Match 38
21st February 1986
Cambridge United (h)

Exeter 0-0 Cambridge United

THE SAD statistics from Exeter City's goal-less draw at home to fellow Fourth Division strug- glers Cambridge United last night tell their own sorry story. No City goals for the seventh competitive game in a row. Another two points dropped rather than one gained. The lowest ever crowd for a league game at St James's Park. Only 1,369 hardy souls were there in freezing weather to witness another deflating result that keeps City in the shadow of the re-election zone. The humiliating figures hide the hard work city put in to end their pitiful sequence of results. They deserved to beat Cambridge on balance of play, but, if it's not overstating the obvious, nobody is currently capable of sticking the ball in the back of the net. And for all their positive approach play and persistence in getting the ball into the penalty area a lot earlier, City still forced less than a handful of saves out of goal- keeper Roger Hansbury. Apart from a shaky spell midway through the first half and the odd second half Cambridge break, City were in the driving seat. The busy midfield and confident defence never let the opposition settle on the tricky surface. Darren Gale increased his workrate up front but there was no chemistry between him and new striker Warren Ward. Ward, making his competitive debut on loan from Lincoln City, showed little appetite for the job of revising City's goal shy attack. With his lack of aggression and City's general impotence in front of goal, perhaps it's not so surprising that they failed to break their duck. The long wait for that precious goal seemed to be over in the second minute last night when when Ward glanced home a Gale cross, but the ecstasy soon turned to agony when the header was disallowed for offside. The disappointment didn't knock City out of their stride they kept Cambridge under pressure but always found Hansbury well positioned or defenders back in numbers to snuff out the danger. Nick Marker, Gary Jackson, and Ward were all denied and Gale and Martin Ling wanted to walk the ball over the line from another good opening as City struggled for a break. Cambridge came came back strongly to give City's de- fence a thorough examination and they almost had a goal gift-wrapped in the 29th minute. Aidan McCaffery made the initial mistake by letting Steve Massey in with a suicidal back pass then Jackson compounded the error by turning the cross on to his own post.
Thankfully for City, Cambridge were equally ineffective up front, although Dave Crown showed some classy touches, and the blunder went unpunished. In the second half it was
nearly all one way traffic with City throwing men forward relentlessly in pursuit of a golden goal. The industrious duo of Jackson and Danny Keough probed ceaselessly, Steve Harrower and Martin Ling raided persistently down the flanks and Gale tried repeatedly to bludgeon his way through but to no avail. They ended up trying too hard and at times left themselves a little exposed at the back. There was always a threat that Cambridge might snatch a goal on the break and sink City to their sixth successive defeat. That didn't happen so City have the consolation of a point but nobody drew too much encouragement from the small crumb of comfort on another bleak night in the club's recent troubled history.

Exeter City: Shaw, Harrower, Viney, NcNichol, McCaffery, Marker, Ling, Jackson, Ward, Keough, Gale. Sub: Crawford.

Cambridge United: Hansbury, Clark, Bennett, Fallon, Dow- man, Beattie, Butler, Spriggs, Crown, Massey, Comfort. Sub: Lockhart.

Attendance: 1,369.

Improve or I quit- Appleton 

EXETER CITY manager Colin Appleton is prepared to quit if the club's dreadful run of bad results doesn't end soon.

There is no prospect of him getting the sack through City's poor showing in the Fourth Division but he admitted this week he has given serious thought to his future at St James's Park. "I've been in the game for 32 years and I've battled with harder situations. But I wouldn't want this to go on for too long. I don't intend becoming an embarrassment," he said. "There's a saying in football that if you can't change the players, change the manager," he addedAppleton doesn't have much scope for changing players at this stage of the season and made it clear: "I'm not happy to let things tick over and wait for the season to end. We've needed to progress since Christmas but we've gone backwards." Last night's disappointing draw at home to Cambridge United - the seventh game without a goal and the eighth since a win-will have made him take another cold, hard look at the situation. And with two tough away games next week, at Stockport County on Monday and Tranmere Rovers on Friday his predicament could conceivably worsen. Appleton has made his feelings clear to chairman Ivor Doble who has repeatedly assured the manager of the board's complete confidence in him. I believe he has even been offered a contract as a sign of the respect City's directors have for all his ability and their faith that he can build a successful side. But Appleton does not want a contract. The only time he has worked with one was at Swansea City and it did him no good. He was sacked there after just a few months in charge. "Contracts aren't worth the paper they are written on," he said. It is unfair for Appleton to shoulder all responsibility for City's dismal league achievement this season. Like Gerry Francis, Jim Iley, and briefly John Hore before him, he inherited the majority of the club's professional squad and has not had too much leeway to create his ideal team. The board recognise that and, keen to establish stability within the club after such turbulent years, are more than prepared to give Appleton an extended chance to prove himself beyond this season. But Appleton, who took over at St James's Park last sum- mer, may not be so patient. "People have to realise that things aren't up to my stan- dards. There are some very encouraging things going on at the club but I'm about footall and results and the situation we are in now can't go on for much longer," he said. Appleton and his wife are well settled in the area so it is not a question of him being eager to get away from Devon and back to his native Yorkshire. Nor is he simply backing away from a challenge. But he admits: "Job satisfaction is more important to me than anything.'" And he must be hard pressed to derive any satisfaction from the present playing circumstances.



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