21st August 1971
Grimsby Town (home)
Exeter City 3, Grimsby 4
EXETER CITY player-manager John Newman must be wondering where he can get a whole set of rabbit's paws for his playing staff. Because if ever a side had the cruellest of treatment from that most capricious of females, Lady Luck, it was Exeter in this game.
Desperately anxious to get a win after those two opening games from which Exeter suffered a seven-goal mauling and scored nothing themselves, it looked as if City were deep in the mire of trouble as Grimsby merrily snatched two goals in 11 minutes. But instead of crumbling completely, Exeter's players showed their mettle. They immediately got stuck into the job of fighting their way back into the match. And by hard work, determina- tion, and for the first time in competitive matches this season, by some pretty brisk and purposeful football, they were in the lead one minute after the start of the second half.
It looked as if Exeter had finally found some form, and as if good fortune was back with them. But instead a bad defensive mistake by centre-half Jimmy Giles gave Grimsby the easiest of chances to equalise.
Then, rubbing salt into Exeter's tender wound, Grimsby's winner in the last minute of the game was in fact an own-goal from right- back Campbell Crawford.
What might have been a good day turned into one as bitter as gall. Of course, it was not all just bad luck (although Exeter did get the ball into the net twice, but each time an off-side decision had been given) because there is no doubt that having got on top, Exeter let their advantage slide.
There were signs before those expensive mistakes that Exeter's command and control was begin- ning to get weak, and although their come-back was superb, having thrown off the burden of Da disastrous start, Exeter should never had allowed the match to slip from their grasp.
But, having said that, Exeter still deserve the utmost praise for a fighting performance, one in
which the inclusion of John Giles brought a lot more power and a lot more accuracy in the passing of the midfield, and for the way they set about the task of getting back into the game.
As a match, who could grumble? It had just about everything.
I noticed Jane Howell, Exeter's Northcott Theatre director, in the stand. Well she must have en- joyed the drama of this 90 minutes excitement spiced with some very entertaining football.
Grimsby's goals were scored by Stuart Brace (2) although his first shot was deflected as it struck Steve Stacey Matt Tees and Campbell Crawford (own goal).
Exeter's goals came from John Wingate (2) both through balls from John Giles which Wingate chased well, and on to which he took his shots well - and Tony Morrin (the goal was engineered by Crawford, and set up by Fred Binney's header.