After Fulham pulled off an outstanding win over Burnley last Sunday, we return to Craven Cottage again as a different type of competition awaits the football club. This time around, it is a League Cup tie with Exeter City under the bright lights. Now the extreme majority of that have featured during these first three Premier League fixtures shouldn’t be playing tonight, I still expect manager Slavisa Jokanovic to put out a strong enough squad to be able to compete with a strong level of professionalism. Along with that, it’s not like plenty of starting places have been set in stone as of yet. So if anything, this game could be a real chance for the players on display to show Jokanovic what they have been missing by not picking them. Either way, this will not be a boring night just north of the River Thames.
Fulham will be playing an Exeter City side that just came off its first loss of 2018/19 thanks to a 1-0 defeat to MK Dons. Even with that result, the Grecians still stand third in the table of this young League 2 campaign. Transfermarket has them listed with a £3 million market value price tag, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t come to Craven Cottage without their best foot forward. Under manager Matt Taylor, Exeter usually comes in with a 4-4-2 formation with two holding midfielders. So clearly, they will hope to suck pressure from the opposition and hope to score off of the counter attack. Hopefully, this will be another opportunity for Fulham’s attacking players to put in a good performance and prove that their developments haven’t been for naught.
So on that note, these are the players to watch out for from Exeter City: assuming a full strength side will be out there.
We start out with Exeter’s leading goalscorer in Jayden Stockley. The 24-year old started his career as an academy product from Bournemouth and even made his league debut at 16, but not for the genuine reasons you think they would be. See, this was back in 2009, at a time when Bournemouth were in dire straits financially and needed every registered player they can to help them stay in England’s Football League. Manager Eddie Howe even needed to phone in Stockley’s school to excuse him from missing a day so that he could play.
But after one additional with the club that season, Stockley would then go on loan nine times in the next six seasons before leaving for Aberdeen on a permanent transfer in 2016. Despite being a part of a club that would finish runner’s up in last season’s Scottish Premiership, Stockley was used mainly as a super sub and scored five goals off of his 27 appearances. In order to gain more playing time, the Poole born striker moved back to England and sealed a one-year contract with Exeter City. And with three goals to his name, he is already proving his worth back in League 2.
Next up is among the two holding midfielders you could be seeing at Craven Cottage tonight. At 26, Taylor might be seeing the last chances to show what he’s capable of as a professional footballer at the peak of his powers. Before hand, the one-capped Welsh International was on Reading’s since 1999 and even made 22 league appearances in the club’s 2014/15 season. That was as far as Taylor’s Royals career has gone as he was shipped on loan to Motherwell the first half of the following campaign. From there, he made a free transfer to Exeter in the January window and he has become a regular for the Grecians ever since.
Lastly, we get to probably Exeter City’s best asset if any of their players were to go in the open market. At 23, Pym is Exeter born, raised and developed and he has gone on to play over 124 appearances in goal for his boyhood club. Pym also has gone on to receive three England Under-20 caps and has been Exeter’s number one goalkeeper since usurping Artur Krysiak for the job in 2013/14.
According to Ben Mayhew’s League 2 data at experimental 361, Exeter have been a bit like Reading were in 2016/17 where their actual numbers mask how mediocre the club really are based on their style of play. Last season, Exeter were expected to give up close to 1.5 goals per game and were the worst club in the league in shots against at close to 13 per contest. However, last season’s goals conceded turned out to be 54 (or 1.17 per match), and they rode that towards a playoff final appearance. This campaign has been no different for Pym and Co. as their 8.3 expected goals against hasn’t come close to matching their thre goals actually conceded. Either Exeter are expected to be falling on hard times, or Pym is a one of the finer goalkeepers you’ll see in the lower leagues of the EFL. Maybe he should challenge for David De Gea’s place at Man United while he’s at it.