Match 08
18th September 2004
Stevenage Borough (h)


Santos Gaia 14 Steve Flack 63

MATT BAMSEY at St James's Park

THE mystery surrounding Eamonn Dolan's future could have taken a fresh twist as the Exeter City boss appeared to punch a message of intent to his adoring faithful. And just maybe the fans' pray- ers have been answered after their Messiah saluted them in a manner that suggests he may be poised to pledge his future to the club. The City chief, who paced the touchline all game, leapt into the air after his side recorded a well earned 2-0 win over Stevenage Borough before unleashing a passion-filled punch of delight. The body language was not of a man who is about to quit his managerial post, but someone who is ready to snub a lucrative bid from Coca Cola Championship club Reading. Some feared that the post-match salute resembled a final farewell a school of thought that was further fuelled by the presence of former Plymouth Argyle and Southampton manager Paul Sturrock. The majority, though, are of the opinion that Dolan will not be able to swap the buzz of management for the security of running Reading's youth academy. Having remained tight-lipped throughout the speculation that has gripped this football club for the last five days, Dolan broke his silence merely to confirm that he has yet to reach a decision. "I have to be fair to everybody and be fair to people who have shown me a great deal of respect," said the City chief. "I am going to enjoy this win. Obviously I have got to think about a few things and take it from there really. That's the honest answer and I'm sure there will be some news early this week." Fans delivered their own verdict on Dolan's next step by brandishing posters and banners begging the boss to stay. If this does turn out to be Dolan's last game in charge, then how fitting that the club's young guns engineered this third success of the campaign Youth products Dean Moxey and Martin Rice, players steered through the ranks under the expert eye of Dolan, were instrumental in defeating one of the section's pre-season promotion favourites. Rookie keeper Rice produced two world-class saves while precocious left-back Moxey provided two diamond-encrusted deliveries that teed up goals for Santos Gaia and Steve Flack. For the second home game running, City came bolting out of the blocks. Not for the first time Moxey whipped over a scintil- lating cross, causing panic in the Stevenage rearguard cleverly exploited by Andy Taylor whose rasping effort, was deflected wide. Barely three minutes on the watch and City could have opened up a two-goal cushion as Jake Edwards crafted an opening only to steer a weak shot straight at former Grecians keeper Andy Woodman. But the early breakthrough did arrive as City, who have scored during the opening half-hour in three of their first four home encounters this season, capitalised on some downright dreadful defending. Moxey clipped over a training ground free-kick after Les Afful had been shoved to the turf and Gaia leapt unopposed to plant a fierce downward header into the back of the net. City came agonisingly close to stretching the lead when Afful then tricked his way into a shooting position on the edge of the area only to blaze over. Minutes later Gareth Sheldon scuttled past Dannie Bulman before smashing a blistering drive that Woodman saved from underneath his own crossbar. At the other end Stevenage gave fleeting glimpses of their attacking intentions only to be denied by the heroics of Rice. Prime threat Dino Maamria emerged through a sea of players to connect with a Jon Brady free-kick, flicking his header goal- wards and then watching in disbelief as Rice somehow kept the ball out. The scare prompted City to go for the jugular, especially as one-goal leads have proved increasingly fragile at St James's Park in recent times. And had Edwards not wildly lashed wide on the stroke of half-time after Barry McConnell had fashioned a clear-opening, then City could have urrock at created some clear Park breathing space. As it was, they successfully piled on the misery for beleaguered Stevenage boss Graham Westley, whose side have now lost three on the bounce. Rice maintained City's slender advantage, performing more ac- robatics to block a fizzing effort from Michael Brough and Steve Flack completed the rescue act by hacking the loose ball away. Penalty claims were then waved away as Afful was sent tumbling in the box, although City made light of the setback by scoring straight from the following corner. Boasting the same lethal curl he had achieved in the first-half, Moxey's pin-point delivery was met with a glancing header from Flack a man who is fast cementing his reputation as the club's super sub. Precisely 55 seconds after entering the fray, Sean Devine almost put the icing on the cake with an acrobatic volley that was superbly stopped by Woodman. But this day was all about Dolan and the club's desperate need for him to stay at St James's Park. His decision is awaited with baited breath.



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