1 January 2007
Oxford United (h)
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
EXETER CITY 2 OXFORD UNITED 1 NATIONWIDE CONFERENCE
Monday 1st January 2006
So City start the new off in rip roaring style with a thumping 2-1 win over one time runaway leaders Oxford United on a miserably grey and wet lunchtime at the Park in front of a whopping 4720 fans.
New year, new tactics as City lined up for the first time at home this season in an unfamiliar 4-5-1 formation, obviously with the intent on flooding the midfield and giving Oxford no room to manoeuvre. It worked well as straight from the off it was City in the ascendancy dominating possession, albeit without troubling the Oxford back line.
But that changed in the eighth minute when Mackie wriggled through a couple of tackles on the right hand edge of the box before firing a ball across that just evaded the onrushing Cozic. Chances were few and far between for a while, but still Jones remained a virtual spectator in the City goal as the midfield and defence continued to soak up what little pressure Oxford applied whilst continuing to enjoy the lion's share of the ball.
The opening goal eventually came on the quarter hour, and what a good move it was too. A series of sharp interchanges between Moxey and Jones deep into Oxford territory down the left ended with Moxey delivering the most superb low driven cross across the face of the box. Mackie couldn't quite get there but Carlisle did and beat the ineffective challenge of one time Plymouth Argyle full back Rufus Brevitt to smash the ball home from little more than a couple of yards out at the back post to make it 1-0 to City.
Oxford were rocked and all over the place. City attacked at will and the now hugely overworked Oxford defence just couldn't cope with the pace and energy of Mackie through the middle together with the tricky wing play of Carlisle down the right and strength and determination of Moxey down the left.
Midway through the half a delicious defence splitting forty yard pass from Carlisle sent Mackie on his way, but after laying the ball off to the overlapping Jones on the left his cross was blocked out for a corner. Five minutes later and Buckle drilled a ball out wide to the galloping Woodards who pranced majestically towards goal before dragging his twenty five yard daisy cutter wide.
But despite all of the domination and possession and half chances, City were reminded just how fragile a single goal lead can be, as in the fortieth minute Oxford had their first meaningful sight of goal when a high hanging lump towards the back post had Jones back-pedalling furiously to spectacularly tip the ball onto the angle of post and bar and away for a corner. However, that was pretty much all Oxford could muster during an absorbing first half in which City were hugely deserving of their lead.
After an inordinately long half time break, the second half was soon upon us. City had another glorious chance to double their lead, this time Todd bulldozing his way in to firmly butt a Jones looping cross wastefully over the bar when unchallenged from fifteen yards.
Midway through the half, and with players visibly flagging, manager Tisdale decided the extremely hard working midfield needed bolstering and so it was that an exhausted Cozic trudged off to be replaced by Challinor. This helped sustain City's dominance of the middle of the Park, although somewhat ironically it was plain old route one football that led to the second goal.
With a quarter of an hour remaining Paul Jones launched an enormous punt downfield and while the hapless Brevitt and an equally hapless colleague busied themselves dallying or falling over, Mackie remained alert enough to nip in and charge forwards. With no little skill and a bucket load of composure he deftly slid the ball under the keeper from ten yards out to give City a much deserved 2-0 lead. Immediately after he left the pitch to tumultuous applause to be replaced by Phillips, and that was it, the game was safe.
Or so you'd think. Mackie's departure suddenly breathed life into Oxford and for the remaining fifteen minutes they put City under some torrid pressure looking for a way back in. The defending was at times both desperate and heroic with bodies flying all over the place. Nervy too, with almost every challenge met with howls of derision from the couple of hundred away fans stationed behind Jones' goal that the referee hadn't awarded them a penalty, but by and large it looked as though City would weather the storm. Until the eighty seventh minute when Challinor threw himself in front of an attempted cross right on the corner of the goal line and penalty area on the right. Unfortunately his block was made illegally unintentionally, but illegally nonetheless - with his arm and Oxford had the lifeline they so desperately wanted. The penalty was expertly dispatched by Oxford striker Burgess with some aplomb high to Jones' left as he dived low to the right and it was game on at 2-1 for the remaining couple of minutes. That's a couple of minutes plus an inexplicable five minutes stoppage time in a half that had two bookings, four substitutions and no injuries, but there you go. Anyway, City stood tall and strong and the Oxford challenge evaporated somewhat and in the ninety sixth and seventh minutes City were content to hold the ball in the corners - Challinor, Carlisle and Moxey in particular adept at this final act of frustration for the opposition.
And then, eventually, fifty two minutes after starting the half the referee ended a truly titanic contest between the biggest two clubs in the division. It has to be said that this was one of the most engaging and at times nerve jangling fixtures seen at the Park for many a year. The pitch, under a blanket of almost constant drizzle, became heavier and heavier and with the squad robbed of Stansfield and Phillips through sickness at the weekend and Cozic and Carlisle just returning from injury it was a real war of attrition in the most energy sapping of conditions.
Exeter City 2 Oxford United 1.
Referee G Lewis
Exeter: Paul Jones, Woodards, Billy Jones, Todd, Edwards, Buckle, Carlisle, Moxey, Gill, Mackie (Phillips 77), Cozic (Challinor 68).
Subs Not Used: Rice, Stansfield, Richardson.
Booked: Edwards, Mackie, Billy Jones.
Goals: Brevett 14 og, Mackie 76.
Oxford Utd: Turley, Quinn, Gilchrist (Gunn 46), Day, Brevett (Kennet 81), Pettefer, Hargreaves, Dempster, Anaclet, Basham (Johnson 24), Burgess.
Subs Not Used: Tardif.
Booked: Gilchrist, Quinn, Brevett, Kennet.
Goals: Burgess 89 pen.