23rd October 2004
Alex off to a flyer as City bury the hot Shots
EXETER CITY 3
Sean Devine 17, Andy Taylor 43, Santos Gala 48
ALDERSHOT TOWN 1
Tim Sills 69
St James's Park, October 23rd 2004
BY MATT BAMSEY AT ST JAMES'S PARK
THERE are only three things certain in life: Death, taxes and a victory over Aldershot Town at St James's Park.
Only the biggest doom merchant would have predicted anything else. The bookies might not have agreed, but a new manager taking charge of his first game against a side that had not conquered at the home of the Grecians since 1955 turned this into a home banker. This time it was Sean Devine, Andy Taylor and Santos Gaia who completed the honours for City as they crowned Alex Inglethorpe's arrival with a power-packed performance and a well- deserved three points. Having raced into a three-goal lead, only the most heartless home fan could feel a twinge of sympathy for Aldershot and their passionate band of supporters whose hopes of lifting the St James's Park jinx evaporated just as the rain came lashing down. Drenched and disillusioned, Terry Brown's troops battled on manfully to the bitter end, launching a late blitz on the City goal that prompted some temporary alarm. But none of it really mattered because this game had home win written all over it from the moment the Shots clambered aboard their bus at the other end of the A303. And should both sides be playing Conference football next term, then the bookies will be quaking in their boots when Groundhog Day comes around again next year. City, who failed to lift the ghosts of Gravesend last week-end, have now triumphed in their last 12 encounters against the Shots at St James's Park and this latest victory had echoes of last season's 2-1 win. Both matches saw Aldershot reduced to ten men, Tim Sills popped up to score his fourth goal in as many games against City to give Aldershot brief hope and Grecians defender Alex Jeannin, who has developed a habit of shaping the outcome of these clashes, once again had a huge hand in the scoreline. Last term he sliced into his own net at the Recreation Ground only to have his blushes spared with a sensational winner in the corresponding league fixture at St James's Park. And again the Gods were smiling on the rejuvenated left-back as he delivered a peach of a cross for Andy Taylor to put City 2-0 up just before the interval. Then just as fears of a dramatic Aldershot comeback began to steadily grow, Jeannin was rescued by referee Peter Grove after the official missed the Frenchman's handball in the penalty area. As the away side mounted their final bid to salvage a point out of the game, Jon Challinor latched on to Darren Barnard's cross, planting a header which struck the hand of the full-back to spark wild protests for a late spot-kick. It was the final throw of the dice for an Aldershot side, who had been outmanoeuvred, out-fought and subsequently split open during an action-packed first-half. The opening 10 minutes fea- tured a nasty melee, a couple of yellow cards and some harsh words from referee Peter Grove and not much else as the players struggled to find their feet in the squelchy conditions. With tempers finally cooled, attention could finally switch to the football and City drew first blood thanks to a coolly-taken goal from master craftsman Sean Devine. The former Barnet marksman ghosted onto a sweet Andy Taylor pass delivered with the outside of his right foot and swept past the wrong-footed Chris Giles before hitting an unstoppable volley past Nikki Bull. That moment spelled the onset of an avalanche of chances at either end in a fast-evolving match that had quickly turned from a tetchy affair into an enthralling encounter. Ampadu engineered enough space to fire straight at Bull and Devine shot wide after latching onto Steve Flack's flick-on. At the other end McLean, who became an increasing source of concern with his darting runs down the left, smashed into the side netting before Miller also failed to find the target. The remainder of the period belonged to the Grecians, exerting their dominance on the match and finding that all important, yet so often elusive, second goal. And yet, when Jeannin's cross slithered across the greasy surface before landing at the feet of Taylor, the former Manchester United starlet cut inside onto his favoured left peg before bending a quite exquisite effort past the outstretched glove of Bull.
And no sooner had Aldershot emerged after their half-time rollicking from an irate Brown, they found themselves virtually dead and buried. Taylor swung over a corner and, with the Shots defence deciding to indulge in a little game of musical statues, Gaia made a bee-line for the near post to chalk up his sixth goal of the campaign with a simple header. With City three goals to the good, it seemed to escape their mind that Sills has had quite an effect on the outcomes of matches between these sides in recent times. And, when he exposed a flaw in City's marking system from Nick Crittenden's cross on 69 minutes, his header fair flew into the net. Yet the goal should have been rendered utterly meaningless just seven minutes later as Flack and Devine combined again to tee up Afful with a golden opportunity to notch his first goal of the campaign. For all his scintillating skill and breathtaking ability to beat players, the art of finishing continues to elude the lively Liverpudlian, who buried his head in his hands after dragging his effort wide. The similarities to last season's contest even extended to the moment when Aldershot found themselves reduced to ten men following the dismissal of livewire striker Aaron McLean, mirroring the red card administered to Tony Shields on their last visit to Devon. Brown deviated from the script, however, by refusing to criticise the referee's decision. As "I have no problems with the referee," admitted the Shots boss. "If you slide in and catch the guy like he did then you are going to get punished."
This was all merely a sideshow, though, because nothing was ever going to deny City their deserved win-just take a look at the record books for proof of that.