Stevenage v Exeter City [Preview]

By Pete H

Ah no, not this lot again. Two times in almost as many weeks is quite enough. At least this one won’t be our long journey to make. We may be into a new month but the memories of our 3-1 defeat in Devon are still fresh enough. Not that it makes much difference. For now, at least, a trip to Exeter is a write off before we even get off the coach. Elliott List‘s late strike was just a massive tease. And now we welcome the Grecians back to ours at the same time as we’re on the way down from our crazy, dramatic, last-gasp win up at Grimsby.

We’ll now see how much of a boost that victory gives us. The three-turned-one-turned-three points has catapulted us up to the dizzying heights of 21st in the table. Our aim and ambition now should be on shutting a five-point gap between ourselves and Harrogate Town – and not simply doing enough to keep the three teams beneath us in their place. The Grecians are a different proposition to an out-of-form Mariners, of course. But they’re not invincible. Nor are they unbeatable. And they don’t come into this one off the back of three points.

The Details: Stevenage v Exeter City

Where’s the game?

It’s at our place, the Lamex.

Can I watch Stevenage v Exeter City?

Yep. And we’ll keep trying to find new and different ways of saying the same thing. At the end of the day, however, it’s night. And the only official way to view our latest encounter with the Grecians is to hand over your tenner (digitally) for an iFollow Match Pass.

How is Boro’s form looking at the moment?

If it’s true that you’re only as good as your last game, that’s fine with us. With our result on Saturday, we’ve now won three of our last six matches and lost just two out of eight: away to the Grecians and on the road at Carlisle. This now means that, as will show, we’re ninth in the League Two form table with 12 points from a possible 24. It’d look much better had we not dropped points at home to Colchester and Tranmere – but still.

We also no longer have the worst away form in the division. That’s sort of beside the point, however, because we’re back at home here. And there’s plenty of scope for improvements on that front too. A haul of 16 points from a potential 36 isn’t great in anyone’s books. And part of that is because we’ve not scored in more than half of our matches at the Lamex. If we can turn goalless draws into wins, we’d be laughing. Not least with our mean defence.

… and how are the Grecians doing right now?

As hard as we seem to find it against the Grecians (more on that shortly), their record on the road isn’t amazing. They’ve gained 13 points from 11 games on the road. For some context, we’ve taken nine from 12. That’s hardly a massive difference. And the recent win against us at St James Park is their only victory in seven outings. So, there’s no reason why we can’t also add to their recent inconsistent form.

There’s one important warning sign for us to note, however. Looking at the data in more detail, it doesn’t take long to spot that we’re facing the most potent attack in League Two. The Grecians have 44 goals on the board from 24 matches (a massive leap up from our 19 from the same number of games). And they’ve scored in 73% of their away games so far too. The good news is that this scoring ability doesn’t translate into a decent record on the road. It’s whether we can take advantage of those little openings that remains to be seen.

Our story with Exeter City so far

It’s said that 13 is unlucky for some. And that’s just how it worked out a week-and-a-half ago as the Grecians made it 13 wins from 28 meetings between us. Whether that’s now going to prove unlucky for them as they come to ours for a 29th encounter is to be seen. But what’s one more defeat when our head-to-head against the Devon outfit is so poor? It’s nearly three years and seven games since we last beat them.

Before that, weirdly, you have to go back another seven matches for when we came out on top (1-0, December 2014). Now we’re on the scent of a pattern. The gap before that? Oh! So close! Eight is the gap between wins (2-0, March 2006). We can’t go back much further than that, however; that victory at St James Park capped a run of four successive wins against the Grecians. How we’d love to go on a run like that again.

For now, we think there’s enough of a pattern there to suggest we’re due a win here.

Last Time Out: Exeter City 3-1 Stevenage, 23 January 2021
Magic Moment: Stevenage 3-1 Exeter City, 28 April 2018; Revs’ hattrick denies the Grecians automatic promotion

Who’s the referee in charge?

Graham Salisbury.

After a weekend off (it seems), Mr Salisbury is returning to the middle for what’ll be match number 18 of his season. In each of the previous 17, there’s been a reason for him to get his cards out. He’s not the pickiest on the circuit, but he’s perhaps trending in that direction; 58 bookings averaging out at nearly 3.5 yellows a match. Just the one red too; Northampton’s Shaun McWilliams getting his marching orders in a 2-0 home League One defeat to Donny on 5 December.

In the grand scheme of things, our Graham is a familiar face; our first encounter with the Lancashire ref coming way back in 2000 when the 21st century was but a bairn. Not that it’s been a particularly fruitful 14 games in total on his watch. Wins are rare; three is what we can count. The last of those was our last-gasp win at Morecambe in January 2019. It doesn’t do much for the optimism, does it? Last time we stepped out with him, we took a point from Harrogate. It’s the first time we’ve ever drawn on Mr Salisbury’s watch.

Like our head-to-head against the Grecians, our form when Mr Salisbury is involved also needs improving. So, we’re surely overdue a win on that front too?

Last Time Out: Harrogate Town 0-0 Stevenage, 27 October 2020

Stevenage v Exeter City: Our verdict?

There’s nothing about this fixture that makes us feel warm inside. The Grecians are, for all intents and purposes, a bone fide bogey team for Boro’. And football isn’t a sport that owes any team anything. So we can’t sit here and say we’re due a win, and expect to get one. Now we’re at home, we have a bit more of a claim – but we think the draw is on: 1-1.