The last thing needed at the start of a busy run of games is the first to be called off. So, let's hope this Exeter trip is on...
Photo: "Well Street Gates, St James Park, Exeter City FC" by sgwarnog2010 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The last thing needed at the start of a busy run of games is the first to be called off. So, let’s hope this Exeter trip stays ‘on’. It feels odd to say that. For us, our past experiences of going south-by-south-west to Sid James’ Park don’t fill us with confidence. And it’s course it’s nice to be racking up the games in hands as those around us drop points. But we’ll soon get to a point at which we need the backlog cleared. The risk, you see, is finding ourselves down the line and needing points from a chronic, tiring fixture pile-up.

Now, we’ll soon get to the reason(s) for rolling our eyes in despair at the thought of a trip to Devon. But let’s look at where we are now after the latest postponement. Results went in our favour on Tuesday (well, one in particular). So, we’re still on the right side of the dotted line of doom. Our superior goal difference keeps us above Southend United. Our games in hand, meanwhile, put us within striking distance of Scunthorpe and Barrow. But what will be even better is to overtake some more teams with those games in hand still intact.

The Details: Exeter City v Stevenage

Where’s the game?

Sid James Park is the UK’s most south-westerly stadium… in a city called Exeter. And it’s where we’re heading this weekend for the latest in the will-we, won’t-we adventure that is the 2020-1 League Two season.

Can I watch Exeter City v Stevenage?

Yes – but you might want to hold fire until closer to kick off. An iFollow Match Pass is the only way you can catch the action live and direct from Devon.

How is Boro’s form looking at the moment?

The four-goal disaster that was our trip to Carlisle United in mid-December is now looking like an exception – not the norm. For a start, it’s our only defeat in the last eight. This feels ridiculous given we couldn’t buy a win for two months. As points out, we now average one point per game since the start of the season. This has been helped a lot by the fact we’ve averaged 1.63 points per game since late November.

Of course, it’s not all amazing news. We’ve drawn four of our last eight fixtures – including two bore draws against Southend United and Tranmere Rovers; two matches we think we should’ve settled for more. And we’re still without an away win since we turned Cambridge United over last January. Still, it’s a new year and a chance to turn over a new leaf. Can our first away day of 2021 catapult us off the bottom of the away form table? Hmm…

… and how are the Grecians doing right now?

In recent times, our hosts’ form is looking a bit lean. The Grecians are without a win in four matches; picking up three straight draws. This mini-run comes after a fairly eventful patch too. The previous run of four games – between 24 November and 12 December – saw ’em score 18 times; including 6-1 and 5-0 home wins against Colchester United and Tranmere Rovers respectively. Even in defeat, they scored three times at Cheltenham.

As ever, dives deeper into the form book to pull out the key points to note. And that golazo-fest at the start of December is a major reason why they top the League Two scoring charts; 41 from 21 puts them on an average of 1.95 goals each game. Oof. As they’ve only failed to score once at home so far this season, we can’t rely on that helping us. But they have conceded at least once in 73% of games indoors.

And that’s something we can cling on to.

Our story with Exeter City so far

It’s not a tale to tell the kids just before bedtime, that’s for sure. In 27 previous meetings, the Grecians have won twice as many as we have. So, that’s 12 for them, six for us and nine in the middle. And our record at their place only makes us squirm even more. In 15 past trips down to Devon, we’ve won twice; both of which came in the 2005-6 season. To put that in context, we’ve also lost 4-0 twice at St James Park. They were proper grim days out.

It’s hard to make our head-to-head record look all that encouraging. We’ve met 15 times since we joined the Football League. And we only have the two victories to show for our efforts in that time too. Last season saw the Grecians overcome us three times; twice in the league and once in the Trophy quarter final. It’s almost four years since we last came back from Devon with a share of the spoils; Jobi McAnuff‘s on target as we drew 1-1. One point is rare enough for us at St James Park. A win? That’d be something…

Last Time Out: Exeter City 2-1 Stevenage, 08 February 2020
Magic Moment: Exeter City 3-3 Stevenage – 11 October 2015; epic late Whelps goal rescues a dramatic point.

Who’s the referee in charge?

Matthew Donohue.

Our sincere apologies to Mr Donohue, who finds himself torn from the Championship rota this weekend. It’s only the second time he’s been asked to take charge of a game outside of the second tier; the first being Oldham’s 1-1 home draw with Carlisle earlier this season. There was also an EFL Cup tie at the start of term too. But we reckon he’d be cool with all that jazz.

The cards have been popping out of his pocket so far this season. A total of 41 yellows in 15 outings isn’t that out of the ordinary, to be fair. That’s not even three bookings a match. But his red card count stands at four, which is more than we can remember seeing from a single ref so far. We might be wrong. This includes a run of three straight games in which someone got their marching orders. Of course, it might not be the habit we think it is.

As far as we’re concerned, however, this completes Mr Donohue’s hattrick of Boro’ games. And our past record gives us a little bit to smile about. It reads two-out-of-two so far – with two clean sheets in the mix too. The caveat is that both of those meetings were in the first half of the 2018-9 season. The landscape is looking a little different nowadays.

Last Time Out: Cheltenham Town 0-2 Stevenage, 27 October 2018

Exeter City v Stevenage: Our verdict?

Is this a ground where our record is pretty atrocious? Yep.

Is our away form pretty rubbish at the moment too? Yep.

Is the Grecians’ recent form anything to worry about? Hmm, not really.

Is this going to end up with three points for the hosts? Probably. 3-1 is our guess.