26th December 1988
SUPER CITY ON THE UP
EXETER CITY 3
Cooper Taylor, Rowbotham
HEREFORD UNITED 1
Report by Trina Lake
EXETER CITY turned on the Yuletide style to leap five places up the Fourth Division table and into the play-off zone for the first time with a confident win over struggling Hereford United. Their impressive second half performance blew away the Christmas cobwebs on a breezy Boxing Day afternoon at St James's Park. Shaun Taylor's fifth goal of the season after 10 minutes set them on their way and an 18th minute equaliser from Phil Stant proved no more than a temporary setback. Top scorer Darran Rowbotham took his tally for the season to 11 in the 52nd minute and Richard Cooper fluked a third goal on the hour to reward an enterprising performance after the break. City are now poised to join the serious contenders for promotion from Division 4 if they can maintain their re- liable home form and keep improving on an admittedly poor away record that has brightened somewhat in recent weeks. They are just seven points off the top while Hereford slipped further towards the basement with their ninth league defeat. Yesterday's meeting was a bit of a midfield slog for much of the first half. The tackles certainly lacked seasonal goodwill in a highly competitive opening when City's debut midfielder Paul Roberts lived up to his hard man reputation. The healthy sized crowd warmed to his infectious determination and his secret weapon a terrific long throw, revealed to manager Terry Cooper only 10 minutes before kick off also served to cause moments of panic in the busy Hereford defence. City took the lead following a corner wrongly awarded by Bristol referee Bob Hamer when the ball clearly came off Hiley.Hereford failed to clear their lines and when increas- ingly confident left back Chris Vinnicombe slipped a pass through to Steve Neville, the experienced striker produced a superb turn to leave his mar- ker for dead and crossed invit- ingly for Taylor to slide the ball in from seven yards. Despite that early opener, City remained a little more tentative than of late and Hereford took advantage by levelling the scored through highly rated front man Stant who comfortably by-passed Lee Rogers with good close control to beat Dave Walter from 12 yards. Hereford had little else to offer for the rest of the game, especially with the wind against them in the second half. Before the interval there were missed City chances from Vinnicombe, Neville, Chris Banks, Roberts and Tommy Langley who worked extremely hard and used the ball intelligently throughout. But City were much more decisive after a half time talking to from Cooper and once on top, the familiar confidence and fluency returned as Hereford were penned back for long periods. With their defence solid and unyielding, City were able to build thoughtfully and the menace that had remained largely hidden early on finally materialised. Rowbotham, rather heavy legged as he struggled against the early stages of flu, restored City's lead as he timed his run well and flicked out a boot to turn home Hiley's cross and the goal that effectively wrap- ped up the points was a real heart breaker for Hereford. Cooper player not manager picked up the loose ball from a Banks surge into the box and decided on a 20-yard pot shot. His drive deflected off Richard Jones, looped over stranged goalkeeper Kevin Rose and into the empty net. Hereford's spirit was all but broken by that huge slice of luck and although Walter had to go down well at the feet of Steve Mardenborough and Stant and also gathered a Stant free kick comfortably, they never seriously threat- ened to knock City out of their stride towards the top. Steve Devine was perhaps a little fortunate not to get sent off for a cynical foul on Rowbotham as he burst clean through in the 85th minute. He escaped with a booking and Cooper finally joined him in the last minute after several cautionary words from the referee about his ultra com- petitive approach.
Exeter City: Walter, Banks, Roberts, Rogers, Taylor, Cooper, Rowbotham, Hiley, Vinnicombe, Neville, Langley. Subs Batty, J. Harris.
Hereford United: Rose, M. Jones, Crane (Stevens 57), Devine, Bradley, R. Jones, Mardenborough, Narbett (Benbow 57), Stant, Tester, McLoughlin.