Match 03
21st August 2010
Bristol Rovers (H)

Exeter City 2 Bristol Rovers 2.

Saturday 21 August 2010.



ON an emotional afternoon, the only real surprise was that there were not nine goals scored to honour Exeter City's No. 9 in this topy-turvy encounter. Fans flocked to St James's Parl to pay their respects to Acam Stansfield and a massive No. 9 shirt was unfurled in the Big Bank before kick-off in tribute to the striker who lost his battle with bowel cancer earlier this month. The club announced its decision to retire Stansfield's number for a period of nine seasons shortly before both sets of players and fans gave a rousing one-minute's applause to celebrate the 31-year-old's life. And fittingly there were nine minutes on the clock when Daniel Nardiello headed home his first goal for the club to lift the roof off St James's Park for the second time of the afternoon. The reaction of the City players was touching as they headed for the bench to grab a shirt with Stansfield's name on it and held it aloft. It all seemed like the perfect script was unfolding. But Rovers had other ideas and Jo Kuffour grabbed an equaliser with a sharp turn and finish on the stroke of half-time. City defender Richard Duffy took plenty of bookings for the team last season, but there was only one outcome when he cynically tripped Will Hoskins as the Rovers striker galloped through a chasm in the Grecians' defence. The Welshman didn't even bother waiting for the inevitable red card, racing down towards the tunnel before the referee had time to arrive at the scene. City had to reorganise urgently, ditching their 3-5-2 formation and switching to a 4-3-2. Billy Jones partnered Rob Edwards in central defence, Scott Golbourne reverted to left-back and Steve Tully swapped to right-back. And, while City's midfield worked tirelessly to overcome their numerical disadvantage, their resistance was broken when Hoskins put Rovers ahead from close range. With the game slipping away, Tisdale needed to act to try and salvage something. Jamie Cureton was asked to run his socks off as the lone striker and the likes of James Dunne and Liam Sercombe ordered to gamble on deep runs from midfield. It was a plan that paid dividends as Dunne made a powerful burst into the box, tempting Bryon Athony to bring him down and the referee pointed to the spot. With Ryan Harley pulling out during the warm up through il ness, penalty taking duties fell to John O'Flynn and he dis patched the spot-kick with ease. As Rovers keeper Mikkel An dersen dived to his left Flynn directed the ball high, down the middle of the poolto salvage a point It is the third game in a row that City have come from behind to rescue a 2-3 draw. Last season scoring goals was their biggest problem, while defensively they were sound But this season has started in reverse and City's defensive  problems have been compounded by a back injury to skipper Matt Taylor and Richard Duffy's impending one match suspension at Leyton Orient this weekend. Add into the mix that Troy Archibald-Henville is still unavailable and City's back line is fully stretched. Rob Edwards came in for his first start of the season and produced a typically solid performance. And there were positive displays elsewhere. Young midfielder Dunne only found out he was playing 20 minutes before kickoff as Harley pulled out, but the former Arsenal trainee didn't disappoint. He covered every blade of grass, pressing and harrying Rovers all over the park and denying them the space to play their football. And, when City needed a flash of inspiration when they chased the game, it was Dunne bombing into the box that won his side a penalty. Liam Sercombe similarly shone in the midfield engine room - his measured distribution, particularly in the first half, gave Rovers all sorts of problems. And Tully, who was best mates with Stansfield, delivered a performance of which his pal would have been proud. His energy and determination down the right wing was a recurring theme and the supply left Rovers in a spin. After setting up Nardiello for the opener, Tully presented Gol- bourne with a glorious chance to put City 2-0 in front with a perfectly-weighted cross. How Golbourne failed to convert, only he will know. But his free header from eight yards out flashed well wide. Had that gone in it could have been a different story.

But the day was about Stansfield and he would have been proud of the way his teammates battled back to earn a point.

BBC match summary and information 

Exeter and Bristol Rovers shared the points on a day the Grecians paid tribute to striker Adam Stansfield, who died from cancer last week.

Following a touching pre-game tribute, Exeter went ahead when Daniel Nardiello headed in Steve Tully's cross.

Jo Kuffour levelled with a hooked shot and Exeter had Richard Duffy sent off for fouling Will Hoskins on 48 minutes.

A scrambled Hoskins effort put Rovers ahead but John O'Flynn made it 2-2 from the spot after a foul on James Dunne.

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale told BBC Radio Devon:

"It was a dreadful day because of what's happened in the last 10 days. "But it was also a wonderful day in terms of the response and the acknowledgement of the football club in support of Adam [Stansfield] and his family. "It was an entertaining day with a brilliant game of football, with goals, mistakes and incident, and all in all it was a day to be very proud of."

Bristol Rovers manager Paul Trollope told BBC Radio Bristol:
"That's two points lost as far as we're concerned. In the closing stages of the game it was hugely frustrating for us to concede 'the penalty'. "Byron [Anthony] came across and took the ball so the lads are 100% sure it wasn't a penalty. "The game changed in the second half with the sending off and we thought we had the game in the palm of our hands."

Referee Mick Russell

Attendance 7401 with 1078 away fans,



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