22 October 1983
Newport County (h)
The good, bad and indiferent in another defeat
JEKYLL AND HYDE CITY
Exeter City 1 (Kirkup)
Newport County 2 (Aldridge 2)
Match Report by Trina Lake.
EXETER CITY have one of the most consistent home records in the Canon League. But it's no proud boast when you've lost five out of six Third Division games on your own ground and haven't managed a win in front of your own fans.
For 45 minutes against Newport on Saturday it looked as if City were finally going to lay the St James's Park bogey. But if they were as good as Dr Jekyll in the first half then they were as bad as Mr Hyde in the second as they wasted a one-goal lead and slumped to another depressing defeat. Player-manager Gerry Francis was understating things when he said: "I'm really disappointed with the result. It should have been all over bar the shouting at half time." City's patient fans had been given plenty to shout about for a change in the first half as Francis's men completely outplayed Newport. They could have taken the lead as early as the ninth minute but for cool defending from John Relish. A Mark O'Connor corner was well met by Ray Pratt whose header beat County goal- keeper Mark Kendall, but experienced full back Relish was on the line to nod the ball clear. Newport's attacks were constantly thwarted by an effective City offside trap and one of the few moves that did penetrate brought a stinging low drive from Tony Reid which Len Bond did well to hold at full stretch to his right. Reid's effort was a rare threat to City's goal in the first half. City were far and away the better side and it came as no surprise when they took the lead after 21 minutes. Ex-England winger Peter Taylor, who had taunted Newport's defence with his clever ball control and tricky skills, fittingly had a hand in the goal. Taylor floated in a left wing cross, Newport skipper Keith Oakes headed out but Ray Pratt nodded the ball back into the six yard box and teenage full back Graeme Kirkup raced in to beat Kendall to the bounce and headed home. The young defender looked as if he was going on a lap of honour and it was hardly surprising as that was the first goal of his league career. City really had their tails up then and looked ready to tear Newport to shreads. But some brilliant work by Ken- dall and poor finishing from City kept the visitors in the game. Russell Musker, making his home debut on loan from Bristol City, had good reason to curse Kendall's reactions when the former Spurs keeper made a superb stop to deny him his first goal in his new colours. City kept the Welsh side under pressure however and should really have increased their lead on the half hour. Francis guided an inch- perfect through ball to Taylor and he beat the Newport defence but Kendall somehow managed to keep out the winger's shot, more by luck than judgement, with a flailing foot and Pratt blasted the rebound over the bar. A player of Taylor's experience should really have done better with such a clear cut chance and City were to live to regret such a glaring miss. Complete controlow Taylor had a doubtful starter for the match because of a thigh strain and was forced to give in to the injury early in the second half. Newport had already made a more competent start after the break and took complete control after Taylor's departure. Some of the old familiar indecision crept back into City's game and the trans- formed visitors roared back with a vengeance, They looked far more effective going forward and almost levelled the scores in the 59th minute when a corner fell to Terry Boyle, an early season target for Fran- cis, but his thunderous shot was deflected on to the crossbar. It wasn't long before Newport were on terms again though. John Aldridge turned Nick Marker in the penalty area to squeeze the ball past Bond for a 62nd minute equaliser. If Kirkup was the goal hero of the first half then Francis laid the blame squarely at his feet for New- port's winner. With City on the attack the 18-year-old was the last defender and when the move broke down and the ball came to him he tried to run through the Newport defence instead of playing safe. His inexperience was exploited mercilessly Newport stormed forward and John Lewis's cross from the by-line was met with a perfect header from Aldridge who beat Bond easily. City had their chances again in the second half but could not make them count. Kendall made another fine save from a Pratt header and in injury time O'Connor shot well over the bar to provided a miserable end to an afternoon that had promised so much for City.
Bond, Kirkup, Viney, O'Connor, Marker, McEwan, Musker, Rogers, Pratt, Francis, Taylor. Sub: Auguste (on for Taylor).
Kendall, Jones, Relish, Reid, Oakes, Boyle, Martinez, Aldridge, Micallef, Carter, Lewis. Sub: Matthewson.