4 May 2007
Conference Play Off Semi-final, 1st leg
Oxford United (home)
CITY CAN STILL REACH WEMBLEY
Friday 4th May 2007
Nationwide Conference Play off Semi-Final 1st Leg
EXETER CITY 0 OXFORD UNITED 1
OLIVER SOUTH reports from St James' Park
In front of the best crowd of the season, 8,659, Exeter City remained in the play-off tie despite losing 1-0 to Oxford. City were unchanged from the Southport game and they started in the same nervous way. Oxford had the better of the first half, forcing a save from Martin Rice as early as the 5th minute from a near post header from Zebroski,
City, however, did create the odd chance, and a long throw from Matthew Gill came off a defender and Adam Stansfield from 4-yards found the keepers arms with a glancing header. It was a tough chance, but a reasonable chance to properly test Turley in the Oxford goal.
Oxford continued with the pressure and should have gone ahead in the 15 minute when a corner came in from the left and Zebroski, again, missed with a shot from just outside the 6 yard box.
The game was being played in midfield and it was being played by Oxford. City, however, had glimpses of goal, and a free kick from in front of the Doble was floated in, Turley and the centre half got in a muddle and a half chance came City's way. However, this was purely masking the fact that Oxford were dominating the play.
The goal eventually came in unlucky circumstances. Oxford won a corner, the ball was met by a header that came back off the bar, the rebound was put back in towards goal. Billy Jones cleared with a header as far as the penalty spot. The Oxford striker hit a shot that rebounded off a City player across the face of goal, only to hit Andy Taylor on the chest and loop into the top
corner. In reality it was a sloppy goal but no more than Oxford deserved. Just two minutes later and Oxford should have been 2-0 up. A long ball over the top saw Odubade beat the defence for pace and with only Rice to beat missed the target and the near post to let City off. Will they live to regret that miss? The second half saw Ron Edwards and Wayne Carlisle replaced with Jon Richardson and Jon Challinor, with the suspicions that the former decision was forced and the latter tactical.
The feeling was that the midfield was being overrun and the wingers were not getting the ball, therefore the thinking was to dominate midfield more and use Lee Elam as the flair to create a chance. It was the right decision at the right time.
The half saw City start much better. The midfield got more into the game and the strikers got more of the ball. After just a few minutes of the second half a quick free kick found Stansfield down the right who put in a great cross. The ball
found Richard Logan who failed to find the target when he should have done better from a fairly free header. City continued to look for the equaliser and Oxford's chances were restricted to long-range efforts. Just after the hour mark, a Gill long throw (a tactic employed by both teams) was cleared as far as Billy Jones who launched a thunderbolt that just went past the keepers left hand post.
Minutes later Stansfield was put through on the right hand side, it was a narrow angle and the keeper made a good double save while the defence waited on the line in case he was beaten. The 72nd minute saw Jamie Mackie come on for Elam, who was never in the game, but
Oxford saw more of the ball as the half progressed. The last chance for City came in the 86th minute where a free kick had Billy Jones firing over the bar from about 30-yards. Not a bad effort but the goalie was never worried.
City, however, had one last scare to survive. In the final few moments of normal time a foul by Chris Todd gave away a free kick 10- yards outside the City area. The ball was floated in and won by an Oxford head, the ball came back across goal and Zebroski missed another good chance to seal the game, and possibly the tie.
The bad news from the game was that Rob Edwards was injured, and hopefully he would be fit for the following Tuesday. The defence generally looked solid and survived the few real chances that were handed to Oxford. The full backs played well and got forward at every opportunity. The goal was bad luck, but the pressure was always coming from Oxford.
The midfield were overrun. The substitution improved matters, with Carlisle going off and Challinor coming on, the midfield was then busier and City started to see some more of the ball.
The front two for City did not get the best service and had little to feed from. The chances were few and far between for City going forward, but if the Grecians want to win this tie, then they are going to need to test Oxford more than they did in this first leg.
On the plus side the Oxford defence looked sloppy at times, there are definitely goals to be had against this team. Their forwards missed a lot of chances, if City can restrict the chances and take the game to Oxford then it is there.
Dominating midfield is the key to winning the away leg. The players need to remember how they dominated teams towards the end of the season and they need to knock the ball around as well as they can. City showed glimpses in this game, but there was no end product. The game is there and City can win this.
As for Oxford, they played well with the ball, but they wasted some great chances to make their appearance at Wembley a certainty. City are still in this tie, and if we can dominate their midfield and get the goal then it is game on.
Exeter City 0 Oxford United 1.
Friday 4 May 2007.
Conference Play Off Semi-final, 1st leg.
Exeter: Rice, Tully, Edwards (Richardson 45), Todd, Billy Jones, Elam (Mackie 73), Gill, Taylor, Carlisle (Challinor 45), Logan, Stansfield.
Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Phillips.
Oxford Utd: Turley, Anaclet (Brevett 89), Day, Quinn, Gilchrist, Burgess, Martin Foster, Hargreaves, Rose, Zebroski, Odubade (Duffy 82).
Subs Not Used: Tardif, Pettefer, Robinson.
Goals: Taylor 40 og.
Referee G Horwood (Gravesend).