After a season like no other, a sense of normality to expected to return across the country as Covid-19 restrictions begin to end.
Finally, Thursday 24 June sees the fixtures released for the 21/22 season, which begins on Saturday August 7. With fans expected to be allowed back into SJP at full capacity, this date marks the day when supporters across the country get planning their lives for the next ten months.
This piece will take a trip down memory lane, looking at how the Grecians have fared in each of their last five opening day outings.
1. September 12, 2020, Salford City 2 City 2
The Grecians' season began with a trip to promotion favourites Salford City at an eerily quiet Peninsula Stadium. The game would end in a 2-2 draw after a frantic 90 minutes, with City goals coming from Matt Jay and Joel Randall.
The game started in the worst possible way for Matt Taylor's men as Ian Henderson fired the hosts ahead a little over a minute into the match. In what would be a superb season for him, Matt Jay levelled the scoring with a brilliant individual goal, marauding through the middle before firing low under Vaclav Hladky in the Salford goal.
12 minutes later and City were ahead, this time through Joel Randall who scored his first League Two goal from close range. Archie Collins' piledriver was tipped onto the bar by Hladky, but Randall was there to turn in the rebound.
Ash Hunter's volley levelled for the Greater Manchester side in the second half and City travelled back to Devon with a decent point in the bag to start the campaign.
2. August 4, 2019: City 1 Macclesfield Town 0
The Grecians kicked-off a new season at St James Park for a third season in a row, as Matt Taylor took charge of his second season in the hot seat at St James Park.
City would pick up their first win of the new campaign with a 1-0 win over Macclesfield Town thanks to a late strike from Ryan Bowman.
It took until the 88th minute for the all-important goal to come, and it came from a Ryan Bowman finish which came from Nicky Law’s effort towards goal.
3. August 4, 2018: City 3 Carlisle United 1
A new era dawned at St James Park as City boss Matt Taylor took charge of his first competitive match of the Grecians following the summer departure of long-serving manager Paul Tisdale.
Matt was tasked with the job of leading the Grecians into another season of League Two action following a second successive defeat at Wembley stadium in the play-off final. The City manager had a positive pre-season with the Grecians coming into the first game of the new campaign off the back of a 4-0 win over League One side Bristol Rovers in their final friendly.
It was a fantastic day for the Grecians as they picked up a 3-1 win over John Sheridan’s side. All three goals came from new summer signings with Nicky Law netting the first of the afternoon with a well-taken side footed finish in the first half.
Jonathan Forte quickly added a second for the Grecians when he found space before firing at goal with a well-taken effort. Carlisle then threatened towards the end of the first period and they pulled a goal back with a header from Richie Bennett, but youngster Tristan Abrahams confirmed the three points late on when he finished coolly.
The match preceded an exciting campaign in Matt Taylor’s first season in charge with a number of highlights. Unfortunately, the Grecians missed out on a place in the end of season play-offs by just one point.
The Grecians came up against Cambridge United on the opening day of the 2017/18 season at St James Park as they made a winning start to the campaign.
After thrashing Dorchester Town 6-1 in a pre-season match just a few days before, Paul Tisdale named the same starting XI. It was the perfect start to the season when the Grecians went ahead five minutes in after a long ball from Jordan Moore-Taylor towards David Wheeler causing havoc in the United box as Jake Carroll handled the ball, leaving referee Trevor Kettle with little choice but to point to the spot.
David Forde then saved Reuben Reid’s penalty but was unable to push the ball clear as the now former City striker pounced to fire in the rebound. Liam McAlinden looked threatening for much of the afternoon and had a shot go over Forde’s goal in a tight match at St James Park. Luke Berry and Jabo Ibehre looked the most likely for the away side, but were limited to little in front of goal with Christy Pym and his defenders doing well to keep out United and hold onto the win.
5. August 6, 2017: Blackpool 2 City 0
Having opened their previous four campaigns at home, the Grecians were finally sent on the road, beginning their 2016/17 season away at Blackpool. With the Seasiders having endured successive relegations they were clearly aiming at a fresh start, including five debutants in their starting line up.
This ploy paid immediate dividends, with new signing Kyle Vassell combining with his fellow debutant Colin Daniel as Blackpool took the lead on 19 minutes.
Having been stung from the off, City worked hard to get back into the game, creating a number of chances. However they were unable to make them count as Ollie Watkins pushed a diving header wide with the goal at his mercy and Jake Taylor found himself denied by the post.
As the second half progressed, many around the ground began to feel that it was not going to be the Grecians day, with Blackpool keeper Sam Slocombe producing a number of fine saves to preserve his side’s lead.
City’s misfortune was effectively summed up 10 minutes after the break when Troy Brown accidentally diverted a cross past his goalkeeper to double the Seasiders’ lead and ensure that the Grecians would have to make the long trip home empty handed.
Finding themselves at the bottom of the table in late December, they began a remarkable run of form that saw them rise to fifth by the end of the season as they confirmed a place in the play-offs.
Having despatched Carlisle United in dramatic fashion over two legs, they sadly fell at the final hurdle, losing the play-off final 2-1 to Blackpool, a full nine months after the teams had initially met at Bloomfield Road.