The First Round Proper of the FA Cup is finally here, as the Coasters make the 272-mile journey to face Football League opposition, Exeter City, on Saturday.

AFC Fylde will travel to Devon for Saturday’s 1pm kick off at St. James Park, looking to surpass the Grecians for a place in the Second Round of the oldest national football competition in the world.


Exeter City Football Club’s origins are a subject of some historical debate. Originally, it was believed that the club had been formed as a merger between Exeter United and St. Sidwell’s United after a friendly match. However, there’s more to the history that has now been discovered. Exeter United was formed in 1896, but struggled for players in 1902 and could not play at St. James Park. St. Sidwell’s United were formed in 1901 to challenge Exeter United for dominance as the leading Exeter club. However, this friendly between Exeter United and St. Sidwell’s United proved to be one of Exeter United’s last games after St. Sidwell’s 3-0 win. Exeter United slowly disappeared of the radar, not appearing on anymore fixture lists, and St. Sidwell’s United as Junior Champions began training at St. James Park fielding several Exeter United players. In 1904, St. Sidwell’s United decided to take the title of Exeter City essentially forming the club as the premier club in Exeter. 

The club started in the East Devon League, but quickly changed to the stronger Plymouth and District League. In 1914, the Grecians famously engaged in a tour of South America after being invited by the Football Association. Initially the club was only meant to play friendlies in Argentina, but friendlies were organised in Brazil while the club was on tour. One of the friendlies in Brazil was in a 2-0 loss to Brasileiros, a selection of players from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which is regarded as the first ever game played by the Brazilian National Team. 

At the end of World War I, the Grecians returned to the Southern League. In 1920, the Football League invited Exeter City to be founding members of the Third Division. Exeter went on two further tours during the post war eras, both to the Netherlands, in 1925 and 1951. Exeter spent their time between 1958-1963 and 1966-77 in Division Four, returning to the Third Division between 1977 and 1984. After financial troubles and administration, which ended in 1966, Exeter eventually struggled and was relegated to the Conference in 2002/03. A situation that was only undone in 2008/09 when Exeter returned to the Football League, and they remain in League Two today after a brief spell in League One. 

FA Cup wise, the Grecians also possess history in the cup competitions. 1931 witnessed Exeter engage in one of their most famous cup runs, which has directly led to the Exeter 1931 Fund which was set up in 2009 with the goal of financing an additional member of the squad who wears the 31 shirt. City made it to the FA Cup Quarter-Final in 1931, beating Northfleet United, Coventry City, Derby County, Bury and Leeds United before losing to Sunderland in a cup replay. 1981 saw another historical cup run where Exeter beat Leatherhead, Maidstone, Millwall, Leicester City and Newcastle before losing to Tottenham in the Quarterfinals again. 

The Manager – Matt Taylor

Matt Taylor has been the Exeter City manager since being appointed in June 2018, in the wake of long serving manager Paul Tisdale’s departure from the Grecians. Taylor was familiar face at St. James Park, having made over 150 appearances for Exeter as a player. As a player, Taylor was known to be an imposing physical player, as a tough-tackling defender, and he was a key part of Exeter’s promotions from the Football Conference to League One. 

The 38-year-old manager from nearby Chorley started his coaching career as a player-coach whilst representing Bath City. He then moved on to return to Exeter in the Autumn of 2016, before taking over as the Under-23’s manager where he successfully led the team to a strong Under-23’s Premier League campaign. The Grecians topped their group which featured Brighton, Hull City and Sunderland before losing to Wolverhampton Wanderers on penalties in the quarter-finals. 

Taylor’s first season as Exeter City boss saw the Grecians achieve ninth place in League Two, missing a play-off position by one point. 2019/20 saw another successful Exeter City season led by Matt Taylor, as the Grecians placed 5th in League Two and achieved the play-off final losing 4-0 to Northampton Town at Wembley missing out on promotion to League One. 

The Captain – Jake Taylor

Captain Jake Taylor re-signed for Exeter City on a permanent basis in January 2016, and has been a key presence for Exeter ever since. He had previously joined the Grecians on loan from Reading in the 2011/12 season, making 30 appearances and scoring 3 goals in this season. Taylor has now amassed nearly 250 appearances as a Grecian, and he has scored 28 goals for Exeter including his loan spell goals. 

Taylor started his career at Reading at the age of 8. He spent his youth years with the club and progressed to the first team making his debut in a League Cup game against Northampton Town in the 2010/11 season, and he also went on to make his Football League debut in the same season against Derby County at home. A series of loans followed this season with Taylor spending time on loan with Aldershot, Exeter, Cheltenham, Crawley Town, Leyton Orient and Scottish Premiership side Motherwell before joining the Grecians permanently. 

The 28-year-old midfielder is a Welsh international, having made appearances at youth levels for the Dragons as well as making 1 appearance at senior level replacing Hal Robson-Kanu in a 2-1 European qualifier against Cyprus in 2014. Taylor is an important presence in Exeter’s line-up and was named Exeter’s Player of the Month for this past October. 

The Grecians will be making their FA Cup debut for the 2020/21 season in Saturday’s fixture, and due to their fantastic start with 5 wins and 5 draws, only losing once, they sit 4th in the League Two table.

Exeter City are now on a 10-match undefeated streak with their last loss occurring in September when they were defeated at St. James Park by Port Vale. The Grecians are currently candidates to step up to the top of League Two as they are only 5 points away from Newport County, although it is still early in the season. Joel Randall has been a big part of Exeter’s results this season contributing with 5 goals in League Two fixtures this season. 

The Coasters also boast an undefeated streak after 7 wins in competitive fixtures. Tuesday’s fixture could have seen Fylde go eight in eight, however, Luke Burke’s sensational strike was cancelled out by Elliott Reeves’ 64th minute goal making Fylde drop the first set of points this season as the match ended 1-1 at the Impact Arena. Fylde will want to return to winning ways in Saturday’s fixture. 

This Saturday will be the first time AFC Fylde and Exeter City ever face each other. Acknowledging the 1981 and 1931 cup runs, it is possible to say that Exeter have an interesting background in the FA Cup. Since returning to the Football League, Exeter have been opposed to non-league opposition on seven occasions – defeating them 3 times, but losing on 3 instances. The Coasters have always made it difficult for Football League sides when facing up against them in FA Cup fixtures. A 1-1 draw to Wigan Athletic pushed the game to a replay in 2017/18, and Premier League Sheffield United had a tough fixture in their 2-1 win against Fylde at Bramall Lane last season. With no replays in this year’s FA Cup, it will be interesting to see how Saturday’s fixture goes. 

Should Exeter keep an unchanged line-up, we should see young Icelandic goalkeeper Jökull Andrésson continuing in goal for Exeter. The Grecians should be fielding in a 4-4-1-1 formation. 

Exeter City youth academy product Joshua Key could be starting at right-back, where he has recently played despite the 20-year-old being a midfielder. Pierce Sweeney, one of the past 1931 fund players, could be starting in the middle of the back four along with Leicester City youth academy product Tom Parkes. Jack Sparkes, another Exeter City academy product and former 1931 fund player, could be starting at left-back for the Grecians. 

The middle of the park should be covered by captain Jack Taylor and young Archie Collins. Former Watford player Randell Williams could be starting on the right side of the midfield, he’s in terrific form this season as Exeter’s current top goal scorer in League Two. The left side could see Joel Randall as the tricky winger has been starting in this position recently. Randall is another academy graduate and has impressed over the 2019/20 season earning this position for this season. 

The skilful Matt Jay possesses an incredible amount of technique and is expected to be playing in just behind the striker, who could very well be the experienced Ryan Bowman who joined from Motherwell in January 2019. 

One to WatchRandell Williams

23-year-old tricky winger Randell Williams is a player that can be considered one of Exeter’s key players at the moment given his current prolific nature. Williams joined the Grecians in January 2019 and made 9 appearances for the club in the remaining of the 2018/19 season. Nonetheless, he left his mark in the 2019/20 season as one of the most important players for the Grecians. He played in 46 games for Exeter, and provided 17 assists leading the League Two table. He also scored 5 goals throughout the season. 

Williams started his career at Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs, before going on to play non-league football for London based Tower Hamlets. He joined Crystal Palace on trial in December 2015, and signed in January 2016. He was released from Crystal Palace at the end of 2016/17, and immediately progressed to Watford signing prior to the 2017/18 season. A series of loans to Wycombe Wanderers proceeded, where Williams made his professional debut being praised by manager Gareth Ainsworth for his performance. 

Williams then joined Exeter City on a free, and made immediate impact scoring his first goal against rivals Plymouth Argyle in Exeter’s 4-0 win. The winger was also awarded Player of the Season and Goal of the Season at the end of the 2019/20 season demonstrating his importance to the Grecians. 

Williams has continued his positive form throughout the start of this season, and will be one of Exeter’s key players in Saturday’s fixture.