Match 42
28 March 2009.
Rochdale (a)

Rochdale 2 Exeter City 2.

Saturday 28 March 2009.

Having not enjoyed the best of trips to the North West the previous week, City had a point to prove at fellow promotion chasers Rochdale. Paul Tisdale made one change to the starting line-up, the returning Steve Basham coming in for Craig McAllister. Although Rochdale enjoyed the lions share of possession in the early stages, it was City who carved out the openings. From their first corner, Adam Stansfield got a flick on but it was comfortable for Fielding in the Rochdale goal.

It was Stansfield again who had the best chance of breaking the deadlock. A nice passing move saw Basham release him but, from an almost identical angle to that which yielded him a goal at Accrington, this time the ball crept agonisingly wide of the far post. Rochdale attempted to get back into the game, with Adam Rundle in particular looking their main threat-at one stage he threatened to waltz through the defence only to lose his footing as he entered the box but it was City still who looked the more likely to score. A free kick 25 yards out gave Dean Moxey the chance to test Fielding and his superb strike looked destined for the net only to rebound off the crossbarThe ball took an age to drop to Basham, allowing the defender to get in a saving tackle. Meanwhile, City were forced into a changeThe referee missed a crude challenge on Alex Russell that had he (or the linesman) seen would have been at least a yellow cardRussell needed treatment, and returned briefly to the pitch but was clearly struggling and Bertie Cozic replaced him. His first action was to clear off the line. The substitution had taken place when City were about to defend a comer. The comer was floated in, and Thorpe made a free header for himself by seemingly shoving his marker out of the way. The header beat Paul Jones, but Cozic was on hand to clear. The waming signal had been sounded, though, and City failed to heed itA free kick from 25-yards by Kennedy was tipped over the bar by Jones. The comer was hit deep to the edge of the box at the far post, with McArdle left with a free header. He headed back into the mixer where Thorpe again was completely unmarked to nod home what for City would be considered a very soft goal. This seemed to knock the stuffing out of City for a while as they regrouped, and were forced into a second change - Basham limping off with Craig McAllister coming onCity also went to four at the back, with Liam Sercombe and Moxey playing at full-back and Rob Edwards moving into midfield.

Dagnall almost forced the ball home when he got in behind the defence, but Jones was able to twist himself round to save at full lengthAs the half came to a close, however, City began to impose themselves again-Cozic firing just wide. The second half saw City come out of the blocks firingthe first opportunity seeing Cozic blazing over. City were getting a great deal of jay down the left flank, Moxey and Marcus Stewart in particular teaming up well, An equaliser was on the cards, and it arrived ten minutes into proceedingsEdwards fired a beautiful ball that was flicked on to Stansfield on the left. He got to the byeline and pulled the cross back into the path of StewartThe veteran's header was weak and easily blocked, but he had the speed of thought to follow up, and chested firmly past Fielding to send the travelling army into raptures. All the while it was City making all the running, and there should have been a clear opportunity to edge in front. A flowing move saw Cozic play an inch-perfect pass into the path of McAllister, who had timed his run perfectly from behind two defenders. Amazingly, however, Mr Wallace decided that he was offside and raised his flag. Hopefully he would look back at the footage and realise his error. Another occasion where City had cause to curse the officials came when a City player was fouled in midfield. The ball had broken to Cozic and he threatened to waltz through the defence, only to find the Referee had blown his whistle. In faimess, the Rochdale defence had seen the whistle and stopped playing, which may have given the impression that Cozic's slalom was better than it was. Both sides introduced a new striker into proceedingsCity replacing Stansfield with Stuart Fleetwood and Rochdale bringing on dangerous striker Le Fondre, It was the latter who looked like he may have grabbed an undeserved win for the home sideIn a carbon copy of Shrewsbury a few weeks previously. Le Fondre got the wrong side of Archibald- Henville, and advanced on the box, only to be upended. Penalty, and a yellow card to the on-loan defender. Le Fondre had obviously been watching City's penalty taking this season and fired a dreadful one, which Jones parried away, but unfortunately for the City custodian, Le Fondre was the first to the rebound and hammered home. Straight from the kick-off, City earned a penalty of their own. The ball was launched to Fleetwood, who knocked the ball past Stanton only to be sent flying. Another easy penalty decision, although crucially no card which became more pertinent a few minutes later when Stanton did earn a yellow card for another crude challenge. Stewart stepped up to take the penalty and, showing scant regard for City's woeful record from the spot this season, sent Fielding the wrong way. The last minutes saw both sides go all-out for the win, and with the last seconds of added time ticking away, Matt Gill found himself in space inside the penalty area down the left side. He hammered the ball goalwards, only for two defenders to desperately lunge and block the ball out for a comer. From the comer, McAllister nodded just over, and that was that.

After a tepid performance at Accrington last week, City produced the sort of display that promotions are potentially made ofThe support was excellent, in sharp contrast to the home "support", which resembled for the most part the Arsenal Mural from the early 90s When the City supporters deliberately stopped singing for a minute, you could literally hear a pin drop.

BBC match summary and information 

A penalty for either side in the last 10 minutes saw Rochdale and Exeter share the spoils at Spotland. The hosts took the lead when Lee Thorpe glanced home Rory McArdle's headed ball but Exeter levelled when Marcus Stewart met Adam Stansfield's cross. Adam Le Fondre's penalty was saved by Paul Jones but he scored from the rebound to restore Dale's advantage. But Stewart equalised again a minute later after Nathan Stanton brought down Stuart Fleetwood in the area.

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale told BBC Radio Devon:

"Even under the pressure you find yourself under in the technical area I think I still recognise that that was a tremendous game of football.

"I'm definitely disappointed that we didn't come away with three points but I'm also excited at what the team showed us and what they did to come back from a goal down twice."

Rochdale: Fielding, Wiseman, Stanton, McArdle, Kennedy, William Buckley, Mark Jones, Toner, Rundle, Thorpe, Dagnall (Le Fondre 66). 

Subs Not Used: Russell, Ramsden, Newey, Thompson.

Booked: Thorpe, Stanton.

Goals: Thorpe 27, Le Fondre 83.

Exeter: Jones, Archibald-Henville, Seaborne, Edwards, Sercombe, Gill, Russell (Cozic 21), Moxey, Stewart, Stansfield (Fleetwood 76), Basham (McAllister 41).
Subs Not Used: Marriott, Tully.

Booked: Archibald-Henville.

Goals: Stewart 55, 84 pen.

Att: 3,364
Attendance 3364 with 397 City fans.

Referee Tony Bates (Staffordshire).



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