21st March 1992
Stoke C (a)
Ball boys take the chop!
Win gives six appeal to the City slickers
STOKE 5, EXETER 2
Match report By lan Bayley
FORMER Stoke boss Alan Ball buried the hatchet with the fans on his return to the Victoria Ground, but only after his Exeter team were chopped down to size! Rampant City blasted in five goals for the first time this season as their promotion charge continues to build up steam. For Ball it was another uncomfortable afternoon in the Potteries, where his managerial reign ended in failure thirteen months ago. But at least he enjoyed a generous send-off afterwards from City supporters, who gave him a cheer and a wave as the Grecians' team coach set off for the long haul back to the South West. Not that the previous 90 minutes had been as friendly, with Exeter swamped by a tide of attacking Stoke could have rattled up an even higher tally had they taken more of their chances, while a couple of giveaway goals at least allowed the visitors to salvage some respect. It was enough, though, to keep manager Lou Macari happy as his side stretched their lead at the top of Division Three to six points. "We've done our goal difference a power of good, which is useful because issues at the end of the season may yet rest on that factor," said Macari. "The most pleasing thing was the way we boun- ced back after two bad home defeats. "It was really one of those days when most things went right for us. We have played better before without getting the breaks, and that's when we tend to panic. "But this time we went forward and were rewarded with goals. We were never in danger of getting any- thing less than the three points." There were the usual scorers, with strikers Wayne Biggins and Mark Stein helping themselves to first-half goals, along with Carl Beeston.
After the break, substitute Ashley Grimes netted his first for the club, while Tim Steele signed off at the end of his month's loan from Wolves by netting an injury time fifth with what could prove to be his last kick for Stoke Exeter defence, struggling to cope with pressure simply because their opponents were fitter and more mobile, always looked vulnerable.
Said Ball: "It was the worst we have defended for a long, long time. Players were caught out of position and we simply could not handle Biggins and Stein, who were superb."
Biggins opened the scoring after 15 minutes when he rose on the near post to head home Steele's excellent cross from four yards. Eighteen minutes late- Stein raced on to a long clearance from Steve Foley and outpaced his two mark- ers before firing past Kevin Miller from 12 yards. Four minutes before the break Miller parried away a 30-yard Biggins rocket and man-of-the-match Carl Beeston trundled home the rebound. Biggins turned provider twice more in the second- half, supplying the low crosses for Grimes, 62 minutes, and then Steele to sidefoot home from close range. Stein missed a couple of chances easier than the one he took to claim a hat-trick, and amid the welter of Stoke attacks it was easy to paper over the defensive cracks which appeared to hand the visitors their two goals. A question mark had already been raised over slack marking when lan Thompstone headed in Steve Williams' 13th minute free kick, but the effort was disallowed for offside. There was no such reprieve, though, after 44 minutes when defender Peter Whiston ran beyond a static back four before firing through the arms of Kevin Pressman. The Grecians' second goal, which faintly revived their hopes after 71 minutes, was also a shocker for Stoke, with skipper Vince Overson uncharacteristically failing to deal with the threat posed by Vince Hilaire's through pass. Overson's attempt to turn the ball back to Pressman was a poor effort, though he appeared to be tripped by Thompstone, who then forced his way by to prod his shot past the 'keeper. The absence of the sus- pended David Kevan was covered initially by Paul Ware, though he was with- drawn at half-time and replaced by Grimes, with City re-shuffling their defence. Said Macari: "Paul was not having the best of games. He seemed to be rooted to the spot most of the time and complained of feeling ill. So we thought it best to pull him off."
Pressman, Foley, Butler, Ware (Grimes, 53). Overson, Sandford (Barnes, 88), Cranson, Beeston, Stein, Biggins, Steele.
Miller, Brown, Cook, Williams (Cooper, 71). Daniels, Whiston, Thompstone, Wimbleton, Morris (Marshall, 45), Kelly, Hilaire.
Referee: Mr V Callow, Solihull.
Stoke 12, Exeter 6.
Stoke 7, Exeter 2.
Stoke - Biggins (45, dissent).
Exeter- Williams (45, ungentlemanly conduct).