28th April 1984
Preston North End (home)
Reward for City faithful
BY DEREK LEAN
EXETER CITY 2, PRESTON NORTH END 1
THE patience of Exeter City's supporters was finally rewarded after a vigil of three months, three weeks, and five days as City ended a run of 18 League games without victory.
Barring a miracle the change in fortune has come too late to save Exeter from relegation. But the end to any drought is always welcome even though this win could hardly be described as a downpour of confident soccer. Ironically City's player-manager Gerry Francis was not there to see it as he was away on a scouting mission with his sights firmly set on next season and his team-building plans.
Coach Malcolm Musgrove said afterwards. "It wasn't a classic. We were happy to win but we would like to win a little more confidently and with a bit more foorball. Musgrove rated the performance as satisfactory overall because of the result, but confessed that he never felt too comfortable, particularly when Preston levelled the score. It was a battling performance by Exeter and one in which they stuck to the task, but on the bone hard pitch there was a lot of scrappy play and not a great deal of fluent football. Territorially Exeter had far more of the play and apart from an opening flurry of attacking play Preston did not cause Citys defence too much trouble. But despite that advantage City did not carve out all that many positive chances and it was more in the nature of a grity and grafting performances that gave them this only their fourth home win of the season. Even so, that they merited the three points cannot be denied and even Preston manager Alan Kelly stated without reservation "Exeter deserved to win"
The way the game started in seemed as Exeter might he for another day of trouble. Right from the kick-off Preston went on a marauding raid and very nearly plundered a goal. Their dangerous striker Steve Elliott weaved his was pass two City defenders and struck a fine shot that Len Bond did very well to keep out. It was an opening in which Preston flattered to deceive because Exeter soon started to get on top and not a great deal was seen of Preston as an attacking force for the rest of the first period. City went ahead in the ninth minute from the penalty spot. As Steve Neville escaped and started to cut into the area he was pulled down by defender Mike Farrelly. Top scorer Ray Pratt took the spot kick and with commendable coolness tucked it in the corner of the net to notch his 18th goal of the season. City looked the more positive side up to the interval but could not convert the quality into further goals.
It looked as if they were going to suffer for that failure when the second half started. In the 49th minute Preston equalised with a gem of a goal Elliott, clearly a player of elegant skills, collected the ball from a throw in. flicked it over the head of a defender then ran round him to pick it up again. and rifled his shot into the net. A blow like that might have been expected to knock the heart out of a struggling side. bur instead Exeter immediately counter punched a reply that had Preston reeling. Just two minutes later Mark OfComer curled over a cross from the left John Sims pulled it down with bis chest controlled the ball. turned in a flash and drove in the winner.
EXETER. Ray Pratt
PRESTON. Steve Elliot.