17 March 2007.
THE VIEWS OF ANTONY MOXEY
Saturday 17th March 2007
EXETER CITY 1 MORECAMBE 0
So on a bright and blustery day a single moment of magic in an otherwise uninspiring game sees City run out 1-0 winners against fellow play-off contenders Morecambe at the Park in front of a healthy 3,530 fans.
The game got off to a fairly brisk start with plenty of effort from both sides, but battling a swirling wind neither side really managed to settle or to assert any sort of control over the opening exchanges. This was especially difficult for City defending the Big Bank end as the wind was howling down to that end of the ground especially strongly early on.
It was City who had the first real chance though: on ten minutes an Elam through ball wasn't dealt with properly and cannoned back off the chasing Phillips toward goal. Unfortunately Phillips' touch was a little heavy and gave the keeper an easy collect.
The two sides continued to by and large cancel each other out and were few and far between. It was fully another ten minutes before City could muster another effort of note, this time Jones smashing an attempted clearance from a Carlisle corner high over the bar from just outside the box.
City did begin to gradually pick themselves up and with fifteen minutes of the half Morecambe almost handed City the lead when a defender sent a throw in back to his keeper. Miscontrolling horribly, he succeeded in only firing straight to Challinor, but under some intense pressure from a defender he scuffed his 40 yard first time effort wide.
Shortly after City had a real scare when Buckle appeared to land awkwardly from a challenge. Straight away he signalled to the bench and looked in real pain laying on the pitch. He hobbled off for treatment on the sidelines, and such is his importance to the team at the moment manager Tisdale chose not to substitute him straight away, instead electing to play with ten men until the full extent of the injury was known.
He soon returned to the action, and ten minutes later the best move of the game then came from City: a raking Jones cross-field ball found Carlisle in acres of space on the right. He, in turn, after a good run to the byline, cut the ball back to Phillips lurking inside the penalty area. Spotting Challinor patrolling the edge of the box, Phillips laid the ball off to him for Challinor to sting the keeper's fingers with a well hit drive low to the far corner. The rebound was then cleared for a corner by a defender who just beat Elam looking to follow up. However, all was not well and despite trying to run off the injury Buckle was forced to depart five minutes before the half was up to be replaced by Cozic, who elected to stay out on the pitch at half time and warm himself up a bit more.
The second half was soon upon us, and as with the first there was little to choose between the two teams early on. Neither really troubled the keepers, nor did either have that little bit of nous necessary to unlock the opposition's defence. This was borne out by the fact that it took almost 20 minutes for City to register their first proper attack of the second half - Challinor sending Phillips scampering through only for his low drive to be well saved then Carlisle's follow up blocked away to safety.
With 25 minutes gone manager Tisdale opted to withdraw Challinor for Logan and five minutes later the reason why was there for all to see. A ball was pumped high into the Morecambe half, and there seemed little on for Logan as he challenged with three defenders close around him. Surprisingly he not only won the aerial battle, but showing no little skill on the ground brought the ball down under control with his back to goal some twenty-odd yards out. Sensing no real support around him, he turned and in one movement hoicked a looping, dipping drive that flew past the keeper yet just dropped enough to fly into the top corner and send the place loopy.
There was little way back for Morecambe who hadn't really troubled Jones during the match thus far, and in the end it was City who finished the stronger and could have had a second deep into injury time when Elam airshot wildly when unmarked on the edge of the box after Cozic's determined cross-pitch run ended with a low cross across the box.
But in the end it always looked like a single goal would win it, and as it was it really was a strike of some quality that did. I would say City slightly edged the contest, but not by much. In their favour, whilst Morecambe huffed and puffed, City did improve in each half the longer it went on. But it wasn't the cultured football against cloggers that that sounds like by any means, but it did seem that the more dangerous attacks were all from the team in red and white.
In goal Paul Jones had a comfortable afternoon without having to make a single save of note. O Collections of both crosses and balls into the box in general were formalities, and once again his kicking was strong and assured.
In front of him the two centre backs restricted Morecambe to half chances and shots from the edge of the area, and the two full backs prevented Morecambe wide players getting round the back. In particular well done to Richardson stepping in for the injured Tully and performing, despite the odd lamped clearance to no-one in particular, like he'd been playing first team football regularly all season. In the midfield tenacious Morecambe pressure prevented Gill enjoying the freedom of the Park that he usually does, and early on Buckle matched the terrier-like play of his Morecambe counterparts. It was sad to see him depart injured, but it was good to see Cozic given an extended run out and he got better as the game wore on. Indeed a couple of times in the closing minutes he showed great stamina and determination to drive forcefully into the heart of the Morecambe defence looking for the game-settling second goal.
Out wide Elam and Carlisle kept the Morecambe defence guessing, and it was surprising just how much ball Elam won in the air. However today it was Carlisle who had the more profitable day enjoying a lot of possession and driving well down the right. Up front it was a difficult day for Challinor who found it hard to battle some determined Morecambe midfield play as he dropped deep to link up the City midfield with Phillips up front.
Logan's introduction at his expense gave the team something to work with in the air, although it was a smart piece of skill with his feet that conjured up a stunning winner. It was nice to see Phillips given a start too, and with Challinor playing deep, Phillips got through an awful lot of work on his own ploughing something of a lonely furrow up front. On another day this might have bought better rewards, but with games coming thick and fast at the business end of the season, manager Tisdale will need all his strikers fit and hungry if we're to challenge for a play-off spot.
Exeter City 1 Morecambe 0.
Saturday 17 March 2007.
Exeter: Paul Jones, Richardson, Todd, Edwards, Billy Jones, Carlisle, Gill, Buckle (Cozic 41), Elam, Challinor (Logan 70), Phillips.
Subs Not Used: Rice, Taylor, Stansfield.
Goals: Logan 74.
Morecambe: Drench, Blackburn, Bentley, Adams, Howard, Thompson, Sorvel (Hunter 77), Craig Stanley, Burns, McNiven, Blinkhorn (Carlton 77).
Subs Not Used: Davies, Curtis, Brannan.
Referee Darren Sheldrake (Midlands).