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Like many clubs in the EFL, Portsmouth have had to spend a frustrating period on the sidelines over the Christmas period, Danny Cowley‘s side going as many as 23 days without a game.
Portsmouth would have expected to return to action with all three points against a misfiring Cambridge United outfit, but a goalless draw away from home was satisfactory given the circumstances.
As well as extending their unbeaten streak in League One to 10 matches, Pompey have also kept five successive clean sheets in the third tier.
However, while goals have not always been a problem for this side, just three have been netted in 360 minutes, leaving them with the joint-sixth worst return in the division.
Despite winning just one of their three group games, Cowley’s side somehow progressed through to the last 32, aided by a 3-0 triumph over Crystal Palace Under-21s in their final fixture.
Exeter were also reliant on a final-game result, a 5-3 victory over Bristol Rovers backing up draws in their previous games to earn top spot ahead of Chelsea Under-21s.
However, the Grecians have prevailed in just one of their last eight contests in all competitions, a run which has seen the club drop outside of the League Two playoffs and eliminated from the FA Cup.
Four defeats had been posted in succession before Tuesday’s trip to leaders Forest Green Rovers, but it was Exeter who came away from the match frustrated that they had only collected a point from a goalless draw.
With this game representing Exeter’s third within a week of their return, Taylor will surely make several alterations to his side.
Ben Seymour, Sam Stubbs and Kyle Taylor will all expect to be involved after their substitute outings in midweek, while goalkeeper Scott Brown may get an opportunity between the sticks.
Despite impressing in the previous two matches, youngster Cheick Diabate may drop down to the substitutes’ bench.
Although his Portsmouth squad have had an extra day of recovery, Cowley may want to give game time to many of the players who featured among the replacements last time out.
Michael Jacobs, Lee Brown, John Marquis, Ellis Harrison, Miguel Azeez, Alex Bass and Paul Downing all appear likely to be handed chances in the first XI.
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Exeter City possible starting lineup:
Brown; Kite, Stubbs, Grounds; Key, Taylor, Collins, Dieng, Caprice; Jay, Seymour
Portsmouth possible starting lineup:
Bass; Dowing, Raggett, Ogilvie; Romeo, Morrell, Azeez, Brown; Jacobs; Marquis, Harrison