11 April 1984
Luckless City Held
IF EXETER City are to pull off a near miracle and escape relegation to Division 4 they are going to have to do it without any help from Lady Luck,
writes TRINA LAKE.
That was made blatantly obvious to them in last night's bitterly dis- appointing scrap with fellow candidates for the drop, Scunthorpe, which ended in a 1-1 draw. The City players were left gazing at the heavens in dis- belief as if to say: "Somebody up there doesn't like us."
City did everything but win in a performance that deserved far more than the meagre point it earned, leaving them now eight points from safety with eight games left to play. They were the stars of an entertaining show and Scunthorpe's only hope of an award was for best sup- porting player. Goalkeeper Joe Neenan propped them up for most of the match with some outstanding saves that included a 39th minute penalty stop from Steve Neville. "It makes you wonder what we've got to do to win. I just don't believe that scoreline," said goalscoring player-manager Gerry Francis. He hobbled out of the dressing room after the match with a badly bruised foot that makes him extremely doubtful for Saturday's game at Hull City. Defender Simon Webster will definitely be missing, serving out a one-match ban and Ray Pratt's badly cut forehead will not have healed in time for him to play. Peter Rogers is still "on strike." So City could be down to just 11 fit professionals, Frank Howarth, who is still working himself back to match sharpness after injury, and their largely untried apprentices. But whatever team they manage to field at Hull must use last night's display as an example of how to have pride in your performance. It was one of the all-too- rare occasions when every member of the side could take credit for battling for the full 90 minutes despite an early setback when Scun- thorpe took a shock lead inside two minutes of the kick-off. They were awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area and dead ball specialist Mike Brolly drove a venomous shot through the City wall and screaming past Len Bond. That may have ruffled City's feathers but they soon settled down to the task in hand. Some of their attacking play was the most inventive they have produced all season and they looked far more aggressive up front with John Sims, Roy McDonough, and Steve Neville all causing problems. Brolly's goal was the only thing Scunthorpe had on target in the first half but City kept Neenan constantly on his toes. Hugh Atkinson headed just over from a corner, the impressive Steve Harrower tested him with a looping shot, Keith Viney, encouraged to attack like his old self, had three efforts saved, and Francis was denied from a sweetly hit volley. But Neenan saved his best for poor Neville when City were awarded a penalty for John Green's foul on McDonough. The City striker hit his shot well, tucking it inches inside the post, but Neenan somehow managed to push it round for a corner. There was a heavy suspicion that the Scunthorpe 'keeper moved before the kick was taken but on a night when he could do nothing wrong there was no denying him a moment of glory. He was up to his acrobatic tricks again early in the second half to keep out a goalbound McDonough header and the ungainly City striker could not striker could believe it when another effort cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and incredibly went out for a goal kick. He also skimmed the bar with another header but Francis showed just how to find the target in the 55th minute. He left Neenan stranded with a header from hard-working Mark O'Connor's left wing cross for his third goal of the season.
Bond, Kirkup, Viney, O'Connor, Webster, Atkinson, Neville, Sims, McDonough, Francis, Harrower. Sub. Ling.
Neenan, Longden, Pointon, Matthews, Green, Pratley, Brolly, Cammack, Bell, Whitehead, Graham. Sub. Lester.