Match 29
14 January 2006
FA Trophy 2nd Round
Histon (Home)

Exeter City 3 Histon 2.
Saturday 14 January 2006.

Ref: S Snartt

Att: 2103.

FA Trophy 2nd round.

Archive match report

So a surprising 2,103 brave souls saw City make much harder work of winning 3-2 against Histon than they ever should have on a bright and fresh afternoon at the Park. City lined up: Paul Jones; Billy Jones, Santos, Sawyer, Woodards; Moxey, Cronin, Buckle, Challinor; Mackie, Phillips.


With Taylor suffering a thigh injury and Alex jiggling round the squad there were rare starts for Mackie, Deano and Santos, and all three were obviously keen to impress and try to earn a regular starting place. City were also keen to progress in the competition and came out of the blocks the quickest and to be honest made Histon look like a pub team in the opening exchanges. As early as the second minute Phillips lashed across goal and pretty much the only Histon attack of the first half saw Santos clear a misjudged long throw off the line.


City stroked the ball around with aplomb and Mackie signalled his intent by easily sidestepping a couple of clumsy attempts at challenges before whipping in the ball low to the penalty spot where Phillip was gleefully lining up a simple side foot home before a lunging clearance, err, cleared. However, this was merely delaying the inevitable as on twenty-five minutes City went ahead. A free kick was awarded a couple of yards outside the box and to the keeper's left. Billy Jones duly placed the ball, checked out the wall, and inch perfectly flighted the ball over the wall and away from the motionless keeper into the net just inside his left hand post at about waist height. A truly wonderful strike that didn't need to be hit hard such was the accuracy.


City were by now utterly dominant and looked as though it was only a matter of time before a second was added. It was, almost seconds later. A ball sprayed out the right hand touchline somehow evaded the unfortunate Histon player but Woodards anticipated well and took the ball in his stride. He scampered goalwards and for all the world looked to shape to shoot but instead completely flummoxed the keeper to sidefoot to his left into the path of the onrushing Mackie who gleefully stroked the ball home into an empty net from about ten yards out. Surely this was starting to get embarrassing, and such was City's grip on the game that it looked as though they could score whenever they felt so inclined.


I wish they had, for a clash of heads with a Histon player meant the end on the game for Phillips and he was replaced with Farrell with five minutes of the half left. With the board raised signalling three minutes to go two minutes previously, the ball ended up at a Histon player's feet on the corner of the eighteen yard box. A tangle of forward and defender and a bad position from the goalie saw a 20 yard (and 20 yard high) lob creep under the cross bar and nestle in the back of the net for an unlikely half time score of 2-1.


After a hugely entertaining half time race between a young City fan and a young Histon fan round the pitch for the prize of a computer footy game (natch the City fan won!) it was time for the real action to recommence. A free kick floated to Challinor on the edge of the box saw him neatly sidestep his man before screwing well wide, and then five minutes later a free kick from Farrell ten yards out from the goal line and ten yards in from the touchline was neatly clutched into his ample midriff by the Histon keeper.


Then on the hour mark disaster. How could this be? A huge, huge goalmouth scramble saw City players falling over themselves to fall over each other and fail to clear. Through the melee a Histon leg caught the ball fairly and squarely to lash home from a couple of yards out and the unthinkable had just happened and Histon equalised.


Alex needed to shake things up and so Deano was immediately sacrificed for Afful as Challinor reverted to the left and Les took over on the right.. The change seemed to spark City a little, and five minutes later a Santos header to Buckle on the corner of the six yard box was spectacularly hammered across goal and wide. Midway through the half and Alex had one last throw of the dice and introduced Flack at the expense of the hard working Mackie. Times were desperate now, and City were all over the place: misplaced passes, wild hacks upfield and seemingly no game plan or tactics other than to hang on for dear life. Histon sensing a famous victory pressed forward in numbers, and but for a combination of Cronin and Santos scrambling across the goal to clear almost went ahead.


But it wasn't one way traffic by any stretch of the imagination as both teams slugged it out in the middle trying to gain the upper hand. With the last ten minutes approaching a long angled ball from Sawyer landed at Challinor's feet and although mis-hitting it badly it forced a scrambling tip round the post from their keeper, and then moments later a fierce Challinor drive nearly broke the side netting as City ever so slightly began to get back on top.


And so it was that blushes were spared with five minutes to go when Farrell floated a beautiful 40 yard pass into the box towards Flack. A pin point knock down into the path of the galloping Challinor was all that was required for him to gratefully smash home from eight yards out much to the relief more than anything else of increasingly agitated crowd. Histon hearts were broken and save for Cronin's 30 yard drive straight at the keeper little else happened before the ref thankfully bought the contest to a close.

But what a game of two halves: first half all City, second half all at sea. Players running into each other, two going for the same ball (and neither getting it), clearances being hit at team mates rather than to team mates was stark contrast to the easy stroll in the Park that the first half had been. Of the players Paul Jones wasn't really tested that much, although perhaps he ought to have let his defender deal with the first goal, but there wasn't a lot he could have done about the second. Woodards and Billy Jones both got as forward as they dared, and Billy's free kick was a great strike. The centre backs seemed unflustered, although as a whole unit the defence made it harder work at times than it ought to have been.


In midfield Challinor was forced into an unfamiliar right hand side role to accommodate Deano on the left: it didn't work as for much of the game up until Moxey's substitution Challinor only played a bit part and was away from the action for too long.. Buckle and Cronin may have been in the ascendancy in the first half, but got a bit bogged down in the scramble that was the second half.


Up front Phillips was the star for me, and all good stuff seemed to go through him. Indeed, Mackie became far less effective when Phillips went off (although he seemed fine later on when walking back round to the dug-out later on), but I thought him and Farrell tried hard even if it didn't always quite work out. Of the subs, I've already mentioned Farrell, and Les did his best but I don't think the heavy pitch and his long absence from first team duties suited his fleet footed scampers down the wing. Flack on the other hand fitted in perfectly. This type of game is made for him and if one or two others had been brave enough to gamble on his flick-ons then maybe the game would have been made safe earlier. As it was, his superb knock down was meat and drink for Challinor and was probably the best move of the game.


But we must improve. Histon showed why they are where they are, and to be perfectly honest we really should win this type of game at a canter. Sloppy schoolboy defending and sloppy schoolboy midfielding will be sorely punished by Morecambe next week and Accrington a week later. Whilst a Trophy run is much to be looked forward to, it's the league where it really matters so let's build on the Gravesend result last week and get something at Morecambe. If for nothing else than to gain a bit more confidence for when the cameras return for the Accy game - we surely can't be that bad on the telly again can we? See you in fortnight when we'll find out.



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