9 December 2006.
Dagenham and Redbridge (h)
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
So on a bitterly cold afternoon at the Park 2928 brave souls witness one of the games of the season as City leave it desperately late to claim a cracking 3-2 win over Dagenham and Redbridge.
City got off to a sluggish start and it was Daggers who dominated the early exchanges. It was a mere formality when in the third minute the defence backed off and backed off to allow Mackall-Smith to waltz unimpeded into the penalty area and deliver the most exquisite back-heel into the path of Benson following behind who gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net from five yards out to give Daggers a fully deserved 1-0 lead.
It took until the eleventh minute for City to register anything of note: Mackie wriggling free on the edge of the box and shooting low only to see Stansfield deflect the ball wide from the six yard line.
Daggers, however, continued to have the upper hand, although it was a somewhat ironic incident that turned the match in City's favour. Full back Tim Cole persisted in dishing out needless and clumsy challenges all over the pitch, and after being booked for one such cynical chop he again incurred the referee's wrath for an ugly hack on Challinor as he was just about to break free down the left. The crowd, players and bench were left incensed that after initially reaching for his pocket the ref decided that having already booked the player a stern telling off was all that was
required, and thus City were stung into action. As the half hour approached Taylor collected the ball out wide the right and from deep sent in a high hanging cross on that Stansfield looped over the bar from somewhere near the penalty spot. Next Challinor embarked on a weavy run down the left and then diagonally across the pitch before feeding Taylor to crash a low drive that was deflected for a corner. In the ensuing scramble the ball fell to Richardson who saw his ten yard drive deflected agonisingly wide for another corner.
But Daggers aren't second in the table for nothing, and despite City turning the match around in their favour, Daggers found themselves with a glorious opportunity to go two up in the thirty fifth minute. This time, however, Mackall- Smith found Jones more than up to the task as he stood tall to block the striker's effort after he burst through beating the offside trap.
The ball was soon back up the other end, and after some not inconsiderable pressure Billy Jones found himself with the ball at his feet and danced his way into the area before producing a sublime dink forward for the lurking Stansfield. In a single move he swivelled, transferring the ball from left foot to right before rifling home waist high to the keeper's left from fifteen yards out for a well worked equaliser and moral- boosting 1-1 half time scoreline.
The second half was soon upon us, with Tisdale forced to introduce Carlisle on the right for the presumably injured Woodards with Taylor dropping back into the right back slot. He eased himself into the game gradually and in the sixteenth minute made his first telling contribution. Stansfield had the ball centrally and strode purposefully forward before delivering the ball to Carlisle wide out on the right. His deliciously curling swooping dipping cross to the far post was met by the galloping Mackie who rose majestically to butt firmly goalward only to see the keeper miraculously parry the ball from point blank range. Mackie was not to be denied as the save was pushed straight back to him where he walloped the rebound into the roof of the net to give City a hard fought 2-1 lead. That lead lasted mere seconds. Almost immediately the ball was back at City's end and Daggers were forcing a corner. Swung in from their left, Rainford rose highest completely unchallenged to thump home a powerful header from five yards out to make it all square at 2-2.
On thirty minutes City thought they'd taken the lead. A crisp move down the left involving Jones, Challinor and Gill sent Mackie scampering through the middle to coolly slot home under the keeper, but unfortunately although thinking he'd beaten the offside trap, he hadn't beaten the eagle- eyed linesman's flag and the goal was ruled out. City pressed on though, and with ten minutes to go some twinkle- toed work from Carlisle on the edge of the box saw the ball slipped through to Stansfield who dragged his shot wide.
Five minutes to go and Stansfield again is involved crashing his way into the box before recoiling in horror as his daisycutting smash across the keeper deflected away to safety off the base of the post. In the follow up Carlisle collected the ball on the right where his cross to Stansfield was nodded over when well placed to do better.
But there was still time. In the ninetieth minute a deep, deep Billy Jones cross in from the left was only cleared as far as Gill on the corner of the eighteen yard box. He drilled the ball back to the far post where a combination of the bulldozing Challinor and Stansfield forced a defender to smash into his own net under intense pressure from two yards out to send the place bananas and give City a massive 3-2 win.
But what a game! For the first half hour it was all Daggers - their wide men and nippy, zippy forwards gave City's defence a torrid time. City couldn't string two passes together if next season's contracts depended on it, and there was nothing undeserved about Daggers' early success.
However the game turned on a couple of incidents towards the half hour. Fouls were becoming more niggly and cynical and after receiving a booking for such a foul, Daggers' Cole should have been off for an early bath after an equally scything mugging of Challinor. Inexplicably the ref put his card back into his pocket after discovering he'd already booked the player earlier, so he stayed on and Daggers remained at full strength. This was the tonic City needed to sting them into action, and for the remaining hour of the game pretty much all of the good stuff and goalmouth action came from City and the margin of victory could, and perhaps should, have been greater.
Exeter City 3
Dagenham and Redbridge 2.
Saturday 9 December 2006.
Referee: A Sainsbury
Exeter: Paul Jones, Woodards (Carlisle 46), Edwards, Richardson, Billy Jones, Taylor, Buckle, Gill, Challinor, Mackie, Stansfield.
Subs Not Used: Rice, Phillips, Cozic, Moxey.
Goals: Stansfield 38, Mackie 60, Blackett 90 og.
Dag & Red: Roberts, Foster , Cole, Blackett, Bruce, Saunders (Akurang 78), Southam, Rainford, Leberl, Mackail-Smith, Benson.
Subs Not Used: Hogan, Batt, Lettejallow, Weatherstone.
Booked: Cole, Saunders, Rainford, Foster.
Goals: Benson 4, Rainford 65.
Referee A Sainsbury (Wiltshire).