11th September 2004
From THE GRECIAN
The day of the Scarborough match dawned clear and sunny in Burnley - a big contradiction to the forecasted wind and rain. As this was the weekend of our wedding anniversary, Liz decided to come with me, along with our Labrador, Shadow (I'm too much of a softy to put him in kennels!) and so we set off just after 10.00 am to cover the 105 miles to Scarborough. We joined the A59 and made good time until we got to Harrogate, where traffic slowed to a crawl and didn't get any better until we linked up to the A64 after York. After stopping for a sandwich, we finally arrived at the B&Q car park (the recommended parking area on the 'Boro web site) at 1.45pm, having taken 3hours 30 minutes to do 105 miles!
We walked past the "Stadium of Chips" and got to the Scarborough Flyer pub intent of just having enough time for a swift pint, only to be told that dogs were not allowed. After a bit of reasoning (thanks Steve!) the landlady kindly agreed, as long as we went into the lounge. No problem there, and after a refreshing pint of cider, we made our way back towards the ground while Liz and Shadow headed for a walk around a park on the hillside behind the stadium.
After a ramble through the council estate we arrived at the away fans turnstiles, paid our £10 and entered the ground. This was my first visit to the McCain Stadium and have to say it's quite a decent ground. The travelling Grecians (about 150-200) were sat in a covered stand behind one goal, whilst the home fans accommodated in a covered terrace running the length of the pitch to our right and in a covered terrace behind the other goal.
There was also a small grandstand to our left, similar in design to the one at Morecambe that housed the players tunnel, dug-outs and directors seating etc. Apparently, rumours abound that the club is looking to build a new stadium, quite why is a bit of a mystery as the ground is very tidy, reasonably modern and the attendance of 1,715 didn't threaten it's capacity!
The match kicked off after a minutes silence for the third anniversary of 9/11 and City were soon having the better of the opening skirmishes, firing in several shots that that either went inches wide or 'Boro keeper Leigh Walker saved. A word about Mr Walker- he is one of those custodians of the goal that are a certain shape that cries out to away fans "Who ate all the pies" (or chips, in this instance!), but who also seem to frustrate City by getting some kind of body part to the ball to keep it out, sometimes without knowing too much about it! I remember Halifax had one last season when we battered them and lost 2-0! Scarborough gradually came back and were awarded a very dubious free- kick just outside the penalty area. Neil Redfearn stepped up and walloped the ball which managed to squeeze through the wall. With our view blocked by the wall, the next thing we knew was that the net rippled, the Scarborough fans jumped about and City were 1-0 down after dominating the opening stages. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?!
The home team now had their tales up and camped in the City half for about ten minutes, creating a couple of good chances one brilliantly saved by Martin Rice's legs, before Exeter finally re-grouped and started looking for the equaliser. Les Afful had a curling shot destined for the top corner brilliantly tipped away by Walker and Jake Edwards' near post shot was beaten away by the increasingly annoying
Walker (to the City fans, anyway!). Chris Todd and Edwards exchanged passes before setting up Afful in the area who suddenly left legless after both legs were whipped out from under him by a beefy Scarborough defender. Having had a 'bolt-on' penalty for blatant hand-ball turned down earlier, we held our breath. After what seemed an age, he pointed to the spot and Barry 'cool as you like' McConnell wrong footed Walker and side-footed the ball into the opposite corner, in front of the jubilant faithful. With half-time fast approaching City weathered the Scarborough storm and went in 1-1.
During the interval, Eric The Flag made an appearance and covered nearly all the away fans, much to the stewards bemusement (and obvious annoyance to one "Jobs worth"). "The Boro Review" is a £2 match day programme, slightly smaller in size than "The Grecian" and comprised of only 36 pages and mainly black and white photos. A pretty standard Conference effort including a short piece on a mutual 'friend' of both clubs, a certain Mr John Russell and a lot of advertising.
The second half was a more scrappy affair, with Exeter creating most of the clear cut chances and Scarborough being restricted to lots of possession in the middle of the pitch and a few crosses, all ably dealt with by Ricey. Sheldon, Edwards, McConnell and Afful all flashed in shots which must have been close as Walker scrambles across his line for all of them, before City had five corners in the space of two minutes, all dealt with by the defence.
In fact the closest that City came to taking the lead was when a low cross was fired in and a 'Boro defender sliced a screamer of a shot from about eight yards out towards his own goal. We were on our feet celebrating a certain goal, when that man Walker made an outstanding reflex save to his right. Scarborough nearly snatched a winner in injury time when Dean Moxey was robbed of the ball in the City half, but fortunately the shot went wide. Nick Henry was ordered from the Scarborough bench, presumably for something he said to the fourth official, and after a lot more than the two minutes of injury time was played, the referee 'blew up' (wishful thinking!!)
As usual Eamonn and the lads (and lass) came over to applaud the fans, and I'm sure Eamo was heard to say "We should have won" and think he was right. If it hadn't been for the athletic but lardy Leigh Walker (who was the sponsors Man Of The Match) we undoubtedly would have won, but at least we witnessed a good City performance and a cracking game of football, with both teams intent on winning the match.
I met Liz and an exhausted Shadow back at the car and we set off home, the return journey only taking just over two hours and encountering torrential rain as we hit Lancashire - some things don't change!
I'm already looking forward to my next away-day at Halifax and will hopefully be taking the train so that I can sample each one of the speciality beers, ciders and real ales at the Three Pigeons pub near The Shay why don't you join us!