Incentive of Premier opponents should drive City on in FA Cup replay with Forest Green

Exeter City have been given a massive incentive to win their Emirates FA Cup replay against Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday night at St James’ Park.

The sides played out a thrilling 3-3 draw when they met at The New Lawn eight days ago with the tie swinging one way and then another.

In the end Jayden Stockley headed home a 94th minute equaliser to salvage Exeter’s FA Cup hopes.

It has proved a potentially valuable goal as the winners of the replay will host Premier League strugglers West Brom in the third round of the competition.

The tie is an attractive one on a number of levels and provides a good opportunity for one of these Sky Bet Two clubs to spring a massive surprise.

Should Exeter finally see off Forest Green on Tuesday then interest in buying tickets for the third-round encounter will be high.

With two sides of St James’ Park under development, the ground boasts a capacity of something nearing 6,000, meaning demand will certainly out-strip supply.

And with Baggies boss Alan Pardew charged with steering West Brom clear of relegation following his arrival at the Hawthorns, the FA Cup is not going to be top of his priority list.

In line with the attitude of a number of Premier League clubs, it is unlikely Pardew would field his strongest side which would present one of these fourth-tier clubs with the chance of becoming giant-killers.

With the tournament slipping down the pecking order for the largest clubs, the tv and sponsorship cash that the competition still draws means the value of 90 minutes of football can prove the difference between standing still and moving on to the next level.

For some less fortunate than the Grecians, it might prove the difference between staying in business and crashing out of existence.

Nothing can be taken for granted ahead of Tuesday and Exeter know they are in for another tough test against newly-promoted Forest Green.

The Gloucestershire outfit look to have turned a corner after a sloppy start to the season following their promotion from the National League.

Christian Doidge is their main danger man, a potent striker who has become more prolific since signing from Dagenham at the start of the 2016-17 season.

The 25-year-old bagged a double against the Grecians in the second-round tie at The New Lawn to take his tally to ten goals in his last eight games.

Exeter know all about how the FA Cup can shape the future and give a club financial stability and a platform to kick on.

The prospect of facing West Brom might not match Exeter’s third round tie against Manchester United back in 2005. But it still has significant pulling power and would be a crucial pay-day for the League Two club.

Perhaps not so much in terms of gate receipts given that between the third and sixth rounds, 45 per cent of ticket takings are divided between both teams, with ten per cent heading into a central pot.

But the chance to raise the profile of a football club and make it a more attractive destination for talented players cannot be under-estimated.

The Grecians will go into the clash brimming with confidence given their home form this season.

Paul Tisdale’s side have won seven out of ten League games at St James’ Park and look to have turned a corner on home soil following five years of inconsistency.

A tie against West Brom would also throw up a number of sub-plots with Kyle Edwards and Kane Wilson both on loan from the Midlands side.

With the FA Cup providing a welcome distraction for the Grecians, their main focus remains on a promotion assault this term.

Having lost last season’s League Two play-off final against Blackpool, Exeter are determined to clinch a top-three spot this time around.

As the Grecians start to prepare for a hectic festive schedule, there is greater competition for places with a number of players starting to return from injury.

Ryan Harley, who suffered a knee injury on the opening day of the season, is back in contention, while Jordan Tillson is battling his way back from a broken foot sustained against Luton Town in October.

Elsewhere, Tisdale’s attacking options have been strengthened with the news that Robbie Simpson has returned to training after the former Coventry striker broke his ankle back in February.

The Grecians are back on home soil on Saturday when they host Stevenage at St James’ Park.

The Hertfordshire outfit went into yesterday’s home clash with Wycombe Wanderers on the back of a six-game run without a win in the League, losing four of those and drawing two.

Stevenage have won three and lost six of their ten away games this season and are desperate to break out of their mid-table position and mount a challenge towards the top of the table.

The Grecians have got a good recent record against Stevenage having gone five games unbeaten dating back to December 2014.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.