Match 17
21 October 2006.
Stafford Rangers (h)


Exeter City 1 Stafford Rangers 2.. Saturday 21 October 2006.

So in front of the biggest crowd of the season so far, a whopping 3,977, it's the 75-100 Stafford fans who go home happy after seeing

their side end City's unbeaten home start with a 2-1 win at the Park. The game started off with action immediately taking place at both ends. First, a Mackie turn and weave goalwards was unceremoniously ended when he was dragged to the floor within sniffing distance of he box in the second minute to eam a free kick Up stepped Billy Jones to drill a low shot to the bottom corner that the keeper saved comfortably

Then on six minutes a huge scramble from a Stafford free kick saw Rice plunge well to his right to palm the ball onto the post and away to safety from a prod through the melee. Moments earlier he had had to be alert to gather a sharp chance from his left.

In the eight minute Challinor and Jones linked well down the left to send Stansfield scampering. He cut inside to shoot from the edge of the box but his shot lacked sufficient power to cause the keeper problems. Two minutes later a sublime ball from Gill raked long to Mackie who sensed the run of Taylor behind him down the right hand side. His headed flick fell superbly into Taylor's path who charged down the touchline to deliver the ball back to Mackie just inside the box. Unfortunately a defender was alive to the danger and blocked Mackie's shot at source.

Both sides settled down a bit after the hectic start and it wasn't until the mid point of the half that either keeper was troubled further. Jones and Challinor did the spadework down the left where Challinor fed Stansfield in the box with his back to goal. Wary of the defender's close attention, Stansfield rolled the ball back to Challinor who's ferocious drive was smartly turned round the near post by the keeper.

A similar move occurred on the half hour. Again Stansfield intelligently held the ball up and laid off to Challinor, however this time Challinor went for the far post and turned away in anguish as his smash curled in the wrong direction and whistled past the post. A minute later a Taylor cross from the right bought a spectacular scissor kick from Mackie, however it was high on style and low on substance as it sailed high past the angle of post and bar.

With time running out a surging Buckle run to the box saw the ball poked through to Challinor who's shot was blocked on the line. With Stansfield lurking hoping for scraps the ball was hoicked clear to end the half

In the second half it was City who started the more positive forcing a succession of early corners and free kicks. The umpteenth corner in the tenth minute finally gave City their reward when Andy Taylor swung the ball high to the far post. With the defender tangling himself in knots the ball ricocheted off his shin right to Stansfield who prodded home gleefully from no more than an inch or two out to give City a deserved 1-0 lead.

But all this did was sting Stafford into action and for the rest of the game they were pretty much on top, albeit without really testing Rice. That's not to say they didn't have their chances though, as in the 20th minute after a bit of sustained pressure Guy Madjo produced the sharpest turn on the edge of the box to smash Rice's crossbar with a singing drive.

Rice had to remain alert two minutes later when Gill stooped to head a clearance. Instead of heading clear he merely deflected it to the opposite corner and the wrong footed Rice did superbly to comect himself and gratefully clutch the ball to his chest. At this point Tisdale decided to introduce fresh legs and so Clay was introduced at the expense of Buckle and immediately Stafford were in front lazy play allowed the ball to be crossed from the left where veteran Nel Grayson was on hand to bury a bullet header back across Rice into the net for a fully justified equaliser

City were stunned and the game, by and large, degenerated to long hopeful balls for Mackie and Stansfield - which soon became Mackie and Phillips after Tisdale's second substitution five minutes later and then became long balls to no-one in particular as City desperately clung on with ten men behind the ball.

With time running out, Taylor was sacrificed for Moxey who took up Challinor's left side berth with Challinor switching to the right, t made life difference, except for a 45th minute run by Woodards half the length of the field to play in Challinor but his fifteen yard shot lacked power.

And so with time running out Stafford go their winner. More lazy play out wide allowed their winger to waltz through a static defence to fire a cross towards the penalty spot where Grayson was allowed to steal in completely unmarked to sweep in a classy low volley past Rice to consign Cay to their first home defeat of the season in the 94th minute of the game.

But what way to lose an unbeaten home record, and in front of the biggest crowd at the Park so far this season. In goal Rice had a decent game. There wasn't much he could do about either goal, and kept the scoreline respectable with three very capable stops. The fullbacks won't be telling their grandchildren that this was one of their finest moments in a Cit shirt, and Rico and Edwards were given a real test in a thoroughly intriguing batle with the lively Stafford front pair.

In midfield Gill, despite being overrun at times, still had time to spot the pass-and deliver it- whilst Challinor despaired that his hard work went unrewarded with sporadic support from colleagues. Up front Mackie was by far the busier of the two strikers, and although Stansfield scored an instinctive poach, maybe in a physical game such as today's up against Stafford's towering and completely dominant centre half Daniels, Phillip's strong arm approach would have paid greater dividends.

Who knows, in the end we just weren't clever enough, weren't strong enough, and just plain weren't a team enough. There was no real spark, and no real conviction, especially in the second half when instead of looking to press home our early advantage we sat back and invited an only too eager Stafford onto us as we got deeper and deeper with more and more men behind the ball. This is fine and dandy away from home defending a slender lead, but not at home when the opposition is allowed to simply gather a hacked clearance and unchallenged send it straight back in again, much to the frustration of the crowd, who in my opinion remained very patient despite the

team playing well below par for much of the game. But the sign of the team will be how they respond. Hopefully this just a bad day at the office, because although you can be lucky once or twice, it takes more than luck to be one of only three teams unbeaten at home, top of the current form table and unbeaten at all in eight games.

Match Details 

Exeter City 1 Stafford Rangers 2.. Saturday 21 October 2006.

Exeter: Rice, Woodards, Edwards, Richardson, Billy Jones, Taylor (Moxey 83), Buckle (Clay 70), Gill, Challinor, Stansfield (Phillips 75), Mackie.

Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Ada.

Booked: Rice. Goals: Stansfield 55.

Stafford Rangers: Alcock, Sutton, Daniel, McAughtrie, Talbott, Gibson (Edwards 61), Lovatt, Murphy (Oldfield 90), Street, Grayson, Madjo.
Subs Not Used: Quailey, Olaoye, Murray.

Booked: Sutton, McAughtrie.

Goals: Grayson 71, 90.

Attendance 3,977.

Referee S Hooper (Swindon).



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