27th April 1996.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
"Proving people wrong has been very satisfying City boss" Peter Fox
EXETER CITY 1 BURY 1
by Ed Hogg at The Park
Exeter City wore a welcome smile at the weekend. The Grecians' long-term future is apparently now secure at St James's Park. City on a downward spiral since the 1989/90 promotion season - are preparing to regain control after 18 months in administration.
Goalkeeper-boss Peter Fox, whose special affinity with the Exeter fans again saw him among the Player-of-the-Year awards, is ready to sign a new two-year contract. Gates have rocketed by a fabulous 40 per cent as Fox has steadied the ship following last term's humiliating Football League basement finish. There was another bumper crowd as City celebrated the deal with stadium owners Beazer Homes that has finally removed the threat of eviction. And - in a perverse twist - the Grecians took a step closer to completing their best campaign since lifting the Fourth Division championship six years ago by giving sworn enemies Plymouth Argyle a helping hand. A 1-1 draw with promotion chasing Bury was enough to keep Argyle's aspirations of an automatic passage into Division 2 alive and embarrass Pilgrims chief Neil Warnock. Warnock's suggestions that Fox would field a weakened line-up against the Shakers to hamper Home Park hopes infuriated the City camp. And Exeter responded in the same gritty, backs-to-the-wall fashion that has become their hallmark in defying all forecasts of another grim struggle against the plunge. "Everybody was tipping us to be relegated. We were 66/1 rank outsiders for the title," said Fox. "Proving people wrong has been very satisfying." City now need a draw in next Saturday's finale at champions-elect Preston to enable them to better the 57-point haul of 1990/91. That would be a phenomenal achievement in Fox's first managerial test. It was his right-hand man who ensured Exeter ended the term with just five defeats in their 23 home league contests. Assistant-boss Noel Blake who has also pledged his future to the revitalised club, lumbered forward from his regular rearguard role to power home a 67th minute header. It was just reward for a typically-spirited City fightback after they had trailed at the break to Mark Carter's 31st minute penalty. "I've got to admit that I lost my temper at half- time," said Fox. "I didn't feel that some of the players were really up for it the first half and I wasn't going to accept that- not with all the positive things that are going on off the field.” Carter, who had already twice gone close, slammed his 18th goal of the term from the spot after Chris Myers had recklessly upended Dean West. Immediately Phil Stant was a whisker away from doubling the deficit- nodding against the Exeter woodwork from West's cross. Leon Braithwaite, subdued for long periods by dominant Bury central defensive partners Chris Lucketti and Trevor Matthewson, blazed wide just before the interval. And Blake volleyed acrobatically over soon after the restart as City reacted to Fox's dressing-room histrionics. But Carter should have made it 2-0 when he was left unchallenged to meet Nicky Daws' 50th minute cross. The pint-sized hitman contrived to head against Fox's legs with the goal gaping. The visitors then escaped punishment when Matthewson blatantly handled inside the penalty area eight minutes later. But Exeter were back on terms when Myers failed to turn in Matt Hare's cross from close range. Mark Chamberlain retrieved the loose ball and hung up a far post cross that Blake butted gleefully past Bury glovesman Lee Bracey. And, after John Paskin had failed to trouble Fox when well-placed, it was City who came closest to a winner. Debutant Barry McConnell crashed a 20- yarder just wide before Chamberlain scuffed his low effort the wrong side of Bracey's left-hand post following a neat exchange with Adrian Foster.
Fox, Chamberlain, Rice, Myers,Blake, Richardson, Braithwaite, Bailey, Pears (Foster 82), Sharpe (Hare 46), McConnell (Thirlby 84).
Scorers Blake 67, Shots on target 3, Corners 2
BURY: Bracey, West, N. Reid, Daws (Rigby 84), Lucketti, Matthewson, Hughes, Carter (Paskin 75), Stant (Johnson 62), Johnrose, Pugh.
Scorers :Carter 31 (pen) Shots on target 4 Corners 6.Bookings Matthewson, Johnrose
Referee Steve Bennett (Dartford) Linesmen B. Ingram & A. Perlejewski
The London Grecians
Danny Bailey-Typically wholehearted midfield display.
Match Report 2 by Ted Davenport
EXETER City's St James' Park ground was in party mood yesterday as players and fans celebrated the club's survival. Chairman Ivor Doble went on to the pitch at half-time to confirm the good news and reveal that Player-Manager Peter Fox and Assistant Noel Blake have agreed to sign new contracts. The game did not match the euphoria of the occasion but Exeter defied taunts by Plymouth Manager Neil Warnock tha they would give Bury an easy ride and instead produced an impressive second-half fight-back to earn a point. They came close within two minutes of the start when John Sharpe's long lob grazed the crossbar, but, despite two or three half-hearted efforts from Richard Pears, Sharpe and Leon Braithwaite they looked a poor side for the first half. They were lucky not to be swamped by Bury and they had already withstood 15 minutes of pressure before midfielder Chris Myers gave away a penalty with a clumsy tackle on Bury's full back Dean West. Referee Steve Bennett pointed to the spot and veteran 'keeper Fox dived full length the wrong way as Mark Carter hammered the ball into the right hand corner. Fox had a lucky escape five minutes later when West's cross found striker Phil Stant unmarked and his bullet header rebounded off the crossbar. Fox delivered a half-time roasting to his lack- lustre team and then led by example with an amazing save from Carter four minutes after the break which he later admitted was a fluke. Exeter battled back and the bumper crowd of 3,508 was in uproar when a penalty appeal for handball was turned down just before the hour as Pears headed for goal. Exeter did not have long to wait for the leveller. Myers mis-hit his shot from a corner so badly that it flew to Mark Chamberlain on the right and his hanging cross allowed Blake to rise at the far post and power home a header. After that Exeter looked more likely to score and youngsters Barry Mc- Connell and Tony Thirlby both saw good long efforts go wide. On the final whistle the crowd surged over from the big bank and the cowshed and held an im- promptu party in the centre circle as the clouds which have hung over their club were finally lifted.