20th August 1996
League Cup 1st Round 1st Leg
Slick Barnet expose City shortcomings
Report by TED DAVENPORT at St James' Park
EXETER'S hopes of a Cup run were shattered within 30 minutes by a rampant Barnet side which exposed the home side's frailty. Peter Fox's men face an almost impossible task when they try to claw back a four- goal deficit in North London after a drubbing which set alarm bells ringing among the 2,975 crowd.
Exeter started in optimistic mood after their opening day victory at Mansfield but with- in two minutes Linvoy Pri- mus came close with a sharp volley that flew wide. Fox has scrapped last season's successful five-man back line in search of more adventure but Barnet's free- flowing mid-field soon found the gaps. They opened their account after five minutes, with a sweet passing move which ended when Phil Simpson mishit his shot under stran- ded 'keeper Ashley Bayes. City's early attacks were rare and unconvincing against Barnet's well orga- nised sweeper system and the home side survived two more scares before Barnet in- creased their lead after 25 minutes. The Exeter defence was caught flat-footed as £750,000 rated striker Sean Devine ran from his own half into the space left by full-back Jon Richardson's foray forward and beat the off-side trap. Central defenders Noel Blake and Brian Gayle had no chance of catching the stri- ker and as Bayes ventured he- sitantly off his line Devine lashed the ball inside the near post with his left foot. Three minutes later an- other fine Barnet move was cleared only as far as Robert Codner whose superb 30-yard drive rocketed into the top corner of the Exeter goal. Then John Sharpe's 33rd minute cross was headed strongly by Leon Braithwaite and well smothered by Barnet 'keeper Mark Taylor as Tim Steele challenged. Braithwaite went close twice before the break but Taylor denied him both times and Exeter tried to step up the tempo in the second half. Braithwaite finally bundled the ball into the back of the net in a far post melee on 58 minutes only to suffer the double indignity of having his effort disallowed and then being booked for hand ball. This sparked Exeter's best spell of pressure in the game and they were twice denied by the 'keeper who did well to stop an Chris Myers drive and a Gayle header. By this time Barnet were increasingly happy to soak up the pressure and attack on the break and another goal looked likely long before the impressive Devine split the defence in the 74th minute and set up Paul Tomlin- son who was left free on the right to blast past Bayes. Barnet ended the game rampant once more and were only denied a fifth goal by the linesman's flag but by then Exeter's misery was complete. Fox will have to ponder whether he should return to last season's defensive tactics and his own ability as a 'keeper.
Exeter City 0 Barnet 4
A Bayes, J Richardson, D Hughes, C Myers, N Blake, B Gayle, M Chamberlain, D Bailey, L Braithwaite, J Sharpe (R Pears 79), T Steele (B McConnell 79). Substitute (not used): P Fox.
Booking: Braithwaite 58.
M Taylor, S Gale, P Hardyman, R Codner (J Campbell 79), L Primus, L Ho- warth, M Tomlinson (R Dunwall 79), P Simp- son, P Wilson (D McDonald 89), S Devine, A Cardew.
Simpson 5 (0-1),
Devine 25 (0-2),
Codner 28 (0-3),
Tomlinson 74 (0-4).
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).