The Thursday Preview: Yeovil Vs Exeter
This weekend’s fixtures look like a pretty sedate set on the face of it. Leeds’ terrestrially televised trip across the shires to meet Burnley and what may be the most pathetic grudge in history, Saints versus Seagulls, are worth keeping on the radar perhaps, but otherwise I can’t help but be drawn down the leagues to the two derbies west of Bristol.
Plymouth’s trip to Torquay, which the Gulls go into as comfortable favourites for the first time in years, has sold out and is likely to provide its fair share of spark, but our Preview this week rolls up in Yeovil where Town take on their A303 cousins, Exeter City, in League 1.
Neither are in particularly great shape, but recent form suggests there’s a glimmer of hope for both clubs. Although the Glovers haven’t brought home the sausages since mid-September, a fighting 2-2 draw at Chesterfield, followed by last weekend’s 3-0 Cup triumph at Hereford will have perked souls. Moreover, though the names on the team sheet have changed in part, Yeovil will also take confidence from their recent experience of successfully digging their way up from League 1’s foot. This time last season, Town were in pretty much the same position but managed to push on and pick up a series of important victories over the festive period.
As with last year, the chances of a further fightback depend largely on the quality and commitment of Yeovil’s many loanees. By my count, no fewer than 6 are currently pencilled in: Conor Clifford, Max Ehmer, Oli Johnson, Gavin Massey, Jonathan Obika and Darren Purse. Many may ponder whether such stacking and racking is within the game’s laws, but the Glovers’ manipulation of the porridge-coloured Regulations has arguably kept them in the third tier for the past few seasons and it doesn’t look as though Skiverton’s about to give up his contacts book just yet. One has to question whether such reliance on temporary men is healthy in the long-run, however, and this is an issue that we hope to unpack in a separate forthcoming post.
Going into Saturday’s game, Ed Upson is the one to look out for, his rugged displays in midfield making up for Paul Wotton’s dip in form. Elsewhere, Watford loanee Massey offers pace, and plenty of it, on the last man’s shoulder and Plymouth fans will vouch for the touch of class that Chelsea Reserves’ Clifford brings in the centre of midfield. Without a recognised ‘keeper other than coach Gareth Stewart, however, and in the knowledge that Purse is set to depart after this game, will defensive shakes get the better of the Glovers?
They needn’t worry. Having averaged less than a goal a game this term and currently in pole place as League 1’s lowest ranked scorers, Exeter might just be the perfect opponents. It’s been a thorny road since losing Jamie Cureton’s goals and Ryan Harley’s craft over the summer yet, unbeaten in five league and cup games, might the Grecians be peeking around the corner? It’s conceivable that a 4-0 spanking at home to Huddersfield might well have unruffled Paul Tisdale’s cravat and led to a frank-talking change in direction, but at a simpler level City’s upturn may just owe to their own dabbles in the loan market.
Jake Taylor and Matt Oakley have come in from Reading and Leicester respectively, and both midfielders have played their part in moving the club out of the bottom four. Allied with the goals of Daniel Nardiello (which one’s he again?), the momentum has been seeping back and while Tisdale will no doubt have to prove his mettle over the next six months, the club now at least look capable of putting up a fight.
Going in to this match, however, there just seems to be a little more vim and vigour about the Greens. With Oakley apparently sidelined, I can see the home side edging this 2-1, but question marks remain over their open-door loan policy.