17 February 2001.
York City (a)
CITY QUIT THE BASEMENT
YORK CITY 0 EXETER CITY 3
By NICK BEER
DO you want the good news first, or the good news? Well, the good news is that Exeter pulled off one of the most memorable victories in the club's history at Bootham Crescent on Saturday.
A wonderful 3-0 win allowed the Grecians to swap places with their hosts at the foot of the Nationwide League. And the good news? York are a club in complete and utter disarray. Minstermen supporters staged a boisterous hour-long protest after the final whistle outside the office of be- leaguered boss Terry Dolan. Rather than urging their side on, disgusted home fans spent the final 20 minutes of the game pleading with their manager to fall on his sword. A defiant Dolan saw no reason to grant them their wish, insisting afterwards he would stay to mastermind the club's escape from relegation. But on the evidence of this game, the longer he clings onto his job, the more time Exeter will have to put further daylight between themselves and the foot of the table.
Dolan's side played with a chronic lack of shape and purpose, they were dimwitted going forward and shock- ingly shaky at the back. Great credit for that must go to the Grecians who, after forging ahead on five minutes through the mighty Christian Roberts, never really looked like surrendering their lead. Reborn targetman Steve Flack confirmed victory with his first Nationwide League brace in more than two years. But right throughout the side, City were more mobile, better organised, more disciplined, showed greater un- derstanding and played with a verve and passion seemingly alien to their Yorkshire hosts. One Minstermen fan, who later ven- ted his anger on Radio Five Live football phone-in 606, described Exeter as "looking like Manchester United". Not quite but the Grecians have now strung together a four-match un- beaten run, have two home games coming up this week and are cur- rently brimful of confidence. In sharp contrast, York have collected just one point all year, now face daunting trips to promotion-chasing Rochdale and Brighton and will almost certainly still be propping up Division 3 come five o'clock next Sat- urday afternoon. As you would expect, no-one in the Exeter camp was prepared to indulge in any undignified grave-dancing. But privately, manager Noel Blake and technical assistant Steve Perryman will have enjoyed the occasion not only for their side's sparkling display, but also because it confirmed such deep-seated divisions at Bootham Crescent. A clearly rattled Dolan said after- wards: "The fans can shout what they want, they pay their money. They are not happy and I am not happy, but we've got a job to do. "The players are human beings out there and they are bound to feel it (the pressure from the fans). "Of course I am confident we can turn it around, but the players have got to take responsibility as well. "Sometimes it's easy for the players to hide behind the fact that people are criticising the manager." It's not so long since Blake was also forced to come out fighting following mounting calls for his head. But with Perryman working his magic behind the scenes, City are now a completely different proposition to just six weeks ago. And if this carries on much longer, there will be a run on humble pie at supermarkets across Exeter. "This was a very morale-boosting victory," agreed Perryman. "When you're in our position, winning is vital for confidence and belief and this sets us up nicely for the home games coming up. "There is a very good spirit at the club, I haven't seen any long faces all the way through and they obviously want to play for their manager." At the moment, selection meetings between Blake and Perryman must be almost over before they begin. With skipper Chris Curran and frontman Paul Read both suspended, it was as you were apart from recalls for previously-banned defensive duo Graeme Power and Mark Rawlinson. John Cornforth was pushed forward into midfield and Roberts into the frontline alongside Flack. And City should have forged ahead as early as the second minute, Andy Roscoe swinging across a free kick, Kwame Ampadu feeding the ball across goal and skipper Jamie Camp- bell volleying limply wide from five yards out. But it wasn't long before City's 300-strong band of travelling supporters were celebrating their team's first success of the afternoon. When Mark Sertori made a pig's ear of his intended pass to fellow defender Barry Jones, Roberts nipped in to steal possession. About 50 yards and roughly four seconds later, the ball was flying past the outstretched left glove of York keeper Alan Fettis and into the bottom corner of the net. A third of the game had gone before York had their first serious attempt on goal, Neville Stamp whistling a shot just wide from 25 yards. And Stamp then tried his luck from even further out, this time the ball cannoning back off the cross bar and away to safety via the chest of a grateful Arjan Van Heusden. A pair of Lee Bullock headers only just missed the target as York enjoyed their only sustained spell of pressure of the entire afternoon. But normal service was quickly resumed when Roberts sprinted onto a Power through ball before seeing his effort blocked at the near post by Fettis. And City doubled their advantage on 39 minutes when Cornforth clipped a delightful pass through a gaping chasm in the centre of the York defence. While the Minstermen stood vainly appealing for offside, Flack galloped gamely clear before firing emphatically past a shell-shocked Fettis. Hopes of a York revival were briefly sparked when Van Heusden spilled a ferocious Steve Agnew effort from the last of a trio of corners. But although Lee Nogan rammed home the rebound, the debutant hit- man was flagged offside by an eagle- eyed assistant referee. And far from coming out after the break with all guns blazing, York somehow found yet another reverse gear. While the home side shovelled the ball sideways and backwards to little or no effect, the Grecians simply waited for possession to arrive before launching another lightning attack. Roberts should have done better from four yards following a raid down the left by Roscoe and Ampadu. But City made the game completely safe on 67 minutes thanks to the sheer persistence of Flack. The former professional boxer latched onto Power's flighted pass, saw his first effort balloon skywards off the body of Fettis, but still managed to bundle the ball over the line. Ampadu's cross-cum-shot rolled harmlessly across the face of an empty York goal following another scintillating break by Roberts. And only a couple of casual slip-ups by Neil Whitworth in the dying minutes gave the home side any hope of claiming a consolation. But substitute Scott Emmerson's effort flew well over and the disappointing David McNiven was crowded out by Ampadu and Roscoe.
YORK: A Fettis, B Jones, C Alcide, M Sertori, N Stamp, L Bullock, S Agnew, L Wood, W Hall, L Nogan, D McNiven. SUBSTITUTES: R Howarth, M Bower, K Darlow (for Stamp, 58 minutes), N Richardson (Wood, 73), S Emmerson (Bullock, 68)
EXETER: A Van Heusden, N Whitworth, J Campbell, G Power, M Rawlinson, A Roscoe, K Ampadu, P Buckle, J Cornforth, C Roberts, S Flack.
SUBSTITUTES: S Fraser, N Blake, A Inglethorpe (Flack, 90), G Tomlinson (Roberts, 90), L Zabek (Cornforth, 90)
- Christian Roberts 5 (0-1)
- Steve Flack 39 (0-2)
- Steve Flack 67 (0-3)
BOOKED: Wood, Bullock (York)
SHOTS ON TARGET: York 1, Exeter 5
CORNERS: York 7, Exeter 2
York 9, Exeter 16
OFFSIDES: York 1, Exeter 7
Graham Frankland (Middlesborough)