Writer: Robbie Lee
Date:Friday August 8 2008
Sat 9 August
After five long years of waiting, Exeter City return to the Football League with a tough trip to Darlington.
City boss Paul Tisdale told the official site: "We will get a good following in the North East. It's a long journey, but I hope the lads will make it worthwhile for all our supporters."
"We're all raring to go. We've been preparing for it for weeks now, and the players just want to get on with it. Everybody is really up for it.
David Poole and Adam Griffin are expected to make their league debuts for Darlington. Both are midfielders who played a part in Stockport's promotion from L2 last season.
The BBC report that Adam Proudlock and Gregg Blundell are likely to start up front for Darlington. Tall but mobile, Proudlock is yet another summer signing from Stockport, who scored a late winner in their 2-1 FA Cup win at Exeter in 2006.
He'll probably be on the bench having only signed in the last 24 hours, but Ipswich loanee Billy Clarke (pictured above) could be a worry for City. The 20 year old Irish striker has struggled for goals at Championship level, but he's played over 50 games for Ipswich and will be desperate to show that he can hit the net. A fiery little ginger Irish fella with pedigree and a point to prove. Danny and Matt had better be on their toes.
Paul Jones is certain to start, but will it be new signing Nick Jordan or Andy Marriott on the bench? We think Andy will get the nod.
There's not much doubt here, with the tried, tested and trusted quartet of Steve Tully, George Friend, Matt Taylor and Danny Seaborne an easy choice for Paul Tisdale. The manager is still without much cover at the back, so a reshuffle involving Rob Edwards is the most obvious Plan B in the event of a crisis.
The impressive trio of Edwards, Matt Gill and Ryan Harley will surely continue. New recruit Manny Panther can expect to make his debut from the bench. Dean Moxey and Neil Saunders are back in training, but neither is ready for this one.
You never know the formation with Tis, and also it's up front that he might spring a selection surprise. Adam Stansfied, Richard Logan and Marcus Stewart seem likely picks, but might he want to find room for Craig McAllister for that added physical presence? Again, we predict that the new boy will get his first taste of Exeter City action as a sub. Steve Basham will also be on the bench.
Marcus Stewart will be the big name getting much of the attention, but young Ryan Harley has been the star for large chunks of pre-season. He might be a very good outside bet for first goalscorer.
Sean Devine was the last City player to score at Darlington, with a 70th minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw back in March 2003.
City last won at Darlo in November 1996. Darran Rowbotham netted the game's only goal.
Our first ever Division Four away game was a trip to Darlington - thank you to the 1958 fixtures computer! Keith Harvey powered home a penalty (creative licence being used here) in a 1-1 draw.
It will be a happy day for City, come what may, so we suspect a return to the League might mean a return to away defeats. Head says 2-0 to Darlo. Heart says City are good enough to get a result. Liver says: 'No more, pleeeeease'.
After Darlo, City play their first Carling Cup tie since 2002, when the Flybe sponsored, red and white striped Exeter City impersonators from Southampton visit St James Park.
Date:Friday August 8 2008
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