Having established a firm defence as a basis for success, Gary Caldwell will have been very disappointed that defeat to a dogged Cheltenham side owed more to defensive frailty than any real difference in ability, with all three of Cheltenham’s goals coming about as a result of defensive errors. With Alex Hartridge back from suspension he will almost certainly slot back in ahead of Jonathan Grounds, although he was only partially culpable for the poor defending last week. Elsewhere Kegs Chauke started at Cheltenham but has been called up to the South Africa U23 side so will be absent, which will open the door for either Rekeem Harper or, should he have recovered from the injury that kept him out the last couple of weeks, Harry Kite so step in. Kevin McDonald came off the bench last Saturday but Joe White’s decent performance could be enough to keep him in the side. Jevani Brown’s oft-aborted court date should go ahead today but even if that’s the end of the matter it’s unlikely he would return for Saturday.
Usually predicted to struggle against relegation, there is a danger this could finally be the year Accrington lose their battle to survive. A solitary point from their last five games, including a 2-0 home defeat to that lot down the A38 on Tuesday night, have left Stanley in the relegation zone with nine games to go – their last two matches against fellow strugglers Cambridge and Oxford could prove decisive. John Coleman, now over eight years into his second marathon spell in charge (leaving him second only to Harrogate’s Simon Weaver in terms of longest serving managers), has been here before though and if anyone can drag his team out of the mire it is him. Two players will be missing through suspension – goalkeeper Lukas Jensen sits out the third match of his ban, while Mo Sangare was also shown a red card on Tuesday night. Much depends on Sean McConville, but his return of four league goals is perhaps symptomatic of Accrington’s malaise this season. In all 36 players have been used as Coleman looks for the winning formula.
Back in August the sides played out a 0-0 draw that won’t live long in the memory. The last time Accrington made the long trip to Exeter was in their successful 17/18 campaign, but they left with nothing after a 2-0 defeat, City’s goals coming from Hiram Boateng and a Pierce Sweeney penalty. That win extended City’s league head to head lead to 11-7, with three matches finishing level.
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Oliver Langford
Assistant Referees: Greg Read and Mark Russell
Fourth Official : Will Finnie
Oliver Langford used to be quite familiar to City fans, refereeing over 20 Exeter matches going back to a home game against York City in 2006. His last Exeter game was away at Accrington Stanley which finished n a 1-1 draw.