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Exeter City come to The Fully Charged New Lawn for the evening kick-off on Tuesday 4th January.

This is Rovers’ second return match of the campaign and so is almost the beginning of the second half of the season.  The away fixture at St James’ Park was at the start of September and saw the teams play out a 0-0 draw.

In the FA Cup 1st round Exeter had to replay their game against Bradford City after introducing too many substitutes.  They lost away to Cambridge Utd 2-1 in the 2nd round.   City had an apology from the officials after the referee wrongly overruled his assistant in allowing Cambridge’s late winning goal.  Exeter City manager Matt Taylor said this refereeing error has the potential to cost his club the chance to bring in new players in January.

This FA Cup exit may have caused a hangover for Exeter, who lost their unbeaten home record in their next match – a 2-1 defeat to Northampton on Dec 7th.  This was Exeter’s first home loss since being beaten by Cheltenham in March.  They followed this, 4 days later, with another defeat, this time at home to Tranmere (1-0).  Exeter have more draws than anything else this season (9 draws, 8 wins & 5 defeats).

After suffering just the one loss in their 1st 17 matches (a 3-0 away defeat at Leyton Orient in the 2nd game of the season) Exeter now have suffered 4 defeats in their last 5 league games.  But the Grecians are still 8th in the league with 33 points from 22 games.  Like Rovers, Exeter’s games on December 18th and on Boxing Day were both postponed.  The fixture against Rovers was due to take place on 29th December but was postponed due to positive covid tests in the Exeter camp,

Undoubtedly, Exeter’s talisman is their captain, Matt Jay.  Jay was Exeter’s leading scorer last season and has carried on this season in the same form.  He is the club’s leading scorer with 10 goals in 22 matches.

Pony-tailed Matt Jay is Exeter’s captain and danger-man.

Exeter have had a number of injury blows this month.  Both of their outside centre halves, Pierce Sweeney & Alex Hartridge suffered knee ligament injuries during the Grecians last outing against Tranmere.  This has forced Exeter to recall a 19-year-old defender, Cheick Diabate, from non-league Truro City in order to provide cover, with experienced former Birmingham City and Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Grounds likely to feature in their absence.  All of this followed a blow for Exeter earlier in the month when their 7 goal striker Sam Nombe was ruled out (maybe for months) with a serious hamstring injury.

Nombe’s absence may put more onus on Padraig Amond (number 11), on loan from Newport for the season, to step up to fill his boots.  Amond recently achieved the milestone of his 200th career goal during the recent 2-1 home loss to Northampton.  Rovers fans will remember Amond’s last minute winner for Newport in last season’s play-off semi-final at The New Lawn.  Amond was signed as a replacement for Ryan Bowman who scored 32 goals for Exeter in his 97 appearances before being sold to Shrewsbury Town in the summer.

Also needing to step up is forward Jevani Brown (number 20).  Jevani may be remembered by some Rovers fans for his short loan spell in Nailsworth in 2019/20.  He has just one goal to show for his 19 appearances for the Grecians this season.

Injury to Sam Nombe has slightly blunted Exeter’s attacking options.

33 year old striker Padraig Amond, on loan from Newport.

Exeter often set up as a 3-4-1-2 with Matt Jay sitting behind strikers Jevani Brown and Padraig Amond.

Exeter’s 2nd top scorer with 5 goals is their Senagalese Frenchman Timothee Dieng.  Dieng operates from midfield for Exeter and wears number 14.

Exeter’s injury list grew after both Alex Hartridge and Pierce Sweeney limped off with knee problems during the 1-0 defeat to Tranmere Rovers recently.  These injuries are both to regular Exeter defenders.

Midfielder Timothee Dieng has been on the scoresheet 5 times for Exeter.

Exeter have done well in recent years in their policy of bringing on young talent and selling it on to fund future development.  The sale of Ollie Watkins to Brentford (now at Aston Villa) in 2017/18 for a reputed £6.5 million was their highest transfer fee received.  They sold Ethan Ampadu to Chelsea for £2.5 million in the same season.  Jayden Stockley and Jordan Storey went to Preston for a total of over £1.5 million in 2018/19.  There are many other high value sales they have achieved.

Ollie Watkins – Exeter’s most valuable transfer when sold to Brentford.

The sale of 16 year old Ethan Ampadu to Chelsea was Exeter’s 2nd biggest transfer.

The 2 clubs have a number of odd connections.  Mark Cooper’s dad, Terry, managed the club for 2 spells between 1988 and 1995.  Jimmy Ball’s dad, Alan managed the club for 3 years in the 1990’s.

Some random facts about Exeter-

  • Their home ground is St James’ Park (confusing for Newcastle United fans!) and they have played there since 1904.
  • Paul Tisdale is Exeter’s longest serving manager (between 2006 and 2018).  Tisdale was an adviser at Colchester after Bristol Rovers sacked him in February but has recently been appointed as manager of Stevenage.
  • Michael Jackson was made an honorary director of the club in 2002 and came to the club at the invitation of his friend and fellow club director, Uri Geller.
  • Famous fans include Joss Stone, Adrian Edmondson, Noel Edmonds and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
  • Exeter is owned by its fans, the Exeter City Supporters Trust having bought a majority shareholding in the club in 2003.  Only Newport and AFC Wimbledon in the EFL also have fan ownership.
  • A turbulent financial time for the club ended when they drew Manchester United in the FA Cup 3rd round in 2005. They drew 0-0 at St James Park before losing 2-0 in the Old Trafford replay (Rooney and Ronaldo scoring the goals). Income from these 2 games was nearly £1 million and allowed the club to virtually clear its debts.
  • Nobody is really sure how they got their nickname, The Grecians.

One of Exeter’s former honorary directors!