After another tepid first half, City’s improved second half display against Lincoln earned a first point in seven matches and a first goal since James Scott found the net at Charlton near the beginning of October.
Gary Caldwell will hope that this will lead to a new confidence ahead of an attempt to make history on Tuesday night. City haven’t played in the fourth round of the League Cup since 1989, and will hope for the first time ever to go one better than on that occasion when Sunderland fought back from 2-0 down late on to draw 2-2 before winning the replay 5-2. Caldwell has been shuffling his pack as he searches for a winning formula, with Zak Jules missing out on Saturday due to illness – Caldwell will hope to have Jules back for Tuesday night, while it may still be too soon for either Dion Rankine or Ilmari Niskanen to return meaning one of Harper, Mitchell or Kite filling in on the right. Admiral Muskwe is available for selection with his parent club eliminated at SJP in the last round.
When the draw was made, City were flying high in League One while Middlesbrough had made an awful start to the season, leading pundits to question whether Michael Carrick’s superb start to life as a manager the previous season was a flash in the pan. However, as City have plummeted so too have Boro undergone a resurgence, winning six league games in a row before a 2-0 defeat against Stoke on Saturday. One contributory factor to their slow start may have been the departure of Chuba Akpom to Ajax, the 29 goals he scored last season proving hard to replace. Riley McGree is the top scorer with five in all competitions but he hasn’t featured since early October, while Marcus Forss will hope to stick one past his Finland team mate. Tim Dieng is the normal first choice keeper – no, the ex-City midfielder hasn’t undergone a positional change!
There are very few clubs that City have never met in a competitive fixture – Arsenal is another but the EFL Trophy match the other week doesn’t count – the nearest City came to facing Middlesbrough was in 2005. After the famous 0-0 FA Cup draw at Old Trafford, the fourth round draw paired City and Middlesbrough, but Manchester United’s 2-0 win in the replay put paid to that.
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Graham Scott
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry and Craig Taylor
Fourth Official : Andy Davies
Graham Scott has taken charge of two Exeter City games previously, both Devon Derbies. One in the 2014/15 season when we lost to Argyle 3-1 at home, the the following season when we won 2-1 at Home park.