10th September 1989
Halifax T (Home)
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
Withey makes dream return after injury.
Exeter City 4
Withey (2), Neville, Rowbotham
Halifax Town 1
Match Report by Trina Lake
TERRY COOPER promised entertainment at St James's Park while he is manager of Exeter City and that's exactly what the supporters were treated to against Halifax on Saturday. After one false start against Wrexham and a battle with Bristol City, his side turned on the magic to blast Halifax into oblivion. City were a joy to watch as they attacked with confident fluency and pace that brought a four-goal reward. Darran Rowbotham's fine ndividual strike was arguably he best of them and Steve Neville got his second of the season but the man who set City on their way wasn't even supposed to be in the team. Striker Graham Withey turned up at 2 pm on Saturday expecting to be substitute but when skipper Keith Viney was ruled out with a serious eye infection, Cooper decided to gamble on playing the big target man. Withey, with less than a week's full training behind him after a month out because of a knee injury, responded to the crisis call in impressive
fashion by scoring City's first and third goals.
His overall contribution to the game in unsettling Hali- fax's big three central de- fenders was equally important to City's success however. "I'm pleased with the result more than my personal contribution. At least we've proved that it isn't going to be the same old story here this season. At last we looked a good side," he said. Withey did well to last a full 90 minutes but City needed his considerable physical presence to keep their attack bal- anced and counter the threat of men like John Bramhall, Alan Whitehead and Phil Horner at set pieces. He showed what a handful he can be with the game less than two minutes old, rising to nod a Rowbotham cross back at the far post for acting captain Paul Batty to blast a shot over the bar. That first attack highlighted the reasons for City's success in recording their first win and picking up their only ponts of the season so far. The cross was well delivered giving the forward some hope of a telling connection, with good support from midfield to round it all off. Batty and Richard Cooper were outstanding in control- ling midfield as they ran and tackled tirelessly. City used their wingers well to stretch Halifax at every opportunity and although there were a few shaky moments at back, goal- keeper Mel Gwinnett was in good form thwart the Yorkshire side. He saved well from Terry McPhillips and produce an excellent reflex stop to deny Whitehead before City took a deserved lead. Former Irish international 'keeper Paddy Roche had already made two fine blocks and watched an impressive 20 yarder from Withey sail narrowly wide before the deadlock was broken after 35 minutes. Scott Hiley crossed from the right, Rowbotham turned the ball low across the face of the goal and Withey charged in to force it over the line from close range. That goal on Withey's league debut for City divided the teams at half-time although chances went begging at both ends before the break.
There was an equally lively start to the second half and it was City, full of ideas and en- thusiasm, who again showed the greater killer instinct. Goal No 2 came in the 54th minute from Neville, who be- fore Saturday had been City's only scorer in four games and that from the penalty spot. Steve Harrower, slotting in at left-back in place of Viney, hit a long ball in from the left wing, Hiley knocked it back across the area and there was Neville to stab home his shot. City were by now in full cry and four minutes later Withey headed the third from Hiley's corner. Halifax then enjoyed their best spell of the game, McPhillips should have pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute but muffed his shot with the goal at his mercy, Billy Barr hit the sidenetting, Batty made one desperate clearance from Wayne Allison and Gwinnett reacted brilliantly to foil Liburd Henry. The pressure finally paid off when Whitehead. burst forward to meet a McPhillips cross from the left with a header that gave Gwinnett no chance in the 70th minute. But City responded with more of the open, attacking football that looks like being their trademark under Cooper. They restored their three goal advantage in the 75th minute when the revitalised Rowbotham, beginning show his true potential, picked to up a loose ball on the edge of the area, turned neatly and curled a left foot shot past Roche and into the far corner of the net. The crowd, disappointingly low at 1,725, were certainly getting their money's worth and responded appreciatively to the way City were prepared to play their way out of trouble and go forward in numbers "If they didn't enjoy that I don't know what they would enjoy," said Cooper. "It's our job now to keep that up and bring the missing thousands back through the turnstiles. It's nice to get the first win under our belts. The goals came easily we got it out to the wide men and they did the business. "I'm pleased for the players because they had a tremen- dous pre-season and the spirit is very good. The results in the first two league games were probably my fault. I wanted them to play football and possibly didn't concentrate enough on aggression but they've found that now and we can go on from here,he added. "
Exeter City: Gwinnett, Banks, Withey, Rogers, Taylor, Cooper, Rowbotham, Hiley, Batty, Harrower. Subs (not used): Small, Harris.
Halifax Town: Roche, Barr, Logan (Watson 55), Matthews, Bramhall, Whitehead, Martin (Henry 45), Horner, McPhillips, Allison, Richardson.