27 December 1983
Missed chances cost City dear
EXETER CITY 1, BRENTFORD 2
BY DEREK LEAN
SOMEONE should have reminded Exeter that Christmas was over. Their generosity in letting Brentford off the hook, by squandering so many gilt-edged chances, cost them a match which they should have won easily.
Exeter, who, so far as approach work was concerned, were well and truly in the driving seat for most of the game, could have built up a comfortable lead by the interval. But, instead, they threw away their opportunities and did not edge in front until Welsh striker, Ray Pratt, won the tussle for possession with defender, Terry Rowe, and stabbed the ball over the line to put them in front in the 48th minute. That should have been the signal for Exeter to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make sure that struggling Brentford were put out of the reckoning. But their spendthrift ways continued as still they missed glorious chances to put the match beyond Brentford's reach. The result was that Brentford, who had always looked dangerous on the break, bounced back to hit Exeter with two goals in ten minutes, and City's defensive cover was suspect in both of them, and win the game. Exeter kept pushing forward to salvage a point but their habit of failing to finish clinically and ruthlessly, continued. Although they deserve credit for the way they came back at Exeter, Brentford were fortunate to get a win and really should have been on the receiving end of a decisive defeat.
Lack of control and hesitancy cost Exeter goals in the first half. They put together some fine approach work, but it petered out at the vital moment. Steve Neville and Hugh Atkinson linked up in a neat move after only two minutes, but Mark O'Connor's header was cleared off the line by Ian Bolton. Brentford only bothered Exeter on those breakaway raids and the main theme of the first half was that lack of ruthlessness in front of goal by Exeter. In the 28th minute, Steve Neville cashed in on a terrible mistake, but although he rounded 'keeper Paddy Roche his shot hit the upright. Still the danger had not passed, but Peter Rogers could not get his shot in quickly enough and Gary Roberts got back to clear from off the line. Brentford had another let off when Pratt and Neville took too long in pouncing on chances, and just before the interval Neville was through on his own, but this time Roche managed to touch the striker's shot away for a corner. Exeter started the second half by missing a sitter. Neville escaped on his own and slid the perfect cross to Rogers, who was able to race around Roche, and pick up the pass. But only a couple of yards out, Rogers fired his shot at the upright. Pratt came charging in, but his shot struck a Brentford defender and was scrambled away. Then came Exeter's goal. A long ball out of defence by Keith Viney sent Pratt away. He won the ball and lunged to push the ball in. Roche forced a scorching Neville shot away for a corner and then did well to beat out a drive from Martin Ling after O'Connor had opened up the defence with a great cross. But for a while, Exeter ran out of steam and in the 70th minute, an Ian Bolton free-kick was flicked on by Tony Mahoney, and there was substitute Keith Cassells he came on for Stan Bowles - to rifle in the equaliser. Immediately Exeter had a chance to go back in front, but O'Connor lifted his shot over the crossbar. Brentford punished Exeter for all the misses in the 79th minute when a low cross from the right by Terry Bullivant was swept into the net by Gary Roberts. The combination of bad finishing and bad luck continued for Exeter as they threw everything into the attack. Atkinson set up a chance for Pratt with a superb cross but his shot hit the crossbar. And then with only minutes to go, a Stan McEwan header was whipped off the line at the last moment by Bullivant.
EXETER Mark O'Connor.
BRENTFORD Keith Cassells.