Match 52
8 May 2007.
Conference Play off semi-final 2nd leg.
Oxford United (away)


Tuesday 8th May 2007 Nationwide Conference Play off

Semi-Final 2nd Leg
(after extra-time)

(Exeter won 4-3 on penalties)

JIM SHEPHERD reports from the Kassam Stadium

Exeter sealed an historic first trip to Wembley as they clinched a Conference Play Off Final spot in dramatic circumstances. Steve Tully scored City's sixth penalty in a shot out after goals I. normal time from Lee Phillips and Adam Stansfield had drawn Exeter level in the tie. A goal behind from the first leg, Yemi Odubade had doubled Oxford's advantage before a thrilling comeback as City finally put their live television hoodoo to bed. Oxford had dominated large parts of the first leg and with this in mind Tisdale made two changes to the starting line up. In came Lee Phillips and John Challinor, for Logan and Stansfield. Rob Edwards, an injury doubt over the weekend, recovered to take his place in the back four. Employing a 4-4-1-1 formation, this gave City extra presence in midfield.

Oxford kicked off towards the "car park end" but it was City who attacked first, a Phillips cross cleared upfield. City looked composed and confident but that could quickly have been dented as Odubade chased down a long ball. Rice and Edwards just managed to do enough to put him off his stride as he stabbed wide.

But City didn't shrink from their task and for the next 25 minutes had a virtual monopoly on chances. On 5 minutes a Phillips flick fell to Elam who shot straight at Billy Turley in the Oxford goal.

More pressure was applied through long throws from Gill and free kicks, one of which was flicked wide by Todd. On 10 minutes City thought they'd got the first goal. A ball from Edwards found Jones on the left. His cross was put away by Phillips but the celebrations were cut short by the linesman's flag. Challinor was next to put the Oxford back line under pressure as he latched onto another Phillips flick, but unfortunately the ball ran away from him for a goal kick.

On the quarter hour a series of City corners produced a moment of panic from Turley as he turned a long Jones cross round his post and a desperate block prevented a Todd header causing real problems in the six yard box.

City were playing controlled, committed football, highlighted by Tully's 50/50 challenge on Rose and further efforts from Phillips and Elam. Elam's stunning curling shot produced a fine save from Turley as City continued to dominate, but on 26 minutes all the chances and possession were made to count for very little. Burgess cut out a through ball and quickly played it upto Odubade. He found himself in space between Edwards and Todd and as he turned in towards the edge of the box pulled a shot to Rice's right and despite getting a good hand to the ball he saw it nestle in the corner and give Oxford a 2-0 aggregate lead.

This understandably knocked City back a bit but Oxford could only manage a snap shot from Rose and a dangerous Odubade run as the half progressed. On 38 minutes though, things changed. A long throw was cleared back to Gill on the right. Instead of taking a touch he fired a first time missile into the area where Phillips was able to bury a header into the corner of the net.

The confidence City had lost through Oxford's goal reappeared and they finished the half as they'd begun, on the attack. As two minutes of added time were indicated Challinor out muscled Quinn on the byline but Turley was alert to smother his hot from an acute angle.

The second half began as the first had ended. An Elam cross just evaded Phillips and a series of crosses from Carlisle led to a final headed effort from Challinor that just dropped wide of the far post. In a bid to keep up the ever increasing tempo Tisdale made two early changes.

First Mackie came on for the barnstorming Phillips, then a couple of minutes later Stansfield replaced Carlisle. The changes had the desired effect as a series of City free kicks resulted in blocked shots and last ditch clearances.

On 58 minutes Challinor let rip from 25 yards and as the ball rifled towards the top right hand corner of the goal Turley acrobatically and athletically produced a stunning save. But if City thought their pressure would inevitably lead to a goal they were soon given a wake up call, twice.

On the hour Odubade beat Todd and Edwards for pace but his screwed finish lacked composure. At this point City made their final substitution with Logan replacing Elam. Oxford also made a change with top scorer Rob Duffy replacing right back Anaclet and within two minutes he could, and probably should have sealed the tie. He found himself in acres of space between Edwards and Todd and bearing down on Rice. As Rice committed himself Duffy seemingly only had to slot the ball to one side of him but could only tamely shoot straight at the keeper.

As the game became a little more stretched, City because they needed a goal, Oxford because they were trying to stem City's midfield superiority, chances came thick and fast. Mackie had a couple of shooting chances blocked, and for Oxford a Zebroski shot spun off Todd for a corner.

But it was City who were looking the more dangerous and they finally made it count with 20 minutes to go. Edwards played a long diagonal ball which broke nicely for Stansfield as he challenged Burgess. He drove into the box and fired a shot across and beyond Turley into the far corner to put City level on aggregate. Not content to sit back City continued to create shooting opportunities. Stansfield twice went close and was also denied as Turley dived at his feet from a Mackie cross.

But Oxford responded with two chances in a minute. Odubade had a goal ruled out for offside, then Day's header from a right wing free kick flashed wide. As the game entered the last few minutes of normal time Challinor pulled a shot just wide, Turley blocked another Mackie effort and in stoppage time Logan drilled across the goal. As the referee blew his whistle for full time, the 10,691 knew they'd be in for a nail biting period of extra time. Tisdale rallied his troops in front of the City contingent and a mighty roar emanated from the crowd as they entered a huddle to ready themselves.

The first 15 minutes was all City. Stansfield was unlucky as he challenged a defender near the edge of the box not to have the ball run more kindly for him. A rice punt was poorly dealt with by Oxford and Mackie laid the ball back to Challinor but his shot went wide from 20 yards.

.As City continued to press Todd flicked on Gill's throw and Mackie spectacularly fired an overhead kick straight at Turley. The uncertainty in Oxford's defence was shown by Turley's unnecessary flap at an over hit Gill cross. The keeper was then pressed into action again as he saved at his near post from Mackie, then easily from Stansfield after a marauding run from wide on half way. All Oxford could muster, despite freshening things up by introducing Pettefer and Johnson, was a tame Zebroski shot.

The second extra time period started in much the same fashion. Challinor made a headed chance for Mackie. Logan shot wide, Taylor volleyed over and another Mackie effort was blocked. But for the final 6 minutes Oxford managed to finally push City back. The ball broke on the edge of City's penalty area after the ball appeared to strike Billy Jones' hand. Odubade, largely anonymous for extra time was quickly onto the loose ball, too quick for the defender who fouled him. The referee gave a free kick on the edge of the box, in the D but Burgess could only fire into the wall and over for a corner.

Another handball shout followed shortly after as Todd jumped with Zebroski and as Oxford pressure mounted Logan was booked for a lunge on Burgess as he stepped inside. As extra time ran its course Burgess fired a shot well wide. City only had a long free kick in added on time as they tried to avoid penalties, but it wasn't to be and a breathless game was brought to an end.

It was decided to take the spot kicks in front of the packed home end, with Oxford first up. Duffy sent Rice the wrong way, before Jones hit the post having fooled Turley to give Oxford the early advantage. Burgess, Gill, Johnson and Taylor all netted before Rice saved from Quinn. Mackie fired City's fourth kick to Turley's left to even the shootout, before Turley himself missed Oxford's fifth, hitting the post and the ball rebounding across the goal behind Rice. Up stepped Logan to seal a City win, but his effort was saved by Turley and into sudden death we went. Zebroski stroked the ball to Rice's left, but didn't quite place it and it rattled back off the post. Tully then fired City to Wembley giving Turley no chance. Cue pandemonium in the stands, and joyous celebrations on the pitch.

Match Details 

Oxford United 1 Exeter City 2.
Conference play off semi.
Tuesday 8 May 2007.
Referee Andy Haines

Attendance 10691



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