Match 51
22nd April 2008
Stafford Rangers (home)

The Moxey Report

Tuesday 22nd April 2008
Blue Square Premier League

Exeter City 4 Stafford Rangers 1

On a balmy night at the Park, City secure a play-off spot with a game to go against already relegated Stafford Rangers in probably their most convincing win of the season with a handsome 4-1 victory in front of a whopping 4,079 jubilant supporters. I was going to start by saying how City came out of the blocks all guns blazing, but barely had I taken my seat before BAM- it was 1-0 thanks to Deano after a mere 20 seconds. Logan knocked the ball down straight from the kick off to Deano on the edge of the box where his low drive was expertly dispatched under the keeper to give City a moral-boosting early lead. The Stafford response was almost immediate when a counter attack saw the ball rattle the bar after five minutes, but a couple of minutes later order was restored when Stansfield burst down the left before crossing from the byline to Gill on the edge of the box, but unfortunately he guided his header over the bar. With City utterly dominant, it took a little while longer to turn that dominance into a genuine goalscoring chance, but fashion one they did and on the half hour a quick Gill free kick sent Stansfield scampering down the right before firing inches wide across goal from the corner of the box. Inevitably though, it was only a matter of time before City increased their lead. On 35 minutes Gill played a peach of a defence splitter for Stansfield to chase. His low drilled cross was expertly met by Deano rushing in centrally to side foot home confidently from 10 yards under the keeper to make it 2-0 City. Ten minutes later, and with time running out, Stansfield was sent through one on one with the keeper. His first touch was ever so slightly overhit, and while he tried to recover it just gave the keeper enough time to come out and deflect Stan's clever outside of the boot dink away to safety.

Half time came and went the respite must have been - something of a relief to the Stafford rearguard - but soon enough it was back to norms with City battering the Stafford goal. A mere sixty seconds had elapsed when Harley floated a deft free kick towards the far post where Deano came steaming in from deep to smash a ten yard volley across the keeper and high into the opposite corner for his first City hat trick and a wholly deserved 3-0 lead. After five minutes the hard working Logan slid the ball sideways to Harley where his lazy looking 25 yarder almost snapped the base of the post, then on ten minutes Ben Watson was introduced at Stansfield's expense, presumably to give him a rest with at least two more games approaching in quick fashion. And speaking of quick fashionit took little time for Watson to make his mark as a minute after his introduction he was on his way down the left. Showing no little skill and determination he cut inside his defender before firing low past the keeper from 15 yards with some authority to make it 4-0 to City. It was almost 5-0 within seconds when Deano and Watson combined to give Deano the opportunity to stroke home, but alas Stafford were saved by the linesman's flag for offside. With tempers getting a little heated between Seaborne and veteran Stafford attacker Grayson, Seaborne was withdrawn at the expense of Carlisle. Edwards dropped into defence to maintain the 4-4-2 formation, and with defenders being pulled all over the place due to the extra width, it didn't take Wayno long to get involved. A driving Gill run ended with a glorious through ball to Carlisle down the left where he expertly cut inside before firing high onto the Bank from 20 yards. Midway through the half it was Watson's turn once again, but this time the keeper did well to block his effort for a corner after good work from Watson, Moxey and Harley. On the half hour mark the industrious Gill made way for precocious young talent SercombeTwo minutes later a Tully throw was nodded on by Harley to Logan steaming in at the near post where he contrived to butt narrowly past the angle of post and bar from point blank range. In the follow up move Sercombe cut through the Stafford defence like a hot knife through butter before playing an inch perfect ball to Wayno on the right. His first time cross was met superbly by the diving Matt Taylor, but sadly the keeper thwarted with an ugly save after something of a frantic scramble. Five minutes later a huge Schmeichel-esque throw down the left sent Deano on his way, and after exchanging passes with a Stafford defender launched the most achingly exquisite 50 yard cross field ball to Logan at the far post. His header was butted across goal, but marginally in front of pint sized striker Watson's outstretched leg as the ball drifted harmlessly away to safety. Next a long ball was played across to the far post where Deano was lurking in search of his fourth goal of the evening, but this time in a move reminiscent of his hat trick strike, the ball whistled marginally the wrong side of the post. Sick of playing second fiddle for the entire ninety minutes, Stafford somehow contrived to fashion an equaliser deep into stoppage time, and what a beaut it was. Stocky midfielder Ishmael Reid picked the ball up some 40 yards out, and after advancing for a quarter of that distance unleashed a quite superb dipping, swerving smash right into the far top corner to give Jones no chance whatsoever and reduce arrears to 4-1. Shortly after the ref decided to end the humiliation and thus it was that City ran out comfortable 4-1 winners. Couple that with the free falling Stevenage's home defeat to Northwich, it meant that City had secured a play-off spot with a game to go, and for the second season in succession - a feat never before achieved by any City manager previously. But all of this will count for nothing if we haven't got our game heads on. The hard work is only just beginning, and if we are to earn a spot at Wembley again - and prevail this time we'll have to be at our very best as the four play-off teams are all there on merit after a long and hard season.

The final word?
Article by Kirstie Bowden 

Featured in the Stafford match programme, Tuesday 22nd April 2008

Where has the season gone? Tonight we welcome Stafford to SJP for our last home league fixture of the season yet it feels like only yesterday we were melting in the sunshine up at Alty for the first game of the season, arriving home to print out league tables which saw us lodged firmly at the top! This season was our first in the Blue Square Premier (it sounds better than 5th in the Conference!) and for the first time we had to contend with Setanta Sports. They are the definition of inconvenience, with their finest hour being the midweek scheduling of York away. Still, when we aren't involved Setanta is great, especially when Torquay lose and Paul Buckle starts throwing things!

We visited some new grounds this season Histon (where policemen got locked in the toilet), Farsley Celtic (where Billy Jones and Danny Woodards joined us on the away terraces), Droylsden (home to Marge's least favourite public toilets) and Salisbury (positively local!). We also paid return visits to some very familiar grounds. I particularly enjoyed our visits to Stonebridge Road, home of Ebbsfleet and my favourite non-Exeter player Sacha Opinel (note to Tiz - see what you can do in the summer.....!). Our October visit saw us beat Ebbsfleet and reach the first round proper of the FA Cup, partly thanks to my favourite goal of the season, a sublime headed own goal by Peter Hawkins. Apologies to the Stafford fans reading this but our return to Stafford also proved memorable, thrashing them 5-1. The 5th goal must have led to a surge in the phone network as everyone got their phones out and cries of 'yes I said 5' were repeated to those disbelieving on the other end! It wouldn't be right if I didn't also mention our December trip to the Shay, where we were finally victorious winning 3-0 in awful conditions. This was my favourite result of the season; having seen City lose in the four previous trips to Halifax it was brilliant to actually leave the Shay happy if a little rain damaged. It took Grecian the Lion a week in the airing cupboard to dry out!



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