By Steve Manning
Exeter City v The Dons
Venue: St. James’ Park (Exeter) – Capacity: 8,219
Competition: League One – Matchday: 7 of 46.
Exeter City (9th) – PD 6, W 2, D 2, L 2, GF, 9 GA 5, Pts 8.
Top League Scorer: Jevani Brown – 3 Goals.
Top League Assists: Sam Nombe – 2 Assists.
The Dons (13th) – PD 6, W 2, D 1, L 3, GF 7, GA 7, Pts 7.
Top League Scorers: Will Grigg & Bradley Johnson – 2 goals each.
Top League Assists: Matt Smith, Conor Grant, Daniel Harvie, Henry Lawrence, and Bradley Johnson – 1 each.
Head-2-Head: Exeter City wins: 1, Drawn: 2, Dons wins: 7. Goals: Exeter – 11, Dons – 19.
Previous Meeting: 2nd Feb 2019 – Exeter City 3 Dons 1 – LG2
Previous Results: Exeter City lost 2-1 at home to Newport County, and Dons lost 2-1 at home to Cheltenham Town – both results came in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Dons 1 Cheltenham 2 – Review.
The Dons opened their 2022/23 Papa John’s Trophy campaign with a disappointing, and lacklustre defeat to Cheltenham Town at Stadium MK on Tuesday evening. Manning rung the changes for this tie with 10 in his squad to face the Robins. German midfielder Edward Gyamfi, youngster Callum Tripp, loanee Josh Kayode, and Brooklyn Ilunga all featured for Dons – and Argentinian goalkeeper Franco Ravizzoli also saw valuable game time too.
It was Dons who were in control early doors as Smith drove the ball into the Cheltenham defensive third, he found Louie Barry in a bit of space before the former Barcelona man chipped the ball back to Smith in the Town area, but our Welsh International failed to take advantage of the situation presented to him with his effort proving no threat to the Robins goal.
The visitors took an 8th minute lead against the run of play, when some sloppy defending resulted in Town being awarded a very soft penalty by the referee. There was nothing Ravizzoli could’ve done to keep Alfie May’s low, and hard penalty out of the net.
A multitude of chances continued to fall the way of the Dons as the first half wore on, talented midfielder Gyamfi won a free kick just outside of the Cheltenham area, Dan Kemp took the kick which flew just wide of MacDonald’s right-hand post. Two more free kicks in dangerous area’s followed, the last of them saw a floated ball in from the left which found renaissance man Zak Jules’ forehead, directing his header into the net, easily beating the Town defence.
The sides went in level pegging at the break, and in all honesty, Dons had done probably enough to edge it had earlier missed opportunities found their mark. Here is where anything decent of note ends though, the second half turned out to be an unacceptable show of incompetence by some in the colours of MK. Ethan Robson led the team honourably on the night, but he was nullified by Wade Elliott’s tactics to stop the Sunderland born midfield general from playing his natural game. That had a domino effect as the midfield struggled to make any in roads into the attacking third for the rest of the game.
Goal hero Jules can be held partly responsible for the eventual winner as he failed to deal with former Don Charlie Brown, Brown taking the opportunity to fire home in front of his former employers, and hand Cheltenham the points with two more games to go in this stage of the competition. Boss Liam Manning spoke after the game, saying that certain fringe players had failed to impress out on the pitch.
There was a resounding chorus of booing from sections of the home support, something I don’t personally agree with. Some of these boys were making their debuts on Tuesday, and their lasting memory of this game will be getting booed off at the final whistle, but you pay the monies; you have the right to express an opinion though – it’s the society we live in.
How Exeter could line-up?
Matt Taylor like many of his fellow managers in the EFL favours a 3 at the back defensively – last time out against Accrington in League One he set his side up with a 3-4-1-2 formation. Former Dons Academy graduate Sam Nombe is expected to lead the Grecians attack today, alongside strike partner Jevani Brown.
Possible Exeter XI: 3-4-1-2
Pierce Sweeney, Sam Stubbs, Chieke Diabate
Joshua Key, Archie Collins, Rakeem Harper, Jack Sparkes.
Matt Jay (c).
Jevani Brown, Sam Nombe.
How Dons could line-up?
The team that runs out against Exeter at St. James’ Park will not resemble the one that limped its way to full time in the Papa John’s Trophy in midweek. I am fully expectant that those rested for that tie will return to the fold, and it will look more akin to the side that ripped Morecambe apart at the Mazuma Mobile Stadium last weekend.
Possible Dons XI: 3-4-3-1
Warren O’Hora, Jack Tucker, Dean Lewington (c).
Henry Lawrence, Bradley Johnson, Dawson Devoy, Daniel Harvie.
Darragh Burns, Will Grigg, Louie Barry.
One’s to Watch
Jevani Brown – Exeter City: Grecians striker Brown is his club’s top scorer with 3 goals so far in the league. He already has 5 goal contributions in total and has helped City into the top half of the table at this early stage of the campaign. Brown has developed a strong strike partnership with former Don Nombe, and the two are proving a real handful for opposition defences. It is imperative that Brown is marked out of this game, my one to watch for Exeter.
Will Grigg – The Dons: The Man on fire is back scoring goals, and Exeter should be terrified. Grigg has enjoyed being given a fresh start at a club that he has taken to his heart, and its showing with the performances he is putting on out there on the pitch. Grigg the goal poacher has also unpacked his shooting boots; he is our biggest threat to the Grecians today. The only question is how many will he score? My one to watch.
Exeter City 1 The Dons 2
I’m going for a 2-1 victory today; I’m expecting an improved performance from Liam Manning’s team. A game of tight margins, and a good display of attacking football from both sides as well.
Goal Scorers? Will Grigg & Darragh Burns are my picks to score for the Dons in Devon.
Match Odds: Supplied by Oddschecker
Exeter City win: 11/10 – Draw: 2/1 – Dons win: 9/4
Dons to win 2-1: 10/1
If you are making your way down to Devon today, then safe travels to you all, enjoy the game and COYD.
Until Next Time, SM.