• Kieran Horn


Exeter City will be looking to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1981 as they welcome a depleted Sheffield Wednesday to St James Park this weekend.

37 places over two divisions present the Grecians as clear underdogs in this tie however, Sheffield Wednesday, like many EFL clubs, have recently experienced a Coronavirus outbreak in their training ground and very possibly may come into the game without some key first team players.

And due to that, City manager Matt Taylor has admitted that the preparations for the game have been challenging, due to the outbreak and Wednesday struggling in the Championship, no one has any idea what team they will field.

“They might have made a lot of changes anyway because they need to stay in the league, so it’s a difficult one to prepare for. But, if we play at our best, we’ll give ourselves a chance of winning the game no matter who were playing against,” said Taylor.

Amazingly City have also had some problems in recent weeks as (at the time of writing, fingers crossed) it is set to be their first game since the Boxing Day clash with Forest Green Rovers.

“You look at your Christmas and New Year period as your busiest time as a football manager but unfortunately three out of the four games in and around that period have been called off, it’s been a strange time and we really hope the game is on first and foremost this weekend,” said Taylor.

Despite two weeks of no games, with away fixtures against Barrow and Newport being called off, it’s been difficult to allow players to get some rest as the decisions to postpone the games have been made in the close build-up to the fixtures being played.

“You’re still working to your schedule, preparing and doing what you need to do to be ready for the game and then the games get called off at a late stage, you have to do bit-part training in between,” said Taylor.

Away from the football pitch, the start of a New Year brings the January transfer window and Joel Randall has been heavily rumoured to be linked with Swansea City and Scottish heavyweights Celtic.

However, Taylor put those rumours to bed by admitting that he has not had any official contact with any club regarding Randall moving on in this window.

“We’ve had nothing from those clubs so I’m not sure where those stories have come from and whether it’s agent talk or clubs releasing bits and pieces.

“I’d be surprised if he’s not on big clubs list but I think this window especially is different to previous ones in relation to where the pandemic has put the football world and less money being around, but we’ve had no contact from those clubs,” said Taylor.

Although the last few weeks haven’t been the easiest for City, a victory here would be monumental for the club as it was 40 years ago that they last ventured beyond the 3rd round of the FA Cup and especially after all the money lost due to the pandemic, the financial boost would be hugely significant.

“Those incentives are huge, a home tie in the 3rd round, we’ll never get a better chance of getting in the fourth round and the players have to understand that and understand what a big game it is for the club,” said Taylor.

£60,000 awaits the winner of this game and a tie against a big Premier League club could follow in the next round, the stakes are pretty big for both clubs and as Taylor so aptly put, this is most likely going to be the club’s best chance of reaching the fourth round.