparkes, with Kite and Coley adding to the scoreline in the second half. However, it was a different story in the league fixture at the Park 11 days later as Cheltenham parked the bus and scored the only goal of the game through N’Lundulu, thus extending their league head to head lead over City to 12-7, three matches finishing level.
The match officials for this game are:-
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistant Referees: ndy Bennett and Steve Durnall
Fourth Official : Mark Derrien
The last time Anthony Backhouse refereed an Exeter game was 2021 away at Bolton when City won 2-1. He also refereed the August 2017 game at Cheltenham which Exeter won 4-3.