7th September 1991
Deadlock is poor reward for fast-raiding Trevitt and tenacious Barnett
Superb Miller denies slow-starting Town.
HEFTY goalkeeper Kevin Miller did a fair impression of Superman to keep eager Town at bay in a ferocious late assault.
Flying to the rescue of his panic- stricken defence, the man who returned after suspension to let in six at Shrewsbury bounced back to form with a vengeance and compounded Town's frustrations at a sun-drenched Leeds Road. The ball simply wasn't going to go in the net for Eoin Hand's side, although they failed to find their true form until the final 15 minutes when they poured into attack.
Five times, Miller produced breathtaking saves as Town stretched a flagging Exeter defence, weakened further by the 88th-minute dismissal of skipper Steve O'Shaughnessy for a second bookable offence. The best chance was fashioned by skipper Peter Jackson and the admirable Kieran O'Regan for the ever-tenacious Gary Barnett, but he couldn't beat Miller's smother- ing save from just outside the six-yard box. Had that gone in-if Town had made a breakthrough at any stage, in fact they would probably have run riot and Exeter's delight at the final whistle was shown by manager Alan Ball, who embraced each player as they left the field.
It was the first time Town had failed to score in a Leeds Road game this season, but they've still to concede a goal on home soil and there were a number of encouraging factors despite the result. One was the form of right-back Simon Trevitt, who looked very much like his old self with some dangerous raiding down the left flank. Trevitt linked well with Gary Barnett, whose crossing deserved an end product, and then with substitute Kevin Donovan, who impressed with a lively display after replacing luckless injury victim Iffy Onuora six minutes into the second half. The result was that Town laid siege to Exeter's goal in the later stages, when superior fitness told and Kieran O'Regan was at his most dangerous, and Barnett, Donovan, O'Regan, Graham Mitchell and Chris Marsden in succession must have wondered what they had to do to beat the superb Miller. There were loud appeals for a penalty, too, as big Iwan Roberts appeared to be pushed over at a corner, but referee Ken Lupton took no notice as a scramble ensued at the back post. At the other end, Town 'keeper Tim Clarke, apart from a couple of scares in the first half when he was late to react to crosses from Steve Williams, was a virtual spectator behind rock-solid centre- backs Jackson and Mitchell. And the only mystery was that Town took so long to get into their stride against a Devon outfit who played a safety-first type of away game, hustled in midfield where O'Regan and Marsden had to battle for supremacy, and closed Town down up front, where Phil Starbuck had his least effective game so far. It showed, because Town failed to take advantage of a number of useful flicks from Roberts, who benefited by crosses from the left where Barnett and Simon Charlton (again on top of his form) proved a threatening partnership. What a pity Town were so wasteful at times with their passing and the final ball in a dour first period, despite getting behind the Exeter defence on three clear occasions. Twice, Onuora made a hash of his cross with people queueing up in the middle while Starbuck failed to deliver a simple inside pass which would have left O'Regan with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Clarke, Trevitt, Charlton, Marsden, Mitchell, Jackson, O'Regan, Onuora (Donovan 51 mins), Roberts, Starbuck, Barnett.
Sub not used: Wright.
Miller, Hiley, Brown, Williams, Daniels, O'Shaughnessy, Rowbotham (Marshall 63 mins), Wimbleton, Moran, Kelly, Chapman.
Sub not used: Redwood.
Ken Lupton (Stock- ton-on-Tees).
O'Shaughnessy (Exeter) two cautions.
It wasn't that Town were that poor, just that they didn't hit the heights of fluency shown against Chester until that frenetic closing spell when Exeter were on the rack. Town's fans, while frustrated, appreciated the non-stop effort and had they been able to will the ball into the net Town would have won by five. As it was, they had to settle for a point which keeps them in third position and Town will hope that Miller is either out of contention or suspended again by the time they visit St James's Park in April!