Match 31
13th January 2001
Leyton Orient (h)




EXETER City tossed away a two-goal lead to slump to their 10th defeat in 11 games at St James's Park on Saturday. But their performance against one of the slickest outfits in the section might just might suggest the person fumbling for the light switch at the end of the tunnel is at least getting warm. As we've come to expect this season, City contributed to their own downfall with some truly shocking defending. As boss Noel Blake admitted afterwards, there is now a fear of failure running through his side that bodes badly for the forthcoming battle against relegation. And with bottom club Carlisle squirreling away a precious three points, the Grecians are being sucked ever closer to the Black Hole of the Nationwide Conference. To dwell any further on City's latest setback would run the risk of be labelled among the "doom and gloom merchants" so reviled by the manager. "What's been going on hasn't helped the situation, the campaigns and polls haven't helped the players and you can see that for yourselves," said Blake. "But if I was marking my teams out of 10, there have been a lot of fives and sixes recently, whereas today there were a lot of sevens and eights." And up to a point he's right-his side played well enough to suggest they should never have sunk this low in the table. Paul Read and Graeme Power's first goals for the club were well worth the wait and City created a steady stream of chances throughout the afternoon. Yet again, the Grecians can look back with a mixture of anger and disgust at the way the game's crucial decisions went against them. Referee Steve Dunn made three in- defensible errors that arguably cost Blake's men their first win in two months. But equally indefensible were the two painfully soft goals conceded from corners by a City side clearly missing suspended skipper Chris Curran. And hard points not hard luck stories are urgently required now if club and manager are to plot an escape from their current predicament. Blake was planning to hand Chris Holloway his first start of the season until the Wales under-21 star went down with 'flu on the morning of the game. But he was given a major boost by the early return of fellow Welshman Christian Roberts just three weeks after undergoing surgery. A day after celebrating his 39th birthday, the manager decided his place was on the pitch as the middle member of a five-man defence. And the match was only three minutes old when John Cornforth threaded a delicious ball inside highly- rated Orient full back Matt Lockwood. Roberts's blistering pace took him to the by-line and his cut-back was superbly swept home from eight yards by a jubilant Read. The visitors gave notice of their at- tacking threat when Chris Tate's cross was met by the toe of strike partner Carl Griffiths only for Arjan Van Heusden to pull off a split-second block. And the referee made his first blunder after Orient midfielder Andy Harris viciously assaulted Roberts on the edge of the penalty box. The challenge was late, two footed and nowhere near the ball. Sorry Mr Dunn, that deserves more than just a yellow card. But City exacted revenge in the best way possible by going further in front from the resulting free kick. While former Grecian Ashley Bayes stood poised for the cross, Power simply bent the ball around the wall and inside the near post. Orient might have kept mighty Tottenham Hotspur at bay for 90 minutes of last week's FA Cup clash, but they seemingly couldn't contain the most impotent attack in the Nationwide League. Power's pleasure turned to pain three minutes later when he was stretchered off following an ugly collision with Griffiths. And when he was given a golden chance to make amends for his earlier gaffe, Mr Dunn again took the easy option. Steve Flack wriggled clean through on goal before being manhandled to the ground by last defender Dean Smith but the colour of Mr Dunn's card matched that of his belly. With Orient looking increasingly dangerous in possession, it was im- perative that City held on until the break. Tate and Scott Houghton blew decent chances before the referee saw fit to award a corner when the ball had clearly failed to cross out of play. Harris was left free on the edge of the box and, after his shot crashed against the post, Smith chipped across for Tate to glance his header into the far corner of the net.
And cock-a-hoop Orient were level within three minutes of the restart following a break down the right by Walschaerts. His centre was flicked on by Tate for suspiciously offside-looking Griffiths to ram the ball into the roof of the net. For the next half-an-hour it was City who seemed more likely to stumble over the finishing line. Roberts flashed just wide, Flack scooped over from close range and Mark Burrows squandered the clearest chance of the lot, failing to control the ball when just five yards out. But just when City seemed to be heading for a creditable point, they performed their now ritual act of mass suicide. Brkovic's corner drifted aimlessly towards the six-yard box, Van Heusden inexplicably stood rooted to the spot and, with no defender marking the space behind him, Griffiths gratefully prodded the ball over the line. Even then, only the brilliance of Bayes denied Roberts a spectacular late equaliser. The winger chested down on the edge of the box before unleashing a venomous volley that was tipped onto the bar by Exeter's former Player-of-the- Year. And Roberts and Read both threw themselves in vain at an inviting Roscoe cross two minutes from time. But there was to be no fairytale ending for the Grecians, just another of those hard luck stories.

A Van Heusden, M.Burrows. N Whitworth N. Blake, J Campbell. G Power, J.Cornforth, P Buckle C Roberts, P. Read, S Flack.

Subs: S Fraser. M Rawlinson (for Cornforth, 61 minutes), Speakman (for Blake, 80mins) A Roscre (Power 29mins) G Breslan. 

ORIENT: Bayes. Joseph. Smith, Downer, Lockwood .Walschaerts. Harris. Brkovics  Houghton. Tate. Griffiths.
Subs:- Barrett, McEholm, Beal, Watts, Hatcher. 


Read 3 ((2-0),
Power 22 (2-0)
Tate 45 (2-1),
Griffiths 48 (2-2)
Griffiths 77 (2-3)

"Considering he has had the fiu for the past 10 days, Carl Griffins dd magnificently-he is a six yard box man and he showed that again today"
Orient boss Tommy Taylor



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