After last week’s defeat at Millwall, I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of City’s sadomasochistic away day routine.
We all know the drill by now. We start off in masochistic mode, all coy and timid, encouraging the other side to whip our wotsits while we mince about flirtatiously in our own half.
“Go on”, we say, “Have a couple of shots at our keeper. He’s the one in pink. He loves it.”
If the opposition are a bit slow on the uptake, we wind them up to a frenzy of excitement by passing the ball around in ever more perilous triangles as City fans grind what remains of our teeth in anxiety and the other side chase around wildly with their tongues hanging out.
But that’s just what we want them to do.
Because after more of the same at the start of the second half, we say our special code word and have a ten or fifteen minute breather from being pummelled. A substitute or two transforms us into a sadistic counter attacking minx, and we go all out for blood.
I’ll leave your fertile imagination to guess how it all ends.
Perhaps City nick the winner and steal a smash and gab win, leaving triumphantly with all three points while the oppo lick their wounds and curse their fecklessness: “We could’ve had her...”
Alternatively, perhaps our defence holds firm and we come away with a 0-0 draw.
Or, err, something else happens, quite possibly resulting in our trudging home beaten and wondering what might have been if we’d just gone about imposing ourselves on the game from the first whistle.
Frankly, and usually sadly, the odds favour the third option.
The sucker punch plan worked once this season, at Carlisle where Marcus Stewart scored a penalty with our only decent shot on target and we sealed a wonderful first League One win.
Our other away success, at today’s opponents Stockport, came after we dominated the early stages and led at half-time, albeit needing injury time heroics to claim the points. I’d put that one down to footballing superiority rather than a tactical plan so cunning you could put a moustache on it and call it Russell Coughlin.
Option two, where we leave with the goal-less draw that most opposing fans think we came for, is yet to happen. After all, our only clean sheet in sixteen League One away fixtures came in that win at Carlisle.
We have drawn three times though. We equalised deservedly at Leyton Orient where Craig Noone led a fightback and dramatically at MK Dons after a tough second half, and we also had to settle for a point at Colchester where City were far and away the better side. Each was warmly welcomed and applauded heartily by the travelling Grecians.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that our record of 11 away defeats out of 16 – more than all bar Gillingham – is the cause of our current worries.
Both the stark facts of our away results and the promising list of remaining away fixtures should encourage us to be bolder on our travels.
We’ve played thirteen of the top fifteen sides on their own grounds, with just play-off chasing Swindon and a so-so Brentford side to come. Our other five away games are against teams around us in the table, with trips to Brighton, Southend, Wycombe, Tranmere and Hartlepool all looking like nerve jangling six pointers.
I’m not really having a moan. My love for City in infinite - and my tactical nous is just about strong enough to enjoy seeing a gameplan executed, even if it is a decidedly subtle one that requires nerves of steel and the faith of Abraham on Mount Moriah.
But we’re great at St James Park. We’ve lost just three - Carlisle and Brighton grabbed last minute winners and MK Dons were lucky to cling on after their flying start. Aside from that, we’ve done well, and games against Stockport and Bristol Rovers this week give us a real chance to surge swiftly away from the bottom four.
Away from home, it just hasn’t worked for us, and it’s time to scrap the sneaky smash and grab plan. There are plenty of Exonians who proudly follow City wherever we go, so why can’t our St James Park form travel with us too? And, if it can't, should we really be thinking about doing away with our lucky pitch!