PREVIEW: City v Exeter

Now comes the backlash, right? I mean, when you’re pride is as wounded as ours, you go out and show the world just how good you are. Right?

Well, if we’re to get the season back on track, that’s what needs to happen. And the recovery must begin with the visit of Exeter City tomorrow. City are embarking upon their most hectic part of the season – by February 9th we’ll have played 10 games in 32 days. To have a bad spell at this stage could be disastrous. To recover and end this part of 2001/2 with a series of wins would be invaluable. Exeter at home isn’t the sternest test City will face this season, and it represents an ideal chance to rectify the events of the past week.

Not that Exeter should be underestimated. They’ve won their last four away games, emerging victorious from trips to Torquay, Shrewsbury, Mansfield and most recently Scunthorpe, a 95th minute winner from Roscoe stealing all three points from the Scunts. If their home form was as impressive as their away form, they’d be serious contenders for a top five finish. However, results at St James’ Park (the real one) have consistently let them down. Of course, their season started off in the worst possible way, with a 3-1 gubbing at home to the Tigers. Oh, for those heady days to be revisited. Nonetheless, the Grecians are a revitalised side, and will be scenting tigerish blood at the moment.

Happily for Little’s demoralised troops, the visitors are also pretty charitable in defence. They’ve leaked 42 goals this season, the same as Dolan’s pitiful York and bettered only by Orient’s remarkable 47-goal against tally. It’s a great chance for the struggling strikers to get a goal, and you fancy that if City can score once more will follow. On that point Little is correct – even a fluke will do, and the length of time it takes for City to score their next goal might have a huge bearing on the outcome of the this season.

The Tigers will need to beat their southern foes without the aid of Ian Goodison, sidelined with a leg injury. He is seemingly not long for this club, with he and compatriot Theodore Whitmore having rejected recent contract offers from City. Their current deals expire in summer but City are prepared to listen to any offers made for the pair, and we may be seeing the final acts of their Hull City careers. Whether Whitmore will even be given the opportunity to impress any other clubs watching on Saturday is doubtful – his shocking performance on Tuesday may see him dropped. Just what formation and team selection will be made is anyone’s guess, but several players will be fearing the worst. Matthews, Sneekes, Beresford, Rowe, Whitmore, Greaves and Johnsson’s places are all under severe threat. Hopefully, Little will restore Dudfield to the starting eleven, but not even the smallest of hints have been dropped in the build-up to the game.

The bookies have lost faith in City too, pricing them as high as 12/1 for the title. In the minds of all but the most optimistic of supporters any chance of the championship has now gone, with the chase for third place being our primary target. Fortunately, City’s recent form (eight points from a possible thirty) has not been capitalised upon by our promotion rivals. (BR)Mansfield have lost three of their last four, Rochdale have just one win in eight, Scunthorpe have taken seven points from a possible 18. The sudden collapse of so many teams has let in other contenders, notably Shrewsbury, Kidderminster, Cheltenham and now Exeter. Assuming Luton and Plymouth have already sewn up the top two, City face a fearsome battle for the third and final automatic promotion spot. If it’s any solace, City remain comfortable 9/4 favourites to emerge victorious from this impending scrap. They’re also 4/6 to take three points tomorrow.

Tough times lie ahead, and we’ll learn an awful lot about our expensive team in the next few months. Do they have the ability and determination to secure promotion? We can only hope they do. COME ON CITY!