20 February 2007.
Rushden and Diamonds (h)
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
Tuesday 20th February 2007
EXETER CITY 0
RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 0
So City fail to continue their recent winning run and end up with a frustrating 0-0 draw against a determined Rushden and Diamonds who turned up with a definite game plan on a still night at the Park in
front of a paltry 3135 supporters. Manager Tisdale kept faith with the side that had magnificently won 2-0 at Kidderminster three days ago and in the opening exchanges it looked as though that faith would be repaid.
In the fifth minute Challinor and Carlisle combined well with Mackie on the edge of the Rushden box where Mackie's attempted lift into the box appeared to thwarted by blue shirted arm, but the ref was having none of it - and would, alas, have one of those nights - and a very strong penalty appeal by both players and spectators was turned down.
A minute later Mackie and Challinor again were involved, this time Mackie inviting Challinor to dart across the box and fire low to the near post. Unfortunately the keeper was wise to what was going on and got down well to smother the shot.
In the fifteenth minute with City having the upper hand, Tully floated a lovely ball in from the middle of the field to the unmarked Mackie on the edge of the box, but he couldn't direct his header properly and it spooned up to give the keeper an easy collect. Chances diminished as the pitch deteriorated - hardly surprising given the weather recently - and it wasn't until midway through the half that Elam flashed the ball across the face of goal after collecting at the far post in the aftermath of an almighty scramble in the Rushden box. Five minutes later Elam was involved again, scooping a throw in into Mackie's path where he hoisted wastefully over the bar when well placed.
With a quarter of an hour remaining Carlisle had the last meaningful action of the half, powering a low free kick past wall and keeper but unfortunately post as well as the ball flashed into the side netting from twenty five yards.
Hopefully the impending second half would fare better, and with a mere five minutes expired the omens appeared good: Carlisle sprinting down the right before driving in a low cross that the first defender airshot. The lurking Mackie was caught completely off guard by this and had little time to compose himself before a second defender spared his colleague's blushes by hacking away to safety.
It wasn't all City though, although it did take until the fifteenth minute of the second half for Rushden to have their first real chance of the game when a forward hit a real opportunist strike from distance that had Paul Jones back-pedalling furiously before tipping the ball away for a corner at full stretch.
Soon after manager Tisdale withdrew Mackie for Logan, hoping he might win a few of the almost continual bombardment of high balls to the edge of the Rushden box. As it was it was top scorer Challinor who fashioned
the next opening two minutes later driving in a deep, deep cross to Elam at the far post who's spectacular scissor kick ended up somewhere down Oxford Road.
With half an hour gone the hardworking Carlisle made way for Stansfield and half a dozen or so minutes later Cozic entered the fray at the expense of Gill. A minute later Logan had his first real opportunity when a Billy Jones free kick from the corner of the box fizzed across to Logan who's first time snapshot was blocked at source and cleared to safety.
The final chance of the game fell to Logan in the final minute when Elam was sent scampering down the right before whipping in a peach of a cross to the far post. Logan rose with a defender to firmly butt home from a few feet out, but inexplicably was adjudged to have fouled the defender in the process and the goal was ruled out.
So that was that and City's good recent win streak was bought to an unceremonious end. If truth be told they didn't really deserve the victory, but then again neither did Rushden. Their tactics were plain to see, and the pudding of a pitch only aided them in their quest for a point, but it was up to City to break them down and by and large they just didn't have the pace, skill or cleverness to do so.
In goal Paul Jones was all bar the shouting impeccable. His handling was assured, he covered most of his box well and his kicking has improved no end. I would imagine performances like his today, including the not insignificant fact that this was his fourth clean sheet on the bounce, has now firmly cemented him as City's number one.
In front of him the four defenders were rarely troubled and mopped up comfortably. With this in mind, Tully in particular was keen to get forward, and at times showed a surprising turn of pace. In midfield it didn't really happen today. Buckle and Gill got bogged down and played too close to each other and Elam and Carlisle just couldn't get it going on a rapidly slowing pitch.
Up front Challinor played just that little too deep from Mackie leaving him isolated, but that mattered little anyway as his team mates insisted on pumping high balls to him at every opportunity, and Mackie is just too lightweight to hold these up and wait for support.
The three subs had mixed fortunes with Logan looking the most effective. Indeed, he won plenty and at last gave the defence something to think about, and also had what appeared to be a perfectly good goal ruled out. Stansfield had few touches stuck out in unfamiliar territory on the right and Cozic barely time to settle in before the final whistle.
But disappointing as it was, it was one more point on the way to securing a play-off spot. We remain in fifth spot and still have games in hand over all the teams above us. Rushden, it has to be remembered, had won five straight before coming here. It should also be remembered that whilst we had a goal disallowed and a very strong penalty appeal turned down amongst a bunch of decent chances, Rushden had, by my reckoning, one single solitary strike on goal.
We are a much improved side since pre Christmas and a force to be reckoned with in this division. suppose we must now expect teams to come here and try and hang on for a point and it must be up to us to break them down.
Exeter City 0
Rushden and Diamonds 0
Tuesday 20 February 2007.
Referee: J Linnington
Exeter: Paul Jones, Tully, Todd, Edwards, Billy Jones, Carlisle (Stansfield 78), Buckle, Gill (Cozic 83), Elam, Challinor, Mackie (Logan 65).
Subs Not Used: Rice, Richardson.
Rushden & D'monds: Tynan, Ashton, Hope, Albrighton, Hatswell, Bostwick, Maamria, Mills, Perpetuini, Rankine (Beardsley 71), Jackson (Cook 83).
Subs Not Used: Margarson, Wilson, Goodliffe.
Booked: Hatswell, Albrighton, Maamria.