11 November 2006.
FA Cup 1st round.
Stockport County (h)
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
Saturday 11th November 2006
FA Cup sponsored by E.ON
First round proper
EXETER CITY 1
STOCKPORT COUNTY 2
So City bow out of this year's FA Cup after shooting themselves in the foot twice, to hand the tie to a physical and hard working Stockport County side, on a fresh and breezy afternoon at the Park in front of an accountant-pleasing 4,454 paying customers. City lined up: Paul Jones; Billy Jones, Todd, Edwards, Woodards; Challinor, Buckle, Gill, Taylor; Stansfield, Phillips.
There's very little to say about a first half deserving of being recorded to video purely as an aid to insomnia. City started the more brightly, but Stockport's loftier status - both literally and in a footballing sense - began to tell as they dominated the remaining two thirds of the half.
It did, however, take a catalogue of City errors to hand them the lead with their single, solitary strike on target during the half, as a poor Billy Jones cross-field free kick deep in his own half immediately put Woodards in trouble, although the ball broke kindly to Todd ten yards back. Inexplicably Todd stood on the ball ending up on his backside to present the infinitely more skilful of the Bramble brothers - Tesfaye - the simple task of striding forwards unimpeded towards Jones' goal and slotting home comfortably from ten yards to put the equaliser. visitors 1-0 up. It woke City - and the crowd - up momentarily, but the game didn't take long to degenerate back to the midfield grind with neither side forcing either goalie into any sort of action. However, with ten minutes until the break, Phillips lifted expectation when shielding the ball 25 yards out with his back to goal. Spotting Woodards charging forwards on the right, he laid the ball into his path only to see it smashed disappointingly high and wide from the edge of the box.
Apparently City then decided to make a game of it, and it was no surprise that City's first effort on target all half fell to their best player after 44 minutes: Challinor picking up a loose ball and striding majestically forward to unleash a straight drive that the keeper saved comfortably.
City's second on-target shot of the half came in as many minutes, and with the board showing a minute of stoppage time being held aloft 60 seconds earlier, Taylor did well on the edge of the box to slide a ball through to Stansfield. Whilst the defender thought it would harmlessly drift out for a goal kick, Stansfield's turbocharged lunge to the line ensured it didn't, and he whipped in a belter of a low cross for Phillips at the back post to slide past the keeper into the far corner to make it all square at 1-1.
The second half started much more spiritedly, with City quickly out of the blocks. Indeed, it was only the second minute when good work from Challinor, Phillips and Stansfield conspired to set up Phillips who unleashed a powerful 20 yard daisy cutter that was deflected agonisingly wide for a corner. Three minutes later Buckle tried his luck from range but his ferocious drive suffered the same fate and was also deflected wide for a corner.
After ten minutes City produced another good move, this time Stansfield bursting through with electric pace then backheeling to Taylor behind him who's piledriver was blocked on the edge
of the box. City were by now getting frustrated at their inability to wrap things up, and this culminated in a bizarre incident between the two most committed players on the Park Buckle and Challinor involving themselves in a little nose to nose discussion on how best to proceed then promptly getting a booking each for arguing with each other!
Midway through the half manager Tisdale decided it was time for a change with first Mackie replacing Stansfield then Buckle making way for Cozic. However, all of Tisdale's plans were thrown out of the window with Chris Todd's second howler of the match. An easy clearance up the Park seemed the order of the day, but instead Todd saw fit to slam the ball into the back of Matt Gill and watched in horror as the ball rebounded to the predatory Bramble. Seeing team mate Proudlock pointing where he wanted the ball played, Bramble did exactly that giving Proudlock the easiest task of guiding the ball home under the desperate lunge of the hopelessly exposed Jones in goal to make it 2-1 and game over. All that was left was for Ada to replace Taylor and Stockport to make a couple of clock-killing substitutions and that was that, City were out, Stockport grateful that City's benevolence prevented the need for a replay. But what a calamitous way to go out though. Other than the two mistakes, Stockport, despite bucket loads of possession, forced very little out of Jones. City didn't exactly warm the Stockport keeper's fingers much either, which makes the mistakes all that more expensive.
In goal Paul Jones didn't have much to do, and maybe Rice wouldn't have done much differently, but don't think Jones did anything to warrant not starting against Kidderminster next Saturday. Of the defenders, only Rob Edwards can hold his head up as he manfully tried to cover his team mates' inadequacies. Too many times tackles were missed, passes shanked and clearances hurried. Chris Todd will (hopefully) never have another game like that in his life.
In midfield, Challinor shone, once again, way brighter than his colleagues. Buckle at least showed passion, but too often the middle of the Park got bogged down with poor control and lackadaisical passing. Up front Phillips hardly touched the ball for most of the first half, but he scored a good predatory strike and partner Stansfield on more than one occasion showed a nifty turn of speed to fetch a ball many others would give up as lost.
Subs Mackie and Cozic each looked lively, and perhaps Cozic is ready for a start this afternoon, but the late experiment of putting Ada at right back and pushing Woodards up into Taylor's right midfield slot wasn't given enough time to see if would yield results.
But at least now, as the cliché goes, we're free to concentrate on the league. However, given Stockport are where we aspire to be, it's clear to see that an awful lot of work needs to be done to be able to compete with them on a regular basis. That begins today when we entertain Kidderminster Harriers, so I'm sure you'll not forgo the opportunity to see the start of hopefully a march up the table. I mean, it's ages until you have to worry about Christmas shopping, isn't it?
Exeter City 1 Stockport County 2.
Saturday 11 November 2006.
Referee R Armstrong
FA Cup 1st round.
Exeter: Paul Jones, Woodards, Todd, Edwards, Billy Jones, Taylor (Ada 84), Buckle (Cozic 70), Gill, Challinor, Phillips, Stansfield (Mackie 64).
Subs Not Used: Rice, Richardson.
Booked: Buckle, Challinor.
Goals: Phillips 45.
Stockport: Spencer, Williams, Dinning, Clare, Rose, Malcolm, Taylor, Gleeson, Griffin (Ellis 90), Bramble (Robinson 90), Le Fondre (Proudlock 65).
Subs Not Used: Deasy, Allen.
Goals: Bramble 21, Proudlock 82.