8 October 1983
Bolton Wanderers (h);
SKIPPER STAN'S POINT OF BEST LIFTS CITY
Exeter City.2 (McEwan 2 (1 pen))
Bolton 2. (Caldwell 2)
Match Report by Gordon Hines
IT was a bit like old times at St James' Park yesterday. Exeter City, trailing by two goals with seven minutes to go, struck back with the kind of vengeance that made them one of the Third Division's most feared striking forces last season. Admittedly it took a defender in the deadly shape of skipper Stan McEwan to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat. He scored from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute, and grabbed a dramatic equaliser two minutes from time from a direct free kick. Yet it was the nature of Exeter's fight back that sent the City fans home in a delighted frame of mind. Seemingly down and out for the count, the Devon club made a mockery of accusations of tending to drop their heads after falling into arrears. Those charges were levelled by player-manager Gerry Francis, and it was to his credit that no one epitomised Exeter's refusal to lie down more than the ex-England skipper. He took the game by the scruff of the neck in the last 20 minutes and was cruelly unlucky not to have added his name to the scoresheet. A bad bounce broke his concentration after a scintillating run through the Bolton defence and an attempted chip over the goalkeeper. Francis, in fact, had more shots on the Wanderers' goal in 90 minutes than the rest of his team-mates, and the old international skills and commitment shone through to ultimately rub off on his off on team-mates. While McEwan was the goalscoring hero, it was really Francis who turned the match on its head with the never-say-die spirit which he has attempted to instil into his players. Francis could never have expected to salvage a point after the way Bolton were allowed to sail into a two-goal lead and then run the show almost as they liked.
The Burnden Park club led at the interval through a 29th-minute Tony Caldwell goal after the Bolton striker glanced a header beyond 'keeper Len Bond from a swift counter-raid and cross from right winger Steve Thompson. Exeter had nothing to offer up front at that stage. Indeed, they had nothing going for them whatsoever in attack until McEwan's late two-goal burst. Bolton found it all so easy and their second goal after 61 minutes summed up their superiority. Caldwell, who scored five goals during Bolton's 8-1 win over Walsall last month, was again the marksman with his 11th of the season. Bond was at fault in flapping like some Continental goalkeeper at a Jeff Chandler corner and Caldwell buried the chance with the entire Exeter defence in a state of panic, following the 'keeper's ill-timed decision to stray from his line. The turning point, in addition to Francis' late contribution, was an immediate decision after Bolton's second goal to replace midfielder Martin Ling with substitute Steve Neville.
Neville gave the Bolton defence his pace and experience to think about and Exe- ter looked a different side from the moment he was introduced. The penalty was awarded in the 83rd minute after a handball decision against central defender Walter Joyce. Joyce was also adjudged the guilty party when Peter Rogers was upended on the edge of the penalty area after 88 minutes. McEwan, after a brief chat with Francis, placed his free kick wide of Simon Farn- worth's left. McEwan ran straight towards the main stand to register his delight for what was his fifth goal of the season. That puts him well in front as Exeter's leading goalscorer this season. There were seven bookings and none bore a reflection on a match played in excellent spirit with certainly no rough stuff.
Bolton's Ray Deacon, Joyce, McElhinney and Neil Redfearn were cautioned along with City's Keith Viney, McEwan and Tony Kellow. Francis later paid tribute to the Exeter fans: "They got behind us and you'd have thought we'd won the Cup Final instead of just a point,' he said.
Bond, Kirkup, Viney, O'Connor, Marker, McEwan, Ling, Rogers (P), Kellow, Francis, Auguste, Neville (sub)