Match 10
19th September 1987
Rochdale (h)

City give cause for concern

EXETER CITY 1  Kellow (pen)


Report byTrina Lake

EXETER CITY dropped another two points at home on Saturday with their third successive 1-1 draw at St James's Park against opposition they should have beaten.

The point, courtesy of a 76th minute Tony Kellow penalty cancelling out Mark Hunt's first half strike for Rochdale, keeps City second in the Fourth Division table. But there is grave concern at the way they have repeatedly disappointed their own fans in the past month after impressive away performances. Wednesday's poor draw with Carlisle knocked more than 700 off the gate against Rochdale. Thankfully for City they return to the Park next in a fortnight for the Devon derby against Torquay United, a game guaranteed to attract a bumper crowd and mask the disillusionment that the Rochdale result created. Manager Colin Appleton is acutely aware of the problem and has two away games - at Colchester on Friday and on Wednesday week to sort out the imbalance in his side. After Saturday's uninspired display he admitted: "From a professional point of view that was not acceptable today. I'm the person that has to put it right and there's a lot of work to be done. Players have to learn to cope with the pressure of being at the top. Their pride should start showing through now if they want to be successful."

The City boss made one change in personnel to the side that drew with with Carlisle, drop- ping Paul Olsson. He switched the formation though Andrew Watson came in at sweeper and Paul Batty reverted from his more effective flank role to the centre of midfield. It was surprising to see City line up with a five-man defence against a Rochdale side that had been ripped to shreds in a five-goal midweek mauling at Torquay. The plan might have worked if full backs Keith Viney and Gordon Nisbet had pushed forward more to support Batty and Roy Carter and the service had been better to the strike trio of Brendon O'Connell, Dean Edwards and Paul Williams. It didn't happen that way and after O'Connell went off with a deep gash in his cheek that needed six stitches, City looked even more disjointed. Their attack was never as sharp as in earlier games from the start and the willing Wil- liams, playing only his second full game, outshone his supposedly more respected strike partners with another show of pace and power. He always looked the most likely to penetrate Rochdale, who also strung five men across the back, but he could do with being a little more selfish. Several times on Saturday, particularly in the first half, his refreshing directness took him into good positions but he chose to pass rather than shoot. In general, City lacked imagination and weren't positive enough in and around the opposition's penalty arrea and when they did break through a stubborn Rochdale defence, they found goalkeeper Keith Welch in fine form. He positioned himself well to make a string of important saves that allowed his team to grow in confidence as the scrappy game wore on.

The contest wasn't helped by repeated stoppages for minor injuries. The trainers were on 10 times and the regular interruptions disrupted what little pattern had developed.

Even Weston-super-Mare referee Ron Groves got fed up in the end and booked Rochdale trainer Trevor Jones for coming on to treat Welch without permission in the 79th minute. There were yellow cards too for Batty and Carter and Rochdale's Hunt and Mark Gavin. It was the Hunt-Gavin combination that produced Rochdale's 35th minute goal. The lively Gavin made a tremendous run before slipping the ball to Hunt who crashed a 10 yard shot into the roof of the net. Simple and deadly - so different from City's often over-elaborate approach. Edwards and Williams wasted good chances with dreadful control, O'Connell had a useful volley saved by the dependable Welch and fired another just wide from their most promising openings.

In the second half, after Gavin had gone close to increasing Rochdale's lead, City began to get their act together but couldn't cash in on sustained pressure as de- termined Rochdale worked hard to contain them. They lost O'Connell in the 58th minute when he banged heads with Shaun Taylor. As O'Connell fell clutching his slit cheek, Taylor staggered back with a cut on the top of his head but as players from both sides held up the tottering giant he gradually recovered his senses. Steve Harrower replaced O'Connell, who needed hospital treatment, slotting in at left back with Viney pushing up into midfield. Kellow came on for the out-of-touch Edwards six minutes later. Kellow's appearance again inspired a late City flourish. He and Batty were denied by super saves from Welch and Taylor had a powerful header cleared off the line by Peter Hampton with the 'keeper well beaten this time. It took a penalty to save City's blushes. Jason Smart was penalised, harshly in Rochdale manager Eddie Gray's opinion, for handball. Kellow, who had missed a match winner from the spot four days earlier, made no mi- stake by blasting just inside Welch's right hand post.

Exeter City: Shaw, Nisbet, Viney, Marker, Taylor, Carter, Batty, Edwards, O'Connell, Williams, Watson. Kellow (on for Edwards 64 minutes), Harrower (on for O'Connell 58 minu- tes).

Rochdale: Welch, Lomax, Hampton, Reid, Hughes, Smart-Seasman, Simmonds, Hunt, Coyle, Gavin. Stanton (on for Reid 55 minutes, Walling.

Attendance: 2,628.


Paul F



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