19th December 1992
PENDER PLAYS SANTA TO DESPATCH LATE PRESENT.
Exeter City 2
Moran, Pender (og)
Report by Simon Mills
Only an injury time own goal by Burnley skipper John Pender saved Exeter from their third defeat in a row in a game marred by defensive calamity. There was plenty of second half effort on show from City, who created several chances for Steve Moran, loan signing Joe Gallen and Danny Bailey, but they had to wait until Bris- tol referee Steve Dunn had added on two minutes before Pender's early Christmas gift. A long Exeter clearance fell to Pender fully 30 yards out from goal, but under pressure from Eamonn Dolan he turned the ball back over the head of Marlon Beresford as the keeper raced out to intercept. No matter how much City fought back after gifting two first half goals to former Everton striker Adrian Heath, Burnley always had the edge in this rugged encounter. The ability of Heath who came out well on top in his personal battle with Kevin Bond abetted by the strong running of Steve Harper on the left, caused plenty of problems for the City defence. Bond and Scott Daniels who only paired up for the first time against Torquay 10 days ago - both looked short of pace and communication in the heart of the back four. At the same time full-backs Scott Hiley and Andy Cook were keen enough to press forward, but both turned in poor defensive performances on a wet surface that highlighted every slip-up. City fans will be keen to welcome suspended centre half Peter Whiston back into the side against Plymouth Argyle on Boxing Day: his enforced absence has seen City concede nine goals in the last three games. The game was only seven minutes old when Daniels and Bond hesitated and Heath had nipped in between them to calmly beat Miller from 10 yards. But City fought back as Steve Williams started to find John Hodge on the right hand side. Bailey also put in a lot of strong running in midfield and created City's first chance in the 11th minute as his cross was nodded back across goal by Daniels for Bond head over from 10 yards out. The momentum increased as City pressed forward and even- tually Williams picked out Hodge to start the move of the match after 27 minutes. The winger's cross swung across the six yard box, Tom Kelly turned the ball back to the near post and Moran glanced his header past Beres- ford into the corner of the net. All this good work was undone by Cook just two minutes before the break. The full back dithered on the ball and his eventual back pass was snapped up by Heath, accelerating into the box down the inside right channel, and he drib- bled round Miller to tuck away his second. That piece of good fortune inspired Burnley to come out with all guns blazing after half- time, with only good saves by Miller denying Harper and Conroy - both of whom completely eluded their markers. And Cook's frustration turned to anger after 60 minutes as he went into the referee's note book for pulling down Steve Penney. But, almost unnoticed, Alan Tonge replaced Williams in midfield and restarted Exeter's late surge with some crisp passing. Tonge created what seemed to be Exeter's final chance when he found Hodge on the right with only a minute remaining. The winger beat two defend- ers to find Moran who held the ball up for Bailey to drive high and wide from only 10 yards out. That, it seemed, was that, but then it was Burnley's turn to join in the defensive chaos much to the relief of the entire, beleagured City side.
Miller, Hiley, Cook, Williams, Daniels, Bond, Kelly, Bailey, Moran, Gallen. Subs: Dolan (for Gallen, 73 minutes), Tonge (for Williams, 73 minutes).
Burnley: Beresford; Measham, Jakub, Davis, Pender, Farrell, Penney (Monnington, 87 min- utes), Deary, Heath, Conroy, Harper, sub., Eli.
Referee: S. Dunn (Bristol)
Bookings: Cook (Exeter).