12th November 1980
Oxford United (h)
RUGBY TOUCH GIVES LEE THE DROP ON REF
Report By GRAHAM BAKER
Exeter 1, Oxford Utd 1
LEE ROBERTS escaped the craziest sending-off of the season at St. James Park. Exeter defender Roberts, who had already been booked, suddenly picked up the ball, ran a few yards and dropped a goal in the best rugby style. He should have got the red card but referee Brian Stevens treated the hilarious incident leniently, with a lecture.
Skipper John Delve fired Exeter ahead following an indirect free kick in the area after eight minutes. Oxford equalised after 47 minutes with a brilliant rising shot by Peter Foley- his first League goal of the season.
Match Report 2
It is all a question of confidence - at least that is how manager Brian Godfrey summed up his team's problems after Exeter City had dropped yet another home point in last night's 1-1 draw against Oxford. Godfrey's after-match assessment was probably just about right, but as is so often the case, it is a relatively simple task to diagnose the trouble and a far harder one to prescribe the correct treatment.
Last night Godfrey experimented with a fairly minor injection of new blood, but there are those who feel that major surgery is the only answer. Others might argue that it is better to just soldier on in the hope that City's feeling for football will return of its own accord. But the truth is that there is really only one miracle cure for an acute lack of self confidence and strangely - enough it was there for all to see at St. James's Park last night. John Delve, who like many of his team mates has been going through something of a bad patch, was suddenly transformed into the player of old by the sort of tonic which every manager wishes he could have on prescription. It is known as a goal and the one which Delve scored after only eight minutes of last night's match was enough to restore all the sparkle that has been missing from his game of late. Suddenly we began to see those contrasting qualities of the brick wall tackle and the delicate pass which have made him such a fine player. It was a pity that two of is colleagues in midfield, Ian Pearson and Dick Forbes, were not able to take advantage of a similar cure. Both were given ideal opportunities to take the treatment, but somehow they managed to miss out. Had Forbes's 36th minute shot not been brilliantly saved by Roy Burton or Pearson's 78th minute drive not hit the bar, then City might just have shaken off their under-the-weather home form with a good dose of self-administered as a medicine. Although the two midfield men were guilty of missing the best chances of the game, it would be wrong to attach too much blame to them for the failure to win. Lack of confidence is after all a contagious disease which so often tends to spread throughout the team. Earlier in the season, there is little doubt that Exeter would have comfortably brushed aside the challenge that Oxford presented. But after a run of three successive home defeats, not even the welcome boost of Delve's early goal could put them back on the right road. The goal came out of the blue. Burton was penalised for taking too many steps and when Peter Hatch's initial shot from the free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall, Delve was there to pounce on the rebound and crash the ball into the top corner. Oxford fought back well after that early set-back and they might easily have equalised in the 19th minute when Len Bond was injured as he punched the ball clear. With the City goalkeeper lying on the ground, Paul Berry was able to turn the ball goalwards only for Phil Roberts to make a splendid clearance. City's slender lead never really looked like being enough, however, and within 90 seconds of the start of the second-half. Oxford equalised. From a free-kick, Billy Jeffrey touched the ball to Peter Foley who let fly with a tremendous 30-yard drive which flew into the top corner. Oxford's lively front runners, Joe Cooke and new signing Keith Cassells, proved to be quite a handful for the City defence in the second-half and Bond was called upon to make a string of fine saves. The best of them came from a 68th minute Cooke header, which he somehow managed to palm on to the crossbar. The call up of central defender Lee Roberts for his first full game of the season, did little to strengthen the defence, but as Godfrey said afterwards he will need time to adjust to playing first team football again. In fact it was not the happiest of nights for Roberts. He was booked after a first-half flare-up with Cooke and might technically have been sent off after one splendid piece of second-half showmanship. After handling in the Oxford penalty area, Roberts suddenly picked the ball up, carried it forward a pace or two, and then struck it in the back of the net with a sweetly struck shot. It amused the crowd, but brought a stern lecture from referee Brian Stevens, who had earlier booked Martyn Rogers and Oxford's Cooke and Jeffrey as well as Roberts.
- The crowd of 3,241 was City's lowest of the season.