4 April 1994.
Cambridge United (h)
Exeter City 0 Cambridge United 5.
Easter Monday 4 April 1994.
by Ed Hogg at The Park
IT'S a measure of Exeter City's season that the team to inflict the most grievous dou- ble on the Grecians have got as much chance of promotion as Terry Cooper's men have of avoiding the drop. Despite their Steve Butler- inspired 5-0 St James's Park victory, Cambridge boss Gary Johnson was quick to concede that it was too little too late if his outfit were seriously hoping to return to Divi- sion 1 just one season after plunging from the Football League's top-flight. Tenth-placed Cambridge - with a six-point Easter maximum safely in the bag thanks to Butler's phenomenal eight-goal haul - are still nine points shy of the play-off frame. But they will hope City can stay up having also battered the then- Alan Ball led outfit 3-0 at the Abbey Stadium on December 29. That was possibly the turning point in a term that is - bar a major miracle going to see Exeter crashing back into Division 3 just four years after the glorious 1989/90 championship campaign. City went to Cambridge in a relatively comfortable 15th berth. But they have been on an unchecked slide since that night, when Butler was again among the goals, gathering a meagre 11 points from the subsequent 54 on offer. Cooper, despite his insistences to the contrary, has clearly written-off his chances of piloting City out of trouble. And who can blame him? Why else would he have allowed Nicky Morgan - his most-experienced outfield player to jump ship at the weekend when the offer of a contract with Beazer Homes Leaguers Salisbury was made to the 34-year-old striker? "We wouldn't have offered Nicky a contract for next sea- son so it was better if he went to Salisbury and tried to get himself fixed up before the summer," said Cooper. The Exeter boss wasn't able to pick a side to face the U's. It was dictated by the injury pile-up that saw defenders Jon Brown (ankle) and Scott Daniels (ankle) join team- mates Peter Whiston (thigh), Toby Redwood (knee), Peter Fox (knee), Ronnie Robinson (stomach) and Mike Cecere (groin) in the Park grandstand. That opened the door for 18- year-olds Jonathan Richardson, Martin Phillips and Anthony Thirlby and fellow trainee Richard Pears, 17, to seize places in the squad. All four showed why they have been offered two-year professional contracts, particularly when City - already beaten - attempted to entertain the season's smallest league crowd after the break. Cooper clearly believes central defender Richardson, winger Phillips, midfielder Thirlby and striker Pears can provide a home-grown backbone for the daunting rebuilding job he faces. Richardson oozed confidence before and, more importantly after, his 18th minute backpass error set Butler on the road to his five- goal fiesta. Butler challenged City 'keeper Allen McKnight and tucked into an empty net when the ball ricocheted kindly. Within four minutes it was 2-0 - Butler stealing in unmarked to squeeze home Danny Granville's intelligent cross at the far post. It could have been a differ- ent tale if City's Stuart Storer had netted when sent scurrying clear by Mark Gavin's incisive fourth minute pass. But Storer hesitated and Jody Craddock made ground to block. And the contest was beyond Exeter's reach when Micah Hyde's 39th minute pass and another generous helping of naive defending gifted Butler a straghtforward third. Two minutes after the restart Butler grabbed his fourth with a clinical penalty after Robbie Turner had handled Matthew Joseph's cross. And the rout was complete when McKnight skied his last-minute clearance and Carlo Corazzin unselfishly presented Butler with his eighth goal in 48 hours.
McKnight, Llewellyn, Minett, Cooper, (Thirlby 46), Richardson, Ross (Pears 46), Storer, Turner, Phillips, Gavin. Sub not used: Veysey.
Filan, Joseph, Barrick, Craddock, Heathcote, Granville (Cheetham 67), Jeffrey, Middleton (Fowler, 51), Butler, Hyde, Corazzin. Sub not used Beresford
Referee Guram Singh (Wolverhampton) Linesmen J Griffiths, and R Lane
Shots/headers on target 6
Butler 18, 22, 39, 47 pen, 90
Shots/headers on target 9