Paul Tisdale expected to recall his key men for derby return with Devon rivals
It may only have been 13 days since Exeter City and Torquay United last met, but tonight's meeting at St James' Park promises to be a completely different affair to the stalemate at Plainmoor.
The two sides fought out a spirited 1-1 draw, with Rene Howe and Alan Gow scoring penalties for their respective teams on an absolute quagmire in south Devon.
The pitch at St James' Park promises to offer more towards the passing games both teams like to play, while City manager Paul Tisdale is highly unlikely to name the sort of side that raised many eyebrows at Torquay two weeks ago.
Then, Gow, Matt Oakley and Jimmy Keohane were surprise omissions from a City side that who beaten Southend United 3-0 only three days earlier. Tonight, they are almost certain to play from the start.
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"I always make the point that I don't leave players out, I select an 11," said Tisdale. "The distinct difference between the two is that I want to pick more than 11 players on the pitch.
"I know conventional speech would be that I left them out, but I selected them for the second half and they both played very well with the strategy of the game in mind. Obviously, there will be a new strategy for this game."
The poor state of the Plainmoor pitch was the main reason Tisdale opted to leave three key players on the bench, with the aim of bringing them on to win the game in the latter stages. That plan went up in smoke early on when John O'Flynn limped off but, when Gow and Oakley did come on, they changed the game in Exeter's favour, with Gow salvaging a draw seven minutes from time.
"It's not a criticism of Torquay but their pitch hasn't been great – and we have been in that situation ourselves over the last couple of years, so I know what it is like," Tisdale said.
"We have had four or five games now in really bad weather, but the pitch has held up really well. I can't see our pitch in bad condition at all."
In the modern era, it is uncommon for teams to play each other back-to-back – certainly in League games – but that is the prospect facing the clubs tonight after their games with Bristol Rovers and Chesterfield were postponed last week.
Ironically, the last time Torquay and Exeter met was also back-to-back, but that was in the Conference play-off semi-final in 2008, when the Grecians won 5-3 on aggregate.
"It doesn't happen very often, but it can happen in a play-off semi-final, of course," Tisdale said. "It is a strange anomaly, I suppose.
"It is different, but I don't know if it is an advantage or a disadvantage. It will be an advantage to the team that does best on Monday.
"There are certain things that we can look at with the game at Plainmoor being so recent, but things will change as it is now a home game for us and an away game for them. I am not looking too deeply into it.
"There are plusses and minuses to this. I think it will be a very different game at St James' Park because all games are different. We can speculate or whatever, but we will find out if the two sides have countered each other with tactics or whether it will be an open game, I just don't know."
Those play-off fixtures – along with Exeter's thrilling 4-3 league win over the Gulls at the Park on Boxing Day of that season – were also broadcast live, albeit by Setanta Sports. The high-profile presence of Sky Sports cameras tonight offers both teams the chance to show themselves to the nation – and a further incentive for players to do well.
"It does feel different and I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't feel different," Tisdale said. "There are cameras all around, you get asked for interviews 45 minutes before kick-off and you have to adjust what to do, so there are differences to it.
"It would be blasé to say you don't notice the differences because you do. But in terms of how we prepare and how we focus, then I'd imagine it won't affect them so long as the players stick to their routine.
"We know that Exeter City will be on show. I won't be asking the players to do it because I assume it, but they will be presenting our club on a national stage. With that in mind, we will be trying our best to do things the right way."
Exeter City (from): Krysiak, Evans; Tully, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Oakley, Gow, Cureton, Davies, Doherty, Amankwaah, Bauza, Keohane, Molesley, Chamberlain, Dawson, Moore-Taylor, Gosling, Jagger-Cane, Micklewright, Roper, Wannell, Anderson.
Unavailable: Frear, Knowles, Nichols (out on loan), Sercombe (ankle), O'Flynn (hamstring).