7th September 1988
Football League Cup 1st Round 2nd Leg
Bristol C (h)
GRITTY CITY LOSE OUT
Exeter City 0 Bristol City 1
Report by Trina Lake
EXETER CITY'S Interest in this season's Littlewoods Cup was killed off last night by the sweet left foot of Alan Walsh.His 84th-minute goal settled a fiercely com- petitive first round se- cond leg tie at St James's Park and sent Bristol through 2-0 on aggregate. But not before City had put up two creditable performances against a side so nearly promoted to the Second Division last season. There was no faulting the commitment of Terry Cooper's new team against his old one, but injury-hit City's lack of fire power meant they were always going to struggle to pull back from that contro- versial first leg penalty that separated the sides at Ashton Gate. They used Darran Rowbotham as a makeshift striker alongside Steve Neville in the absence of Tommy Langley, Graham Withey and Jamie Harris but the partnership was kept well in check by Bristol's five-man defence. The one pleasing thing to come out of last night's rough and tumble contest for Cooper was the extra grit and determination his side showed. At least had we had some aggression at last but it's no good doing it against Bristol City if we let it drop on Satur- day against Halifax. If we can do it against Fourth Division sides we'll start picking up results. "I don't want Exeter City to be known as a place where people think they can come and pick up popints willy nilly. It's got to be a hard place to come and play because we get stuck in," he said. The tackles were certainly flying in midfieldd last night as the game simmered throughout and threatened to boil over at times. Several brutal challenges went unpunished by Solihull referee Vic Callow but he did book the combative Steve Galliers and City's Scott Hiley for fouls and Carl Shutt and Rowbotham for dissent. Galliers executed one particularly nasty hatchet job on Paul Batty and it was with relief and delight that City fans cheered the little midfield man back to his feet again after treatment. Batty started his first competitive game for seven months after two cartilage operations on his right knee and came through the 90 minutes with flying colours. "The knee feels fine but my legs are pretty tired," he admitted afterwards. It is a tribute to the dedicated way he has gone about restoring himself to full fitness that he was able to last the pace in a typically busy midfield performance. His long-awaited comeback eases the pressure on Cooper to strengthen his engine room but the City boss is still beavering away, trying to wheel and deal in the transfer market and get his side better balanced. The lack of height in the team was exposed at times last night and it will certainly be a relief when Langley and Withey are fit again to beef up the attack. City could have been dead and buried after just five minutes of their second leg encounter when full-back Russell Bromage overlapped down the Bristol left and delivered a telling cross which Keith Viney eventually headed off his own goal-line. Crosses like these are just what Cooper has been dream- ing of from his own wide men but again last night the likes of Steve Harrower and Hiley picked out Bristol goalkeeper Keith Waugh more often than their own forwards. Neville and Rowbotham are lively up front without looking very dangerous and City's best chances of an uncompromising first half fell to Richard Cooper, who had a neat chip saved at full stretch by Waugh, and Shaun Taylor whose goalbound 21st minute diving header was deflected wide. The nippy Shutt was Bristol's biggest threat. Mel Gwinnett had to come racing out of his penalty area to deny him one chance and narrowed the angle enough to force the for- mer Sheffield Wednesday striker into shooting wide when a Chris Banks blunder let him in just before half- time. City's best scoring opportunities came in the second half. A neat exchange with Harrower set up Rowbotham for a fierce 15 yarder in the 64th minute but Waugh par- ried brilliantly then Neville and Batty combined to tee up a chance for Cooper from the edge of the penalty area on 71 minutes. He lost his cool and belted the ball high over the bar. There weren't many more clear cut openings for City while Bristol looked increasingly dangerous with full-backs Bromage and Andy Llewellyn bombing forward and substitute Ralph Milne giving the attack new impetus in place of injured player- manager Joe Jordan. Milne skilfully set up Bromage for an 83rd-minute strike against the crossbar and within a minute produced the perfectly weighted pass that allowed Walsh to score his decisive goal. Gwinnett may be disappointed at getting beaten from 25 yards by an angled shot across him but Walsh's pre- cision drive was worthy of settling the match.
Exeter City: Gwinnett, Banks, Viney, Rogers, Taylor, Cooper, Rowbotham, Hiley, Batty, Neville, Harrower. Subs (not used): Small Vinnicombe.
Bristol City: Waugh, Llewellyn, Bromage, Mardon, Pender, McClaren, Newman, Galliers, Shutt, Walsh, Jordan (Milne 70). Sub (not used): Horner.