9 September 2006.
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
Saturday 9th September 2006
Exeter City 0 Alderhsot Town 0
So a hugely frustrating afternoon for the 3933 fans, including a noisy 300-odd from Aldershot, as the game finishes goalless when both sides could, and maybe should, have done so much better on a gloriously sun drenched day at the Park. The game started off at a fairly brisk tempo with much of the opening possession falling to City. Merely two minutes in Mackie had the first real chance of the game latching onto a Phillips flick that the defender hesitated over. Unfortunately the keeper was less asleep and quickly reacted to smother Mackie's run. Half a dozen minutes later it was Cozic's turn to fashion an opportunity after some slick passing from Moxey to Phillips to Taylor to Cozic but his storming surge into the box was thwarted at the death by an alert - this time - defender. Soon it was Todd's turn to have a go- Gill's long throw being glanced fractionally wide at the far post.
On the quarter hour some good persistence down the left from Mackie saw the ball poked through to Phillips, but he never really had it under control and the chance was lost with the ball stuck under his feet. It might appear so, but it has to be said it was far from one way traffic. Aldershot had, like City I suppose, got into some good positions, but failed to really create anything of note. That was until the twentieth minute though, when a corner was whipped in from the left to be firmly met by Marcus Gayle six yards out who's thumping header was expertly palmed over thanks to the explosively quick reactions of Rice.
For the rest of the half, the game degenerated somewhat as a spectacle. City managed to string the odd move here and there, but for most part whilst the Aldershot defenders inexplicably dawdled on the ball to be robbed of possession time and time again, City lacked the guile and flair to make anything of it, and were equally as guilty of squandering possession themselves when a timely Aldershot boot seemed to thwart any attempt to get anything going.
But there was still hope for the second half, and spirits were raised eight minutes in when a delicious Billy Jones free kick curled its way towards the bottom right corner from 25 yards out, only to be beaten away for a corner from a gratefully scrambling keeper. From the corner the ball spilled back out to Jones lurking towards the corner of the box, but his snap shot flashed over the bar into the Shots fans stationed behind the goal.
Twelve minutes were on the clock when Tisdale decided it was time for a change. Worryingly Edwards was withdrawn for Richardson - worrying in that assume Edwards was carrying an injury rather than there being any doubts over the ability of Rico to deputise and at the same time Taylor made way for - Challinor.
A couple of minutes later the final change was made when Stansfield was introduced at the expense of the ever lively Mackie, although this final change may have been a few minutes too early as it soon became apparent that Danny Woodards was struggling badly with a probable recurrence of the groin injury that had prevented him travelling to Cambridge the previous weekend. Almost immediately after the substitutions though, City were on the attack. After a bustling run to the box Cozic slipped a ball through to Phillips who failed to capitalise thanks to some alert defending.
Play then ebbed and flowed for the rest of the game with neither side really taking command. Both teams did plenty of work to get the ball into good positions, but neither could produce that one piece of magic to unlock the other side's defence. With the game inexorably heading for a draw, Rice was determined to remain unbeaten and produced a quite stunning 90th minute save to the horror and astonishment of the Aldershot forward who did everything right hitting a ferocious drive across Rice towards the top corner before Rice sprung cat like to finger tip the ball over the angle of post and bar.
The final action, a minute into two minutes stoppage time fell, naturally, to Challinor. Spade work from Phillips, Gill and Jones down the left saw the ball come back to Jones just inside the touchline ten yards inside the Aldershot half. His deep cross found Challinor ten yards out, but the defender's close attentions were enough to ensure Challinor could not repeat last season's fairytale ending to the game as he did no better than butt wide from ten yards. So despite the obvious frustration of a second successive home draw it's still unbeaten at home. Manager Tisdale has said repeatedly that his teams are built on a strong defensive performance and today that was put to the test on a number of occasions. The back five, despite some moments of concern, weren't going to be beaten today, and by and large deserved their clean sheet. Not least in part to Martyn Rice's two stunning saves, especially the one right at the death. The possible injury worries to Edwards and Woodards is troubling though, but the performance of Rico was enough to suggest he can slot in seamlessly in the middle of defence.
In midfield Cozic produced, for me, a gutsy man of the match performance. Up and down, fearsome tackling and an innate ability to ghost into the box either with or without the ball were there in abundance this afternoon, and given his strength, aggression and determination, bigger fool you Mr. Aldershot midfielder who tried to scythe him down in the latter stages of the game. Regarding aggression, someone needs to have a word with Matt Gill over his. Not with his play, though, but Successive games getting booked for dissent are exactly what a squad the size of City's doesn't need. Up front it just wasn't happening today, and this was down to a mixture of slightly fortuitous defending, a lack of finishing and the completely extraordinary inability of Lee Phillips to get going at all during any part of the ninety minutes. Mackie looked lively without - first two minutes excepted creating, as did Stansfield, however Phillips torpor meant both effectively playing as a lone striker. But given the off day the team suffered, a draw was a creditable result in the end. Last season it would have been easy to buckle and fade, but in fairness they kept at it and kept trying. Aldershot looked a strong team, and in the final analysis in May this could well be a vital point gained from a divisional heavyweight slug-fest.
Exeter City 0 Aldershot Town 0.
Saturday 9 September 2006.
Exeter: Rice, Woodards, Todd, Edwards (Richardson 57), Billy Jones, Taylor (Challinor 58), Gill, Cozic, Moxey, Phillips, Mackie (Stansfield 64).
Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Buckle.
Aldershot: Bull, Smith, Edwards, Day, Anderson, Soares, Scott, Newman (Harding 46), Williams, John Grant, Gayle (Joel Grant 54).
Subs Not Used: Wells, Pritchard, Winfield.
Booked: Anderson, Harding.
Referee A Watts (England).