A perfect storm of injuries and international call-ups saw City’s bubble burst against Leyton Orient last week, and the news isn’t any better for Gary Caldwell ahead of the visit of the side currently occupying the bottom position. With City reduced to raiding the youth team and naming subs purely to give the impression of having players available, the last thing Caldwell needed was for Ilmari Niskanen to return from Finland with an injury, especially with Dion Rankine now set to miss at least a month. Admiral Muskwe also missed the Leyton Orient match but is hoping to be back to at least make the bench on Saturday. Caldwell continues to scour the list of free agents, with a forward a particular target.
Having lost their attacking talisman Alfie May to Charlton in the summer, it was expected that Cheltenham would struggle for goals, but probably nobody expected that in eight games in league and cup their only goal would be an own goal in an EFL Trophy tie. Aidan Keena was expected to be the man to fill May’s shoes but he hasn’t yet looked like he can step up. The Robins’ summer transfer business was fairly limited, with the permanent signing of Luke Southwood and the free transfer of Curtis Davies from Derby the key captures, with Wade Elliott otherwise choosing to stick largely to the side that ended up staying up reasonably comfortably last season. As always Liam Sercombe will be keen to do well against the side where it all began for him.
Having trounced Cheltenham 7-0 in the EFL Cup last season, the league encounters proved altogether more tricky for City – the corresponding fixture took place just a week or two after that 7-0 win, but revenge was sweet as Cheltenham won 1-0 through N’Lundulu. The return finished 3-1 as, despite only having 27% of possession, Cheltenham’s Ainsworth-esque tactics produced goals for Keena, Taylor and May – City had equalised through Key but Nombe’s missed penalty proved crucial. Those wins extended Cheltenham’s league head to head lead to 13-7, three matches finishing level.
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Martin Woods
Assistant Referees: Justin Amey and Jack Clench
Fourth Official : Lewis Sandoe
Martin Woods has not previously officiated any Exeter City games.