19 September 2006.
St Albans (h)
PARK REPORT: by ANTONY MOXEY
Tuesday 19th September 2006
Exeter City 4 St Albans City 2
So City enjoy an autumnal romp on a balmy evening at the Park and eventually run out 4-2 winners over St. Albans in front of a hardcore 2494 fans. Wary of recent capitulations against Oxford and Gravesend, safety first was the watch word during the early exchanges as City nervously struggled to find any rhythm. It took a full ten minutes to register any kind of goal threat; a deep Taylor corner on the left glanced wide by the bandaged head of Phillips from the edge of the six yard box.
A further ten minutes of jitters elapsed before the next chance presented itself; this time Mackie broke down the left and passed inside to Gill stationed 20 yards out. Inexplicably instead of shooting - the opening of the defence for the chance was of Red Sea proportions - Gill tried to play a heavily - outnumbered Mackie back in but by this time the defence had closed ranks and the chance was lost.
With the half hour fast approaching, Taylor had another corner on the left that was hit centrally for Edwards to butt over. Up until now Cozic had been fairly quiet - strong in the tackle and generally sure in the pass, his ventures upfield had largely fizzled out, but on 40 minutes Phillips fed him the ball and his blustering run culminated in a powerful shot from the edge of the box that was well saved. Two minutes later Phillips was again provider steering a cross out to the right to Taylor in acres of space where he galloped virtually half the length of the field before shooting at the keeper from the edge of the box in a similar fashion to Cozic's chance earlier.
But then, in the 44th minute, a move worthy of a season ticket all by itself. Remember that Cambiasso goal for Argentina in the World Cup? Well it was nothing on Cozic's stunning effort. The ball started out by the corner flag deep in City's half on the left. With Edwards under the close attention of an attacker, he passes to Gill. In turn Gill is pressured so lays back to Edwards. Edwards returns the ball to Gill once more who, facing Rice on the edge of his own box, hits the ball square to Woodards on the right in space. Woodards dances forwards then rolls the ball central to Cozic just inside the centre circle, still in his own half. He turns and stabs the ball forwards to Phillips who in a single movement sprays it out wide to Taylor on the touchline near to the players' tunnel. Cozic continues his run towards goal and receives the perfect ball without breaking stride on the edge of the D from Taylor and with the keeper rushing out slots it under his body into the bottom right hand corner from 18 yards out to put City 1-0 up.
Some may say he scuffed his shot, and in my delirium may have got one or two of the passes wrong, but such was the exquisite accuracy and assuredness of the passing in the whole move from start to finish that I'll give Bertie the benefit of the doubt and award him goal of the season right now.
Half time soon came and went, and the second half was underway with City starting slightly the stronger. After five minutes the combined efforts of Mackie and Gill robbed a dallying defender and Mackie's surging run saw the ball fed wide to Phillips on the right. Phillips charged forwards and planted a cross into the middle where Mackie rose to nod home but the keeper was alert and plucked the ball from Mackie's shaven bonce.
Rice was almost immediately called into action for the first bit of non-regulation stuff, showing sharp reactions to beat away a powerful shot from the right edge of the penalty area. It should have acted as a warning to the fragility of City's lead, and ten minutes into half the ground fell silent as Dwayne Jackman charged down Edwards' attempted clearance and despite Rice's pounce on the ball to take all the sting out of the shot, it had enough to take forever to agonisingly roll into the net for an equaliser.
City were rocked for a bit, but Cozic remained strong and soon was once again driving purposefully towards goal. With his path blocked he laid the ball off to the charging Phillips on the left but unfortunately his cut back inside gave the defender the opportunity to smother his shot at source. A minute later Moxey had the ball on the left hand side of the penalty area and passed into Phillips centrally located with his back to goal. With nothing in the offing he rolled the ball to Taylor lurking on the right who under intense defensive pressure couldn't prevent
himself from lifting the ball over both keeper and crossbar. With half of the half elapsed, City were getting stronger and pressing forwards more and more, and this time Woodards out wide passed in to Phillips patrolling the eighteen yard line. He in turn slid the ball back to Gill 20 yards to the left who hit a first time daisy cutter past the keeper's despairing lunge into the bottom left corner to put City back in the lead.
With ten minutes left the game was made safe. A deep, deep ball was flung in high from the left and Phillips did magnificently to out-barge his defender and chest the ball down. He cut past another defender and with only the keeper left gleefully smashed the ball high into the roof of the net for a wonderful goal and a 3-1 lead.
Unfortunately my man of the match Bertie Cozic had to make way for Paul Buckle after feeling a hamstring twinge. Mere seconds after the enforced substitution the livewire Mackie found himself bursting forward trailing defenders in his wake. A last gasp lunge two yards inside the penalty area was enough to send him crashing to the turf, and up stepped Billy Jones to confidently plant the ball low and hard just to the right of centre for a 4-1 lead.
With the three minutes of stoppage time now almost up, St. Albans grabbed a late, late consolation. The defence was at sixes and sevens as the ball somehow found itself from one side of the box to the other where Lee Clarke was lurking unmarked at Rice's left hand post. There was little else he could do other than lash home from less than two yards out to make it 4-2, and that was pretty much it.
So a good win and much needed confidence booster. City had suffered of late: losing by the odd goal despite an excellent performance at runaway leaders Oxford, then suffering the heartbreak of surrendering a two goal half time lead at Gravesend, so this was a timely fillip. St. Albans looked a half decent side it has to be said, and knocked the ball about confidently and assuredly. As with City so many times though, they did all of their good stuff in the area between the halfway line and penalty area, and seemed to lack the guile and cutting edge to progress further. City on the other hand suffered nervously and took a long while to properly get into their stride.
Exeter City 4 St Albans 2.
Tuesday 19 September 2006.
Exeter: Rice, Woodards, Richardson, Edwards, Billy Jones, Taylor, Cozic (Buckle 86), Gill, Moxey, Phillips, Mackie. Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Seaborne, Stansfield, Challinor. Booked: Woodards, Billy Jones, Edwards.
Goals: Cozic 44, Gill 65, Phillips 81, Billy Jones 87 pen.
St Albans: Bastock, Seeby, Theobald, Okuonghae, Batt, Davis, Cracknell (Norris 78), Flynn, Clarke, Hakim (Wilde 46), Jackman. Subs Not Used: Perks, Sozzo, Roddis.
Booked: Flynn, Davis.
Goals: Jackman 57, Clarke 90.
Referee C Sarginson (Staffordshire).