Match 18
28 October 2003.
FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay.
Gravesend and Northfleet.


Gravesend 3
Moore, 70, Abbey, 82, Haworth, 101

Exeter City 3
Lee, 7, Devine, 86, 104



Tuesday 23 October 2003.

FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay.
  • 2-2 at full time,
  • 3-3 after extra time (AET)
  • Gravesend won 6-5 on penalties.

Referee: R Desmond

Attendance 1227

BRAVE Exeter City crashed out of the FA Cup last night after losing a dramatic penalty shootout on a night of high drama at Stonebridge Road. The Grecians can hold their heads high after playing their part in an epic encounter that finished 3-3 at the end of extra-time. Neither side deserved to bow out of the world's greatest domestic competition, but in the end Gravesend sealed their passage into the first round after edging the shootout 6-5. After scoring their first four spot kicks, rookie keeper Martin Rice pulled off a great save to deny Gravesend skipper Steve McKimm and put the Grecians firmly in the driving seat. But Steve Flack-with a chance to grab glory and book Exeter's ticket into the first round-lost his cool and ballooned his effort over the bar to send the shootout into sudden death. French defender Alex Jeannin was the next City player to endure the agony after watching his spot kick smash against the base of the post before home defender Chris Moore succumbed to the pressure, skewing his attempt high and wide of Martin Rice's goal. It was nail-biting stuff with both sets of fans gripped by the unbearable tension. Some could hardly watch. Scott Hiley then had his effort tipped acrobatically around the post by Gravesend keeper Paul Wilkerson and then Rob Owen finally settled the match with a penalty that Rice tipped onto the inside of the post, but the ball nestled into the net to spark wild celebrations among the home supporters. Heads bowed, City players and manage ment were visibly shattered as they made their way to the dressing rooms contemplating what could have been. However dejected they may feel, not a single soul among the 1,227 crowd packed into Stonebridge Road could deny that both sides had played their part in a magnificent cup dogfight.

But how City will rue a golden opportunity at the end of extra time when Sean Devine raced clear only to see this shot cannon off the legs of Wilkerson. In the end, though, it just wasn't to be for the Grecians who created a bucket load of chances to wrap up the tie and will now have to wait until next season before another stab at FA Cup glory

Exeter made just one change from the side that took part in Saturday's stultifying stale- mate against the Kent part-timers. Kwame Ampadu replaced youngster Sean Canham who came under fire from home supporters after a patchy performance at the weekend. The surprise switch paved the way for flame-haired wideman Gareth Sheldon to partner Steve Flack up front with Devine having to settle for a place on the bench having been hit with a stomach virus. And City began the match at a high-tempo with McConnell breaking down the right befoe flighting a deep cross that was headed back across goal by Gareth Sheldon only for skipper Glenn Cronin to plant a header right at Wilkerson. It was a sign of things to come and the Grecians carved out another golden opportunity just moments later when Sheldon let fly with a fierce header that was acacrobatically tipped over by Wilkerson. However, City's sensational start did not go unrewarded when Dwane Lee powered into the box following a Sheldon corner before firing a shot through a sea of legs that nestled into the corner of the net. Once again the Grecians were playing their most enterprising football away from home, defending with gusto and breaking foward with real vigour and purpose. But they were sent a timely reminder that the task would be far from a breeze when one time City transfer target Ben Abbey leashed a raping drive that narrowly cleared the bar before Hiley made a superb onlline clearance to deny Gravesend's lead-goalscorer Rob Haworth. The end-to-end epic was a far cry from the unspectacular performance served up at St Jame's Park on Saturday when both sides were locked in a dull stalemate. The Grecians began the second-half in buoyant mood and Flack might have doubled the advantage with a header from six yards out that flew into the grateful arms of Wilkerson. The enthralling encounter was swinging like a pendulum with the home side grabbing the bull by the horns in search of an equaliser that almost arrived when Abbey stabbed a shot just wide of the post. The pressure was unrelenting and Ben Walshe was the next to try his luck with a fierce drive that Rice was able to match in the City goal. Robert Owen spurned a gilt-edged chance, blasting wide after skipping past Alex Jeannin and then Abbey tested Rice with a deflected shot that the 17-year-old smothered. It was backs to the wall stuff with City bodies flying in everywhere in a desperate bid to repel the danger. But having weathered the storm which threatened to blow the tie wide open, City then showed lightening pace to break away but Sheldon was thwarted by a reflex save from Wilkerson. The home side snatched their deserved equaliser when Owen drilled a cross which Chris Moore met with a ferocious header that arrowed past Rice. And the home side could then have edged in front when McK imm powered down the centre before smashing a shot over Sean Devine then entered the fray and immediately won a corner which was duly despatched by Jeannin and Santos Gaia arrived from the back to plant a crisp header against the foot of the post. With just eight minutes remaining City were hit by the sucker punch as Andy Drury came off the bench to lash a low shot which Rice could only parry and Abbey pounced to steer home the rebound. However, just when it looked as though they were heading out the tournament, Devine raced clear and lifted a shot over the advancing Wilkerson that took an age to finally loop into the net to force the tie into extra time. 

The extra period continued at a ferocious pace before the home side nudged in front again when Haworth stole a yard on Gaia and, with Rice rooted to his line, smashed a shot into the bottom corner With the first period drawing to a close, back came Exeter once again. McConnell picked out Devine, who rifled home a deft half volley to restore parity once again. The tie was poised precariously on a knife-edge with City showing their extra fitness against the Kent part-timers in the closing stages. Devine could have racked up his hat-trick and in turn seal the match, however his fierce low drive was blocked by Wilkerson shortly before the referee signalled the onset of those tortuous spot kicks.

Starting line-up:
Paul Wilkerson, Justin Skinner, Francis Duku, Chris Moore, Matt Lee, Robert Owen, Steve Perkins, Steve McKimm, Ben Walshe, Ben Abbey, Rob Haworth.
Alex O'Reilly, James Pinnock (for Walshe, 109), Adrian Pennock, Andy Drury (Perkins, 81), Pat Gradley.

Exeter City
Starting line-up:
Martin Rice, Alex Jeannin, Chris Todd, Santos Gaia, Scott Hilley, Barry McConnell, Glenn Cronin, Dwane Lee, Kwame Ampadu, Gareth Sheldon, Steve Flack

James Bittner, Sean Devine (for Ampadu, 74), Dean Moxey, Sean Canham, Andy Taylor (for Lee, 105).



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