Match 50
27th April 1991
Southend (h)


Exeter City 1 Southend Utd 2

Report by TRINA LAKE

EXETER CITY failed to halt Southend United's charge towards Division 2 in Saturday's uncompromising battle at St James's Park.

The Essex side were deposed as Third Division leaders for four hours after Cambridge beat Wigan at lunchtime on Saturday. By tea time they were top again, thanks to a fifth minute opener from the impressive Andy Ansah and a Scott Hiley own goal midway through the second half. A superb 35 yard free kick from Mark Cooper for his 10th goal of the season was sandwiched between the strikes that gave Southend victory. Cooper, playing despite a cracked bone in his leg, was particularly disappointed to lose against a side he almost joined a year ago. He played for Southend in the corresponding fixture last season when City beat them 2-1 to clinch promotion from Division 4. Southend then had the consolation of going up in third place behind City and Grimsby. But there is no such softener for City this season with mid-table respectability all they are left to strive for after a disappointing year. Saturday's game adequately summed up what might have been. City matched Southend as they have most of the other top sides in the Third Division. They were harshly. punished, though, for committing just a couple of defensive errors, failed to take the chances that came their way at the other end and slipped to their 19th league defeat. Fourteen of those have been by the odd goal, emphasising how narrow is the margin between success and failure. They were well below their best, however, on Saturday in a patchy game that failed to live up to expectations. It was a physical contest, punctuated all too frequently by the referee's whistle. Not that Gerald Ashby had much choice but to blow with such regularity as Southend in particular committed a host of fouls. City, badly hit by injuries, were forced to make changes in the key, midfield area with Gordon Hobson ruled out com- pletely and Tom Kelly fit enough only for a place on the bench. Darran Rowbotham was given an unfamiliar, central midfield role and didn't adapt that successfully while several others players around him were equally under par. There was a distinct end-of-season look about City's performance and they produced only flashes of their usually entertain- ing style. It didn't help when they went a goal down inside five minutes. David Martin flicked on a throw-in for Ansah to hit a smart volley on the turn that gave goalkeeper Kevin Miller no chance. Southend were already playing with a good deal of self-assurance and that early strike only added to their confidence. They protected the lead with some robust tackling but overstepped the mark once too often in the 31st when Paul Clark fouled Murray Jones. There didn't seem too much danger with the ball placed around 35 yards from goal but Cooper had other ideas. He drove it low and hard the ball never rose more than six inches off the ground and his shot flew just inside a disbelieving Paul Sansome's left hand post. The lively Ansah then had a shot cleared off the line by Hiley, headed over from a good position and tested Miller with a 25 yarder as Southend finished the half in determined mood. But it was City who came out in a more positive frame of mind after the break. Cooper was denied by a full stretch save from Sansome and Shaun Taylor gave Southend a reminder of what they missed out on they tried to sign him for £100,000 on transfer deadline day - with two fine headers that deserved goals. Chris Hyslop deflected the first on to the bar and was in the right place again to clear the second off the line. Hiley then came to City's rescue by saving a certain goal with a cool clearance when Adam Locke broke through and beat Miller. But unlike Hyslop he couldn't do it twice when City were again caught on the break in the 63rd minute. Locke easily outstripped Jon Brown who was not having one of his better days and drove a shot across the goal which Hiley had to go for but could only deflect it into his own net. City then threw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser with Rowbot- ham and Taylor both going up to join the attack. The shape and pattern of the side disappeared and the changes failed to bring about the desired re- sult, leaving Southend supporters to celebrate on the pitch at full time as City fans had just 12 months ago

Exeter City: Miller, Hiley, Brown, Dryden Taylor, Cooper, Rowbotham, Jones, Boughey. Neville, Marshall (Kelly 84). Sub (not used) Frankland.

Southend United: Sansome, Austin, Powell, Martin, Scully, Hyslop, Clark, Butler, Ansah, Benjamin, Locke (Angell 68). Sub (not used) Cornwell.

Bookings: Rowbotham (2 min, foul), Dryden (89 min. foul), Clark (59 min, foul).

Attendance: 4,941





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