Match 28
8th January 1972
Northampton (h)

Exeter City 1, Northampton 3

All the portents were that Exeter City's luck was on the change in this New Year. With a few good results behind them, a new player signed, and the news of a return next season to a reserve side, confidence was boosted and most people looked forward to an Exeter victory against a Northampton side who had only won once away from home.

Instead, on this dreary, rainy day, Exeter's performance slumped like a barometer a few hours before a storm. They were two goals down by half time, a half which had seen them opened up time and again by a Northampton side, which seemed to ignore totally the weather, and come up with the sort of crisp and constructive soccer that would have graced a pitch in perfect condition.

The start of the second half was no better. Exeter's defence looked all at sea, uncertain and too vulnerable; still there was no command or authority midfield; and still the forwards looked wholly ineffective. Exeter did erase the memories of this inept display, by staging a spirited, almost swash- buckling finish. But their plunder was only one goal, and it was sheer endeavour and determination that shook Northampton's defence rather than considered and planned football that created chances.

Exeter manager John Newman described City's showing as "miserable." None would complain with the word. The only bright spark of an otherwise dark and depressing day was Dave Gibson, Exeter's s new signing from Aston Villa.

Certainly he did not have one of those dramatic story-book debuts so glowingly recorded in "Hotspur" and "The Champion."  But his class and talent was there for all to see.

Some of his touches were pure quality. The trouble was, through no fault of his own, there were not enough of them, and the rest of the side did not show the form to take advantage of them.

It did not take Northampton long to find the Exeter net. In the seventh minute Joe Kiernon, a calm elegant player, and unquestionably the master-mind of Northampton's win, raced around Steve Morris and flashed across a centre.

Bob Wilson looked to have the ball covered, but instead John Hold's shot went in. A full 25 minutes had passed before Exeter got in a concrete shot at goal, a fairly smart drive from Barry Rowan, which Alan Starling did well to save.

But in the 34th minute Northampton went two ahead, and it was former Exeter man Dixie McNeil, who scored to bring his tally to 16 this season. Kiernon and Frank Large set the goal up. There were signs of an Exeter recovery just before half-time as Fred Binney hit the bar and Starling tipped a shot from Rowan over the top.

But the start of the second half saw Northampton still in control and McNeil created a third goal in the 52nd minute as he crossed for Hold to score. There were appeals for off-side, but the goal stood.

Exeter showed bags of enthusiasm after that, and Alan Banks came on to help stoke up the fire. A free kick from Gibson led to Exeter scoring, with John Wingate making the final pass and Binney netting.

Exeter had some bad luck after that, and Starling did well to save two from Mike Balson, but the task of catching up was too great by that time.

Attendance, 4,485.

"It was a miserable afternoon and a miserable performance by us; once again we'll have to start picking up the pieces."

-Exeter boss JOHN NEWMAN,



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