Match 07
18th September 1990
Birmingham City (a)



A truly memorable night at St Andrews for both the players and the huge travelling support who were justifiably proud of having seen City end Birmingham's 100 per-cent record.

The story doesn't end there, as this certainly wasn't a snatched away point, more a commanding performance which was easily worthy of all three. The fact that City didn't make it three away wins out of three was down to the inspired goalkeeping of Martin Thomas, and some sheer bad luck in and around the Birmingham area.

The way the Blues started the game must have caused a few worries on the City bench, Terry Cooper could well have been contemplating a fifth minute double substitution of Hobson and Neville for the more defensively minded Kelly and Batty With Birmingham looking strong in midfield, pacey down the flanks and threatening in front of goal, only fine goalkeeping from Kevin Miller and backs to the wall defending by Shaun Taylor and Lee Rogers (the latter playing probably his best game to date in a City shirt) kept the scores level.

After a frantic and nerve jangling first quarter of an hour City began to assert themselves on the game, with the Exeter attacks more frequent and penetrating and the Birmingham forwards getting nothing like the majority share of possession which they enjoyed in the opening stages.

Steve Neville was desperately unlucky not to shoot City into a thirtieth minute lead, his twenty five yard screamer rebounding off the inside of the post and bouncing agonisingly across the goal-line. Only minutes later Mark Cooper struck a near perfect free-kick inches wide from a similar distance, as City pressed forward purposefully

It would have been surprising if a game between two such attacking sides had finished goal-less at half-time, and Birmingham finally broke the deadlock after 42 minutes. The goal, although a bitter blow for City, was a very well worked one. A patient build up from midfield resulted in a clever through ball o find left wing Greg Downs in space, and his chipped cross picked out the diving Dennis Bailey who headed the ball firmly home.

City's second-half performance must rank amongst their finest forty-five minutes under Terry Cooper. With the defence. Miller included, dealing comfortably with anything that came their way, Cooper and Balley in the centre of midfield getting through an unbelievable amount of work, Whitehead and McDermott on the wings always prompting and looking dangerous, and Neville and Hobson up front continually running and making their presence felt.

Exeter launched a cascade of attacks on the Birmingham goal, with pretty much everybody attempting to grab an equaliser City won a good number of corners, from which we always looked dangerous with the strong wind swinging the ball in towards goal.

Birmingham's Welsh goalkeeper Martin Thomas was, fortunately for his side, in fine form, making a string of agile saves. His three most notable stops coming from a close range Steve Neville header early in the second half, a delicate lob from Gordon Hobson which he somehow turned over the bar, and another effort from City's Summer signing, a well struck shot from just inside the box, which Thomas did well to beat away to safety.

Having enjoyed such domination, it seemed that an equaliser would never come. However, with fifteen minutes remaining a Brian McDermott corner from the right was met by a thundering header from Richard Dryden which sent the ball into the roof of the net, and the 400 plus City fans behind the goal into ecstatic celebrations!

Even on a night such as this, heady with pride, passion and deafening noise from the away end. it would have been impossible to imagine City getting a winner. In the event it didn't come, but with both sides pushing forward there were certainly plenty of chances to keep the crowd on their toes until the very last seconds A truly memorable occasion for everybody connected with Exeter City- those of us who were there didn't need Blues boss Dave Mackay to tell us that City were contenders for a promotion place for the second year running!



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