10 October 2006.
Northwich Victoria (h)
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
Tuesday 10th October 2006
Exeter City 1 Northwich Victoria 1
Despite recording a fairly convincing win only three days earlier, City started off cautiously, remindful no doubt of the Vics' previous visit to the Park - a completely unforeseen 3-2 win. However it was City who did take the early initiative and after five minutes good work from Challinor and Stansfield down the left resulted in a deep cross to Taylor lurking at the far post. His header was blocked, but only as far as the supporting Phillips who, surprised at getting the opportunity, screwed wide from five yards. On the quarter hour mark the crowd were left salivating at a move of real quality: Danny Woodards, picking the ball up deep in his own half, embarked on a scintillating run down the right that included nutmegs on two hapless defenders before delivering a cross to Challinor at the far corner of the penalty area, who butted goalwards only to see his effort cleared to safety.
After twenty minutes a bit of opportunism from Challinor: spotting the run of Stansfield he popped a quick throw down the line to set the frontman scampering. His driven cross from the right swerved the 'wrong' way, and the keeper had to be alert to palm the ball off the goal line.
But in addition to resilience in defence, Northwich break lightning quick, and a minute later the crowd gasped a collective sigh of relief as a rare incursion into the City penalty area saw a Vics attacker scream a thunderous drive onto the crossbar and away into Oxford Road.
With half an hour elapsed the overworked Vics defence were again in trouble when Woodards punted a long clearance down the middle. Stansfield gave chase, and won, and with defenders closing in shot early from the edge of the box, pulling the ball the wrong side of the left hand upright.
Moments later Taylor had a corner on right and floated a deep ball to Challinor in his now customary role patrolling the far post. His close range header only succeeded in rattling a post where it was then glanced to safety. But with half time looming large the unthinkable happened and Northwich took the lead. A Rice clearance was knocked straight back by a Vics central defender where Paul Brayson was given time to run in on goal. With no little skill he cleverly guided the ball under Rice into the far corner from about 15 yards out to make it 1-0. City almost equalised instantly - a Taylor corner up the other end was glanced goalward by Edwards and gratefully clutched into his chest by the Vics' keeper.
But that was that and soon the second half was under way. No sooner had the executive boxes emptied than the game was all square. Ironically after all the passing and crossing we've seen in recent weeks, it was a good old fashioned route one up and under that got the goal. A towering Rice clearance was horribly misjudged by the central defender as he watched it sail over his head. The ever alert Phillips was onto it in a flash, and with the keeper rushing out Phillips bravely ignored the inevitable clattering to dink the ball past the keeper from the edge of the box and into the empty net. 1-1, game on.
Or so you thought, except Vics decided a point was better than none and began to time waste furiously, and rather annoyingly fall to the floor in agony at the slightest of touches. After a quarter of an hour of said shenanigans, Tisdale had had enough and in fairly quick order introduced Moxey for Taylor - and as a result swapping Challinor to the right to accommodate Deano on the left and then Mackie for Phillips. Almost immediately the Northwich goal was once again under siege. A deep Jones cross form the left was met full on by Challinor ghosting in from the right, however he planted his strong header just over the bar. Two minutes later Mackie was again in with the cheeky back heel same as on Saturday, and if you'd covered this one in jelly, poured custard over the top, let it set, added a bit of cream and a few sprinklings of hundreds and thousands and called it a trifle it still couldn't have been any sweeter. Yet it was sweet enough to split the Vics defence completely and allow Challinor to come crashing in behind him to smash a full blooded drive across the face of goal inches wide.
Two minutes later Woodards hit an identical drive across goal from twenty five yards, but greater distance didn't change the result and again it inched wide. Time was running out and the pressure was relentless. Attack after attack swept forward, but increasingly it looked as though no matter how many attempts were made, the Vics goal would not breached a second time.
But what a disappointment! With few excursions into enemy territory, Northwich spent most of game camped in or around their own penalty area, content to hold out for a break away. However, as I said already, this was one of those nights where it wasn't going to go in no matter what happened. So perhaps disappointment isn't entirely correct, as the performance was at times mesmeric and the play a joy to watch, it's just a shame it didn't give the result the effort so richly deserved. In goal Rice had, bar one fantastic close range save late on, a comfortable night. The goal against him was well taken, and sometimes you just have to credit the striker for being clever. Rice's distribution is improving too, and no longer is it simply the easy get out ball of a long punt upfield although one such move did lead to the equaliser - and there is more variation with the ball equally being rolled out to either full back.
Speaking of which, both spent probably as much time in the opposition half as they did their own, such was City's dominance. And you'll have to go a long way to give yourself a cheesier grin after witnessing that sublime Woodards first half run. In the middle Rico and Edwards weren't too troubled by the quick breaks. The midfield worked hard all game, with Taylor and Clay in particular figerish in closing down and not giving the opposition time or space. This in turn gave Gill all the time and space he wanted, and effortless was his distribution as usual. Challinor did his best, but I still think he's better suited to playing on the left than the right.
Up front Phillips surprisingly won quite a lot of ball in the air, and scored a fine goal under pressure. Stansfield deserved something, as his fireless running meant the Vics defence had to be alert right up until the final whistle. Of the subs Deano was keen to get stuck in and looked eager, as did Mackie, who's pace and fizz ensured that the pressure remained high if the defence thought they could rest with Phillips going off.
But ultimately it was a frustrating night where City deserved more for their efforts. On another day they could have scored a bucketful, but it just wasn't to be. Still, they remain unbeaten at home and that's now seven straight without defeat and 15 goals better off into the bargain.
Exeter City 1 Northwich Victoria 1. Tuesday 10 October 2006.
Exeter: Rice, Woodards, Richardson, Edwards, Billy Jones, Taylor (Moxey 63), Clay, Gill, Challinor, Phillips (Mackie 71), Stansfield.
Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Ada, Buckle.
Goals: Phillips 48.
Northwich: Senior, Battersby, Griffiths, Gallimore, Elliott, Payne, Brown, Dodds (Townson 63), Barwick (McCarthy 68), Brayson, Allan.
Subs Not Used: Connett, Sale, Byrne.
Booked: Dodds, Battersby, Barwick, Brown, Elliott, McCarthy.
Goals: Brayson 42.
Referee : Roger East (Wilton).