Well, I’ll level with you fellow Grecians; I rather fear that today is going to end in tears.
City have delivered a decent season in which we’ve rarely occupied one of the relegation places. We are, in my humble opinion, not one of the worst four sides in League One.
But some bad luck, the wicked whims of fate and that little bit of spark sometimes missing from our game have combined to leave us in a fair old pickle.
I blame myself. At the end of March, with nine or ten games to go for the League One strugglers, I gazed into the Crockford crystal ball and wrote that Stockport, Wycombe and Southend (who were above City at the time) would all be relegated without too great a fight.
Disturbingly, I also wrote that our survival target would be 51 points, set by Tranmere. There won’t be many City fans unaware that if Tranmere pick up the expected win at Stockport today, they will indeed move on to 51 points.
I am back in Exeter for the big game today, but, having now exposed my freaky powers as a soothsayer, I shall be sure to keep my head down as the train from Waterloo passes through some of East Devon’s more remote areas!
There are so many frustrations at finding ourselves in the win-or-bust position we occupy today that it’s hard to know where to start.
Having lost just one of the past 12 games, we’re clearly comfortable in League One. Indeed, in our second meetings of the season with sides in the top half of the table, City have won four, drawn five and lost just two games.
We always try to play neat, constructive football, our average attendance of 5,716 is the 14th highest in League One and we’re spending money we can’t really afford to improve our pitch. We belong here and we deserve to stay up.
Yet, our troubles have come against the lesser sides in League One, as City are without a win in the 11 return fixtures against sides in the bottom half of the table.
This is what denied us a mid-table finish - as well as a spell in and around February when the only luck we encountered was bad luck.
During that cursed period, we hit the post at crucial times against MK Dons, Southampton, Stockport and Southend, where we also had a good goal disallowed. We had a clear penalty waved away at Millwall while conceding from a dubious late free-kick at the other end, and our mid-season dip reached a head-in-hands low point when we missed a last minute penalty against Oldham.
More recently, we’ve lost the knack of scoring crucial late goals and instead started letting slipping our hard-fought leads. Goals from Swindon well into injury time, and then Charlton on 72 minutes and Hartlepool on 80 minutes, have deprived City of vital wins when we needed them most.
And now, with rivals Gillingham in a position of strength thanks to the efforts (sic) of a weakened Southampton side and Tranmere playing a seemingly hopeless Stockport team, fate has once again turned against City to give Huddersfield everything to play for this afternoon.
Hudders won’t be under pressure, since the sniff of automatic promotion is only feint and any play-off spot higher than their current sixth place would be a big bonus. But the only side to thump City convincingly this season have plenty of incentive to put everything into this afternoon’s game and I really can’t see them freezing. It’s tough, but that’s what we’re up against.
Sorry. You know all of this don’t you? I’m just rambling nervously - like so many other City fans today - struggling to find the words to sum up the frustration of feeling like we’ve done enough to survive but fretting but this final day challenge may just be too difficult.
It really is extraordinary that, for the fourth season under Tis, we find ourselves facing a ‘play-off’ to determine our fate. In fact, it’s the seventh season out of eight where City have gone into the final game needing a win.
If you’re looking for an upbeat ending - and after a page of anxious hand wringing, I certainly owe you one - then I think the best option for us fans is to draw on our recent experience of end of season triumphs.
We went to Wembley needing a win, and we got it. We went to Rotherham needing a win, and we got that too. Today we’re at the Park, where we’ve been strong all season, and we just need to put everything we’ve got into trying to get that victory.
If we fail, well, that’s life. There would be frustration if City were relegated, but the club is strong enough and our fans loyal enough to take it in our stride. And I honestly think I’d be anticipating our next season in League Two every bit as much as our last in that division.
If we win, the achievement warrants nothing less than a huge celebration, and then we can settle down for a wonderful World Cup summer. It would feel amazing, wouldn’t it?
Either way, the Exeter City story will still be a happy one. We’ll be back, solvent and supporter-led for more League football next season, and after threats to our future and five years in non-league captivity, that’ll do for me.
At three o’clock, however, I will be so much more pumped up than I sound right now. Equal quantities of cider and natural Grecian fighting spirit will see to that!
Let’s get behind our bauys and give them the support they need. There’s plenty at stake, but let’s make sure there’s no fear - just a huge appetite to do all we can to get a win that would rank alongside the very finest of our many recent achievements. Bring it on. And Geddon City.