19th April 1972
Exeter City 1, Hartlepool 0
Granted that Hartlepool goalkeeper Ron Hillyard made three quite superb saves, and that he efficiently cut out a number of crosses before the dangerous position arose, but Exeter City made mighty hard work of beating them.
Not until ten minutes from the end did Exeter get the goal that mattered. But, considering their massive share of the first-half play, and the fact that Hartlepool, for all their recent good run, looked a wholly unimpressive side, Exeter should have had this game sewn up long before.
The result, of course, was a football match which never rose above the mildly interesting. Exeter made all the running in the first-half, but there was not the essential spark to their approach work needed to light the fire of convincing victory.
While Hartlepool's contribution to the match was confined to a short second-half spell when it looked as if they might just grab one, and pull off a little footballing larceny as far as justice was concerned.
Exeter's trouble lay in the fact that they did not produce soccer of any power. They did not carve big gaps in a Hartlepool defence that scarcely looked impregnable. They ran, and they worked, but, their toil was largely in vain.
And the moments when they did look like getting one, the talented Hillyard produced some quite splendid saves.
So having failed to reap the harvest of their first-half command, Exeter went into the second half to receive a few early surprises. Where Hartlepool had pre- viously looked quite ineffective as an attacking combination, they suddenly produced a few quite spritely raids.
Alan Banks had to go tearing back into defence and clear a threatening cross from Neil Warnock off the line, and minutes later a rasping drive from Bobby
Veart was uncomfortably close as it streaked inches past the post.
But finally Exeter got the goal, which gave them both points, and purely on the basis of who had most of the play, and which side had looked more like scoring, it was a win Exeter deserved. But that the victory could and should have been more convincing, is indisputable.
For the first 15 minutes or so the game produced little in the way of quality football and even less in the form of excitement. Graham Parker tried to break the deadlock by coming through and trying a shot, but it was a shot in isolation.
Hillyard showed what he was made of when Exeter were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Parker pushed a short pass to Gibson, and his drive was full of power and beautifully accurate, but Hillyard produced a spectacular save.
Then he pounced on a neat flick by John Neale, playing his second professional game for Exeter, and followed this up with a a magnificent diving save to a header from Joe Gadston that looked destined to go in.
On top of this ex-Torquay man George Potter had to kick a shot from Tony Morrin off the line. Exeter's biggest enemy was the clock, but in the 80th minute they got a corner. Morrin took the kick and Neale flicked it on for Banks to crash into the net from close range.