2nd October 2004
Halifax T (a)
Spot-on Dean rewards Town for second half dominance
Howell ensures justice is done.
By Dave Fletcher Football writer
Halifax Town 2 Exeter City 1
DEAN Howell's 72nd-minute spot kik helped Town halt their mini slie down the table. But so dominant were Chris Wilder's men in a one-sided second half that Exeter could not have complained had they been on the end of a hiding.
Darren Mansaram had ensured that the Shaymen maintained their record of scoring in every game this season when he blasted them in front within 60 seconds of the start of the second period. But a lapse at the back within 90 seconds, and some desperate defending by the Grecians for much of the half meant Town had to rely on Howes coolness from the spot to give them maximum points. Howell had set up Mansaram's goal with a thrilling run down the left and the penalty came from a similar source as left back Matt Doughty picked out hard-working Ryan Sugden who was bundled over after a neat turn inside the area.
Howell's run-up, which included a John Aldridge-style stop in the middle, didn't look the most convincing. But he sent Grecians keeper Martin Rice completely the wrong way before accepting the adulation of the South Stand. It was just what Town needed after successive defeats and means they are still handily placed in the Conference table. The football in the second half was in stark contrast to the first when neither side seemed capable of creating a chance in open play. Adam Quinn had a header from a Jason Blunt corner cleared over the bar by Andrew Taylor and Sugden headed another Blunt delivery wide. At the other end, Santos Gaia was unable to turn a Kwame Ampadu free kick goalwards. It was not until the 31st minute that either goal was threatened by anything other than a corner or free kick. When it happened, it came out of the blue as a Sean Devine cross from the right dipped, forcing lan Dunbavin to push the ball against the post. Taylor was forced to make a hurried clearance from a Henry McStay cross before the break but there had been lit- tle to give any indication of the speed at which the two sides were to get out of the blocks on the resumption. Town struck first, just a minute after the break when Mansaram latched onto Howell's pass, delivered with the outside of his left foot, before firing home from a tight angle. Town's joy was short-lived as Exeter responded from a corner, although it was self-inflicted as a wayward McStay header forced Ingram to head behind. Wayne O'Sullivan's corner was headed back into the six-yard area by Steve Flack and Todd did the rest. From then on, it was almost all Halifax as they tried to get their noses back in front. Exeter were restricted to the odd half chance and any time they man- aged to get close to the Town area, Ingram and Quinn were there to clear. Mansaram's cross deflected over the bar off Scott Hiley's shins, Blunt had an effort cleared behind by Todd and a Sugden shot struck a defender and flew wide. It looked like Town's luck was out when they were denied again just past the hour mark. Quinn had done well to nod down Ingram's free kick and the ball fell to Sugden whose shot would have bulged the back of the net but for a magnificent last-ditch tackle from Gaia. Town need not have worried as 10 minutes later, Sugden was chopped down 12 yards out and from the same distance Howell made it 2-1. There was almost a repeat of the opening goal as Exeter created a chance to level again within two minutes. But O'Sullivan ran towards the edge of the area before ballooning his shot over the top. There was a further chance for Town to increase their impressive tally for the campaign - they are the fourth top scorers in the Conference -in the 83rd minute. Ryan Mallon, who had come on at the end of the first half in place of injured Lewis Killeen, cut in from the right and curled in a left foot shot from the edge of the area. The ball was heading for the top corner until Rice clutched it.
Dunbavin, Doughty, McStay, Quinn, Ingram, Haslam, Blunt, Howell, Sugden, Mansaram (Midgley 73), Killeen (Mallon 44). Subs (not used): Senior, Stoneman, Naylor.
Goals: Mansaram 46, Howell 73pen
Bookings: Howell (foul 34)
Rice, Hiley, Gaia, Todd, Moxey (Sawyer 59), Afful, Ampadu. Taylor, O'Sullivan (Canham 79), Devine (Clay 75), Flack. Subs (not used): Bittner, Edwards
Goal: Todd 48
Bookings: Flack (foul 49).
Referee: I Nolan
HALIFAX TOWN 2 EXETER CITY 1
City fail to lift spell - Given the history between the two clubs, a trip to Halifax was always going to hijack Eamonn Dolan's last game on the road as Exeter City manager.
Countless managers have tried and failed to lift the Shay curse that hangs over the club.
In fact you have to go back to 1989 for the last time that Exeter City conjured up a victory in the Yorkshire town.
Since then Halifax has not proved a happy hunting ground for the cash-strapped club, as they have collected just two points from their last six encounters.
But it seemed a grave injustice that Dolan wasn't able to bury the Halifax hoodoo, particularly after his side had battered the Shaymen last season and still left empty-handed.
However, on this occasion the Grecians were below-par, weighed down by the heavy exertions of Wednesday night's epic victory over Oxford United in the LDV Vans Trophy.
Fair enough Halifax were the better side, putting the Grecians under a sustained spell of pressure during the second-half and on the balance of play probably deserved to bag all three points.
Even taking that into consideration there was still an overwhelming sense that Dolan, whose squad had been hit by a flu bug prior to the match, deserved more from this emotional occasion.
After all the City chief had guided his side to 11 points out of a possible 15 during September - and dumped Graham Rix's League 2 outfit Oxford out of the LDV Vans Trophy - to come within a whisker of winning the Conference's manager-of-the-month gong.
So the stage was set for Dolan's men to nick a point and consign some of the recent smash and grab raids inflicted on his men to the scrapheap.
Surely with the former West Ham striker taking charge of his last match on the road - where the club have produced some of their more enterprising football during his 15-month reign - there would be a smidgen of justice handed out for all those times when sides have escaped from St James's Park with a point when they should have left with only painful memories.
Well how wrong can you be!
It was referee Ian Nolan who crushed City's hopes of snatching a share of the spoils when he gave a controversial penalty mid-way through the second-half.
City lost possession as they tried to launch a counter-attacking raid, which culminated in the rash decision.Matthew Doughty powered forward, threading the ball into the path of Ryan Sugden, who swivelled on the edge of the area before sinking to the turf.
No one was quite sure why the official had pointed to the spot and the mystery grew when it emerged afterwards that Kwame Ampadu - who didn't appear to touch the striker - was the player adjudged to have committed the foul.
Nevertheless it was a decision that ultimately decided the destination of all three points.
"It was clearly not a penalty," said a frustrated Dolan. "We have been mugged by a decision there."
"We have had quite a few penalties going against us recently which have been debatable. It was a panic decision and the luck didn't go with us."
"I felt we deserved a bit of luck today because we battled away, but that's how football goes sometimes."
Howell kept his composure to send Rice the wrong way from the spot to strike a killer blow - and set the tone for a period of Halifax domination that might have inflicted further damage on the battling, yet clearly exhausted, Grecians.
If the penalty decision was deemed harsh, then the fact that defender Chris Todd ended up on the losing side proved a catastrophic miscarriage of justice.
The imperious centre-back proved a talisman, a colossal figure that provided a whole new meaning to battling in the face of adversity.
This was a player who had worked his socks off for 120 minutes at Oxford only to reproduce those sterling efforts with another heroic display full of guts and guile.
His long frame appeared everywhere on the pitch, repelling the danger at one end and spearheading matters at the other.
And it was the 23-year-old who hauled the Grecians back into the contest after the hosts shattered the deadlock barely two minutes into the second-half. Les Afful's misplaced pass was seized upon by Howell, who sent the lively Darren Mansaram darting down the left channel.
His pace and trickery proved just too hot for Santos Gaia and his potent finish into the bottom corner too clinical for keeper Martin Rice.
Fears of a City collapse were swiftly cast to one side as Todd carved out a moment of pure magic to restore parity to a match that had finally sparked into life following a first period starved of any real goal mouth entertainment.
Afful's cross from the right was nodded down by Steve Flack and Todd astonished even himself by lashing home an acrobatic bicycle kick.
"It was a tremendous goal," added Dolan. "Toddy was our captain fantastic. He really stepped up to the plate and was outstanding in everything that he did."
Domineering in the air and commanding on the deck, Todd then produced a hat-trick of blocks in front of his own goal to thwart the increasingly confident hosts.
And the Welshman was even handed a couple of last-gasp opportunities to rescue a draw from the jaws of defeat.
Deep into stoppage time, he let fly with a thunderous effort that cleared the crossbar before attempting a dummy header in the dying seconds to set up team-mate Flack.
But the prospect of a late salvage act drifted by, condemning City to their third defeat of the season.