Match 24
5th December 2009
Brighton (Home)

Exeter City 0 Brighton and Hove Albion 1.

Saturday 5 December 2009

On an afternoon when the football was as ugly as the weather, City paid the ultimate price for failing to test the Brighton keeper properly going down 1-0 in front of 5,456 largely unimpressed supporters.

It was City who started the brightest enjoying almost unchallenged possession during the opening exchanges. Indeed, it was City who should have opened the scoring as early as the second minute when sustained pressure saw Bertie Cozic dink the ball across from inside the box where Marcus Stewart glanced his header straight at the keeper. In the tenth minute Ryan Harley wasted a free kick on the edge of the D lifting it high over the bar after Barry Corr had been dragged to the ground. Then ten minutes later Corr and Alex Russell combined to feed Harley whose perfectly weighted pass inside the defender to Stewart was dragged inches wide of the far post. On the half hour a good looking Richard Duffy driven cross was whipped off Corr's foot at the far post for a corner that came to nothing. A minute later Stewart robbed a dawdling defender in the deep before laying off to Corr who in turn sent Stuart Fleetwood scampering. Luckily for the visitors the keeper was on his toes and very quickly out to the edge of the box to smash the ball clear to safety. A further minute later it was the turn of Cozic to try his luck when he received the ball deep inside the box with his back to goal. With nowhere to go he came back out to the edge of the box before turning sharply and rifling a left footed shot half-a-yard over the bar. Finally for the half Harley had a second chance to try his luck from a free kick after Cozic had been tripped 30 yards out, but he lacked both power and direction and gave the keeper the easiest of collects in the middle of his goal. In the second half City had an almost immediate chance to take the lead when Harley played the most delicious ball through" for Fleetwood to chase. Showing a fair turn of speed Fleets burst through two defenders before being clipped by the keeper as he poked the ball past. The ref had little option but to point to the spot, and up stepped Stewart to confidently stroke the ball home. Or so you'd hope, but instead Stewart hit a rather flaccid effort too close to the keeper such that he had time to read the paper, and have a cup of tea, before flopping down onto the ball, from probably the poorest penalty seen since Gary Lineker's when he tried that cheeky chip over the Brazilian keeper some years ago and got it wrong all ends up. In the 60th minute City had their best chance of the game and in the bizarrest of circumstances too. Fleetwood chased down a nothing through ball forcing the keeper into a hurried clearance way out wide of his box. The ball was drilled straight to Harley 45- yards out who drilled it straight back along the floor towards the far corner. Fortunately for the keeper he managed to scramble back and tip the ball round the post for a corner, however had Harley managed to put a few more beans behind the strike it might have been a different story. With 65 minutes gone Brighton finally managed to fashion a real and genuine chance of their own when substitute Liam Dickinson, with probably his first contribution to the game, skipped down the right before cutting in and firing a vicious low drive towards the middle of the net. Andy Marriott made himself big to try and smother the shot, but succeeded only in deflecting the ball straight into the path of the lurking Nicky Forster six yards out. Forster had no chance to react fortunately as the ball simply hit him and bounced away to safety. Five minutes later Paul Tisdale saw fit to introduce Richard Logan and Adam Stansfield at the expense of Fleetwood and Russell as City reverted to a rather unconventional 4-2-4 or 4-2-1-3 formation, depending on how deep Stewart was playing. The only result of that was for Matt Taylor to loop a header from a Harley free kick harmlessly at the keeper before sense was restored and James Dunne was bought on to bolster the midfield with Stewart being withdrawn as City reverted to a 4-3-3 formation with ten minutes of the game left. A minute later Logan had a fine chance for glory when a long ball bounced over Corr's head and completely lost the defence, but with both time and space aplenty Logan hurriedly scuffed his shot wide of the far post. In the 85th minute Stansfield chased a long, long clearance leaving defenders for dead, but when an extra touch seemed the move of choice, he elected to smash home from the edge of the box hitting it straight at the keeper instead of in the net.

So that would be it, 0-0 on a day when neither side did anything like enough to say they deserved the spoils, except that there were three minutes of stoppage time to go yet. After taking most of those three minutes faffing over who would take the throw deep in the City half, Brighton eventually launched the ball into the box where no-one was near Andrew Crofts ten yards out who glanced his header over Marriott's despairing stretch and into the net to give Brighton a 1-0 win thanks to a 94th minute goal. Which I suppose is entirely what City deserved for a number of reasons. Far too many passes were knocked to no-one in particular, as at times it looked as though this was the first occasion the City players had ever met, let alone played together. Also the Brighton keeper just wasn't tested nearly enough indeed the only time he was truly tested was when he hashed his clearance straight to Harley, but typical of the aftemoon Harley's effort simply lacked the power to beat him. Which is strange really given in recent weeks we have looked a decent side, and in all weathers too so the heavy pitch can't be used as an excuse either. In fact, there's little you can say in defence of today's performance, from the amount of times the ball was given away cheaply to the playground tactics of playing four up front in an uncharacteristically desperate attempt to get a goal. The midfield became completely overrun with the front four failing to test the keeper and the Brighton defence having one of their easier afternoons. But everyone has their off days so perhaps this was ours. We've been in fine form of late, and have shown that we're more than a match for anyone, so it's hard to explain how today panned out. As for the players, there was little to cheer if truth be told. Troy Archibald-Henville was rightly named man of the match, but after that there wasn't a great deal to shout about.

Referee: Rob Shoebridge

Attendance 5456 with 607 away fans.

BBC match summary and information 

An injury-time Andrew Crofts goal gave Brighton a much-needed victory. Exeter dominated for long spells but clear cut chances were limited, Marcus Stewart heading straight at Peter Brezovan inside the opening minute. Brezovan then upended Stuart Fleetwood in the area but guessed correctly to keep out a weak spot-kick from Stewart. Albion's Liam Dickinson went close and Adam Stansfield was denied by Brezovan when clear before Jim McNulty crossed for Crofts to nod in from 12 yards.

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale told BBC Radio Devon:

"We played well again, so unfortunately that's three games in a week where I'm happy with the performance and disappointed with the result. "It's definitely a run of results that we didn't want, nor expected, but it's happened and there are small details which you can address but the theme and the style and personality of our team was excellent. "It's a real shame we missed the penalty, everyone can debate it, but we missed it and we'll have to move on."



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