3rd December 1988
Colchester U (h)
SCOUTS SEE CITY HOME IN ON TOP ZONE.
Exeter City 4
Taylor, Neville, Hiley, Rowbotham
Colchester Utd 2
Report by Trina Lake
EXETER CITY crept back to within three points of the Fourth Division play-off zone again on Saturday by inflicting bottom club Colchester's sixth away defeat of the season. There are no clear favourites in this season's promotion race and as the half way stage in this close fought campaign approaches, City are still well placed to launch an assault on the top. Saturday's four goal blast lifted them to 14th in the table but just as importantly in manager Terry Cooper's view, opened an 11 point gap between City and 92nd spot in the Football League. "In our situation you have to keep one eye on the bottom. It was important that we didn't get beaten today. I was a bit worried before the game with the team I had out and considering that, it was a good performance to win 4-2 and play some good stuff at times," said the City boss. The game had one casualty however. Midfield man Mark Jones was carried off in the 39th minute after aggravating a groin strain and will miss tomorrow's Sherpa Van Trophy trip to Bristol City. That leaves City with just nine fit outfield professionals and two goalkeepers so their squad will once again have to be bolstered by raw YTS players. Perhaps last week wasn't the best time to agree to former club skipper Keith Viney's request for a release from his contract. But if any of the trainees thrown in at the deep end acquit themselves as well as Chris Vinnicombe did against Colchester, Cooper will have no room for complaint. The talented teenager, in his second year as a City apprentice, had an impressive game on the left wing and was desperately unlucky not to cap a fine performance with a goal. "I was delighted for him," said Cooper. "It'll be 18 months before we see the best of him but he was smashing today." The manager was also pleased with goalkeeper Dave Walter's showing on his Football League debut. The big man from North Devon had a few uncomfortable moments at corners but boosted his and the team's confidence with some superb reflex saves and confident claims under pressure. He wasn't offered the best protection at times as City's defence went through some shakey spells but acting skipper Shaun Taylor's determination kept them together. He did his First Division ambitions no harm at all and another such commanding display at Bristol tomorrow will surely persuade watching Norwich manager Dave Stringer that he is worth the £300,000 City are asking. There were several clubs represented at St James's Park on Saturday with scouts from Stoke, Crystal Palace, Leyton Orient, both Bristol clubs and Watford present and an uncomfirmed report that Manchester United had also sent somebody along. Taylor made them sit up and take notice with the first goal of a surprisingly lack lustre game after 18 minutes. As heavy rain darkened the December goalkeeper skies, Colchester Mark Combe failed to connect with City's first corner from Scott Hiley and the ball dropped invitingly to Taylor who drove it home left footed for his fourth goal of the season. Colchester were soon level. Walter made an excellent save low to his left from Kevin Bedford's deflected long range shot but was left helpless as Mario Walsh flicked the corner on for veteran Dave Swindlehurst to score at the far post. Steve Neville soon wiped out that 25th minute equaliser on the half hour. Rowbotham clipped a delightful ball over the defence, Neville took it in his stride and supplied a neat right foot finish to take his goal tally to seven. City had to reshuffle when Jones went off. Hiley slotted into midfield alongside the dynamic Richard Cooper and substitute Jamie Harris operated on the right wing. Their balance slightly disrupted in the run up to half time, City came under heavy pressure from Colchester and Walter had to make more good stops to deny Colin Hill and Walsh. The result should have been beyond all reasonable doubt when Neville, Harris and finally Vinnicombe combined to set up City's third goal for Hiley with a
sweeping move across the face o the Colchester penalty area in the 53rd minute. Vinnicombe and Rowbotham also sent useful efforts over the bar and Vinnicombe had three shots cleared off the line in as many seconds before Colchester began to claw their way back. A mistimed tackle from Cooper put the ball straight into Walsh's path and his cross was tucked away by the unmarked Dale Tempest to make it 3-2. Only then did the match really come to life when it looked as if City would throw away the points with some sloppy defending that presented Colchester with three chances to equalise that were happily wasted. Rowbotham finally settled it two minutes from time as a Vinnicombe through ball bounced off a defender's back and fell kindly for City's top scorer who confidently beat the advancing Combe for his ninth goal of the season.
Exeter City: Walter, Banks, Jones (Harris 39), Rogers, Taylor, Cooper, Rowbotham, Hiley, Vinnicombe, Neville, Harrower. Sub: (not used) Hawkins.
Colchester United: Combe, Hill, Bedford, Kelly, Hicks, Daniels, Hedman, Chatterton (Hetzke 58) Swindlehurst, Walsh, Radford (Tempest 58 min)