1st May 2010
Hartlepool United (Away)
1st May 2010
Hartlepool 1-1 Exeter City
City match report by Pete Evans
Matt Taylor capped a positive half with the opening goal on 37 minutes as he headed in Ryan Harley's corner. The home side grew stronger as the game wore on and equalised through Denis Behan with ten minutes to go.
That result would have been enough had Millwall beaten Tranmere, but with Les Parry's team 2-0 winners it all comes down to Huddersfield's visit to the Park today. City now know they must equal or beat Tranmere's result at Stockport. Paul Tisdale made two changes from the side that drew at home to Charlton, with James Dunne and Ryan Taylor coming in for Joe Burnell and Barry Con, who had to settle for a place on the bench after recovering from his injury. The first chance of the game came after just three minutes, Harley's curling cross was met by Richard Logan at the front post, but his shot was comfortably saved. Harley was involved in City's next effort when he stepped up and curled a 25 yard right-footed free kick just the wrong side of the post, think Andy Taylor at Old Trafford!
Pools striker Roy O'Donovan was nominated for the League One player of the month award earlier this week and he had the beating of Matt Taylor on 15 minutes, but Richard Duffy put in a great block. Harley then tried his luck from another free kick minutes later but his effort was straight at Scott Flinders. And the ginger playmaker was involved at the other end when he played a vital role in keeping the game goal-less. Matt Taylor headed a corner clear to the feet of Ritchie Humphreys and his low shot was heading for the bottom comer with Paul Jones beaten until Harley, still on the post from the set-piece, hacked the ball clear. Matt Taylor then grabbed his sixth goal of the season to give City's hopes of staying up a huge boost. The centre-back met Harley's corner with a header that flew past the defender on the line to spark wild celebrations amongst the 424 travelling fans. There was little of note before the half- time whistle and as the supporters reflected on a very encouraging 45 minutes the disappointing news filtered through, there had been a 47th minute goal for Tranmere at Prenton Park.
The only change for the second half was the referee's attire! Mr Salisbury and his linesmen came out in black kits for the last 45 after previously sporting salmon efforts! On 52 minutes the home side carved out their best effort of the match and should have really taken the lead. Matt Taylor and Rob Edwards collided under pressure from James Brown and the ball ran through to Leon McSweeney who squeezed a shot past the advancing Jones but was denied by the post. Hartlepool seemed to be moving up the gears while City were dropping deeper and deeper and Edwards needed all of his years of experience to stop Andy Monkhouse as he looked to finish off a run. James Dunne then set up Logan who sent a long range effort wide before City created by far the biggest chance of their second half. George Friend's mazy run was halted and Harley curled in the resulting free-kick to the back post where the sprawling body of Matt Taylor dived to meet it, but his header went just inches wide of making it 2-1. At the other end only a controversial decision denied Chris Turner's side an equaliser on 77 minutes. Harley was City's saviour on the line once again as he cleared Gary Liddle's goal-bound effort but Sunderland loanee O'Donovan was on hand to head home. His celebrations were halted by Salisbury who signalled for a push.
Two minutes later Monkhouse blazed over before the Pools attack eventually made the breakthrough on 80 minutes when a cross was sent across the goal for Behan to score from close range. They continued to threaten down the flanks and O'Donovan's shot was just wide of Jones' goal. Tisdale showed his desire to win the game by sending on Marcus Stewart, Barry Corr and then Stuart Fleetwood and the game continued to go from end to end with both teams desperate for the points. Harley's corner was then volleyed into the away end by Dunne at the near post before Hartlepool hit City on the break and only Duffy saved the day as their attack poured forward. City final move of note saw Stewart shank the ball out of play as he looked to cross first time. This wasn't to be the Grecians' day.
Match day by Kirstie Bowden
Some would think that travelling to Hartlepool and back in a day would be about as enjoyable as sticking pins in your eyes. However, last Saturday this was not the case. We left Exeter at 6am and before 7am donuts were being eaten, Marge had done a can-can down the aisle, and asked the driver to turn the heating down as, as she put it, "the custard in my donut is melting". We arrived at Hartlepool, slightly dazed, at just gone 1pm. After cheering the team into the ground we went to see the police horses, Alf and Reg. The police officer was surprised to hear we were doing the whole journey in one day. He suggested we stay in Hartlepool instead and offered to take Marge out after the game. "What are you going to do with the horse?" Marge asked. "I finish at 6" he replied!
Inside the ground we were told we had to sit in our allocated seats. This always causes more problems than the 'sit where you like' strategy does. I berated the stewards at length for the common sense bypass, mainly because poor Marge was sat behind a pillar and couldn't see the goal at the opposite end. As she put it "I didn't come all this way to spend 90 minutes looking at a pillar". In the end we all rebelled and sat where we wanted to.
Just before kick-off Eric the (cursed) flag was unveiled. Unfortunately this coincided with H'Angus the Monkey's arrival at the away end so I didn't get to see him. We will therefore never know if he beat Southends Sammy the Shrimp and Elvis J.Eel in the best mascot stakes. [I stripped Tranmeres 'Rover and puppies' of the title as soon as I found out that they had beaten Millwall!]
The first half was glorious. City were playing really well and things were looking good. We went 1-0 up just before half time through a Matt Taylor goal. In my favourite away moment of the season, whilst the majority of the team were celebrating with Matt at the opposite end of the pitch, Rob Edwards (my player of the season) turned to the euphoric away end and punched the air. We really felt it was going to be our day. Unfortunately this was not to be the case. In the second half Hartlepool stepped up a gear. I learnt the hard way not to eat a mint during a tense football match. Hartlepool nearly scored and I started choking. I came close to needing the Heimlich manoeuvre! City hung on in there but not for long enough. In the 80th minute they scored. The away end defiantly kept the faith and raised the roof for City. Late on Marcus Stewart hit a shot as high as our hopes had been pre match. He was in a position from which a player of his calibre seemed certain to score. Frustrated responses followed. City kept on trying but the final whistle came too soon. As if the long journey home awaiting us, not winning, and learning that those teams around us had won wasn't enough, we had to shuffle slowly out of the ground to the strains of "we're all going on a summer holiday" as Hartlepool celebrated their survival in League One. It obviously didn't mean much to their fans as by the time the team came out for their lap of honour the stadium was all but empty.
Back on the bus many were still resolutely optimistic. Those of us who had witnessed the ease with which Huddersfield comprehensively turned us over in the first half of the season were not so sure. Despite our somewhat uncertain future and fluctuating levels of optimism, the journey home was an enjoyable one. Marge even learnt to text! We arrived back in Exeter just after 12 having spent 14 of the preceding 24 hours on a bus! Dedication or madness? I can't decide! One thing's for certain though, I wouldn't have wanted to have been anywhere else.
The time has come to pray to the Footballing Gods, cross everything and just hope. Locking Jordan Rhodes in a cupboard would probably help too. Whilst I wish Huddersfield all the very best in the plays-offs - they are a phenomenal football team with a beautiful stadium - I hope that you will be leaving SJP unhappy come 5pm. As fellow football fans I'm sure you'll forgive me for such sentiment. I've had enough lows for one season. Let's end on a high.
COME ON YOU REDS!