18th March 1981
Exeter City 2-2 Rotherham United
Report By Martyn Dean
JOHN DELVE was probably the happiest man in Exeter last night. Not only did he score the spectacular winning goal in Exeter City's 2-1 win over Rotherham, but he was also able to breathe a huge sigh of relief after one of the most worrying weeks of his life. For only hours before last night's kick-off, Delve learned that his wife Carole had successfully come through a serious operation. Mrs. Delve was admitted to hospital at the weekend and underwent surgery on Tuesday, but typically the City skipper decided to keep quiet about the whole affair and get on with the job in hand. "It has obviously been quite a worrying time," he admitted after last night's match. "But everything seems to have turned out fine now. "Carole has come through the operation all right I am just hoping that she does not split herself open again when she hears about my goal!" Delve was delighted and perhaps even a little sur- prised by the tremendous 30-yard drive he produced in the second half to round off a perfect day and ensure that City picked up both points. "I normally try to place them from that distance, but this time I just hit it," he joked. "Ok It usually takes me two kicks to get it that far!" City's other goalscorer, John Sparrow was also in jocular mood after scoring his first goal for the club since his £10,000 transfer from Chelsea. "I am pretty deadly from four yards out," he said.
Indeed, the entire City camp had every reason to be happy after last night's per- formance. It was by no means a classic match, but City passed what was always going to be a searching examination of their character with flying colours. Despite last night's set-back, Rotherham still looked to be a good enough side to mount a determined challenge for promotion, but as manager Brian Godfrey pointed out afterwards, the maddening thing is that City are not up there with them. Godfrey saw another of the favourites, Huddersfield, in action at Plymouth on Tuesday night and is now even more convinced that his team could hold their own with the best teams in the division. "It is sickening," he said. "We should be up there challenging. We are as good a team as Rotherham or Huddersfield." The reason that City are no longer realistically in the promotion hunt can probably be put down to the sort of lapse in concentration that cost them a goal last night. Dick Forbes gave away a needless corner on the stroke of half-time and from it Rotherham struck what might easily have been a killer blow. Tony Towner swung in a fine cross which Paul Stancliffe met with a powerful downward header. It looked as if the ball might have gone into the net unaided, but afterwards the big central defender was the first to admit that Ronnie Moore had applied the final touch. It was Moore's 20th goal of the season and on the evidence of last night's performance it is easy to see why he has been so successful. He and the quicksilver Towner combined to set City plenty of problems. The goal came at the worst possible time for City, who had started the game so well with Phil Roberts having a shot deflected against the bar after only six minutes. To their credit, they came bouncing back to stage a magnificent second half recovery. Sparrow, who had probably his best game for City so far, set them on the road to revival seven minutes after the interval. Peter Hatch curled in one of his wicked inswinging corners which goalkeeper Ray Mountford failed to hold and the ball fell per- fectly for Sparrow to force it over the line. Hatch, who was presented with a trophy and a cheque for £100 by a national newspaper before the game, also had a hand in City's second goal. He played a short free-kick to Delve and the City skipper did the rest with a blistering drive which went in off the post.