Match 30
8th January 2005
FA Cup 3rd Round
Manchester U (a)

4:49
MANCHESTER UTD 0
EXETER CITY 0 

Burnley-Based City fan PAUL PALMER Relives The Day At Old Trafford

Just as everyone knew where they were on that fateful day in Dallas 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I'm sure that every Grecian fan can remember exactly where he or she were on Sunday 5th December at 3.57pm.

This was the moment when Tony Cascarino reached into the bowl to pick a team to play Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round of the F.A. Cup, and plucked out ball number 64. Even before it was announced who 64 were, all City supporters were dancing around the pub/house/road in ecstasy, as we knew that out team had been handed a 'dream tie' against the current FA Cup holders. The next 34 days passed as if I was in a dream, constantly going around with a big, cheesy grin on my face, unable to think of very little except the big day. Once the elusive tickets were obtained (massive "Thanks" to Neil Le Milliere for sorting all the Exiles ticketing out) it was just a case of sitting back, dreaming and waiting for the big day. You could almost taste the excitement in the air at the Palmer household (apart from our labrador, Shadow, who was being incarcerated in the local kennels!), as even my wife, Liz, normally a quiet and reserved follower, was looking forward to the match with more and more anticipation. Sleeping on Friday night was almost impossible. The win (outside the house, not inside, I hasten to add) woke me up at about 3am, blowing tin cans down the street and rattling windows and from then on, it was a case of dozin for a few minutes until the next big gust disturbed my dreams of a Flacky 93rd minute winner at the Theatre Of Dreams!

Finally, Saturday 8th January had arrived. After getting ou of bed, I realise how some women must feel - what to wear! I went for my lucky Brazil polo shirt (only lost once when I've wom it!) under this season's home shirt.

The weather was atrocious with gale force winds and torrential showers and as I drove past the Accrington Stanley ground it even started to snow! Brian Ingersent arrived from even windier Cumbria, sadly without his wife Gerry due to illness and after the obligatory coffee and a check of Sky Sports News to see the latest report on City (what it is to be famous!!) we set off for Manchester at 11am. We had decided to use the Lancashire County Cricket ground car park, so followed the signs, until we saw, on our left a small college that was offering secure car parking for £5. As it was practically empty we pulled in to a space next to the exit for what we thought would be an easy get away after the match. By now it was about 11.45am and as we ambled along towards Old Trafford, it became apparent that half of Exeter was in Manchester already, with cars and coaches going past us with City scarves hanging out of windows and loads of Grecians milling around and soaking up the atmosphere.

What a difference to our beloved St. James Park! There were fast food stands everywhere, market type stalls selling all kind of Manchester United F.A. Cup memorabilia and the number of police was amazing!

We arrived at the Theatre Of Dreams', and the first thing that we noticed was the yellow board above entrance number E32 welcoming Exeter City to Old Trafford! Even with three hours to go before the kick-off, the area outside the ground was filling up, so before it got too crowded, photo's were taken. A decision was made to bravely venture into Man. Utd's Mega Store. MEGA store is right, it was massive - it seemed to be as big as our very own Debenham's store, with even more clothing than they have! It had a row of checkouts looking more familiar to Sainsbury's than a football shop! I had a quick flick through the programme, which was quite surprised to find out was only £3, and quite a good read, despite an article about a certain spoon-bender who reckoned he'd been too busy to see City this season because he was filming a new series for television - Yeah, right! Brian and I had answered a plea for some City fans to be interviewed on Radio 5 Live and to be at Old Trafford between 1 and 1.30pm. As we waited for the call on our mobiles to tell us where to be for the interview, the queues started forming at the turnstiles of entrance E32 and by now the whole area outside the front of the ground was a sea of Grecians with the (very) odd Man Utd fan here and there trying to get through the throng.

At last, at about 1.15pm the gates opened, but as yet still no call from 5 Live, so we watched enviously as the queue snaked past us and entered the stadium. Eventually as no call came, we decided that at half past one we'd rather go inside and soak up the atmosphere than be on live radio, so we handed over our tickets, got frisked, asked a friendly steward where block E333 was, and climbed the steps.

Again, the comparisons of Debenhams were uncanny! It was just like going up the stairs to the fifth floor cafeteria, but without the view of our beautiful city and cathedral! On we climbed and finally reached the concourse of the second tier of the East Stand, complete with bar MUTV and snack stalls and yes, this area was totally packed with our Red Army too!

Upon finding our block and emerging into the daylight we were met by a view out across the pitch to the massive stands that was breath-taking. Once we'd picked our chins up off the ground, the steward pointed us up more steps to our row of seats about six rows from the back of the top tier. Sadly there was no oxygen station half way up which would have made life easier, but feeling more like Sherpa Tensing we flopped down in our seats, took our vertigo tablets and and stared again in disbelief at the view.

As the minutes ticked away the East Stand quickly filled up and as three o' clock approached the sight and sound of a full Old Trafford was amazing, with the City choir in excellent voice and the Man Utd fans obviously stunned by the magical away support that a 'mere' Conference side could muster. Old Trafford erupted as the teams walked out. The roof of the East Stand must have been well bolted on as the cacophony of noise nearly ripped it off as the stand rocked to the chants of "City 'till Die" as City lined up to kick off this dream FA Cup match.

So, on to the main reason that most of us were there-the match! City kicked off attacking the far end to where we were sat, and were soon under attack, with a shot from Bellion (I think) drifting harmlessly wide of Paul Jones left post
Apologies if some of the 'highlights' are out of sequence, but in all the delirium I lost track of time and events. A strong Devine run down the left flank from inside the City half had United defenders trailing in his wake but sadly he ended up shooting from far out with Andy Taylor desperate to get up with him and marked in the middle.

Exeter had good chances of our own, probably the two best ones falling to ex-United starlet Taylor. He got his first sight of goal after some awful hesitancy in the Red Devil's defence when Pique let the ball bounce from a Jones' goal-kick, and Taylor, from 20 yards cracked a first time volley under pressure that Tim Howard awkwardly parried away.

Then after some good harrying of the Manchester defence by Marcus Martin and Danny Clay, Dean Moxey was clear only to be brought down by Pique. He escaped without even a booking. From the resulting feekick, Taylor whipped the ball over the wall and into Howard's top right comer, or so we thought! A second later after watching the players reactions we realised fat the ball had gone the wrong side of the post by inches and brushed the side netting. Then, another chance for the Grecians. United failed to dear a Taylor cross, Martin dinked the ball back, Flack foled on to Santos, Santos headed on to Devine who chested the ball which fell to Deano ten yards out and the left of goal. He got his strike away a milli-second before being clattered by two United defenders, but sady his shot screwed wide of the far post. A big shout for a penalty after Neville (or possible Pique) was ignored and a replay on Match Of The Day confirmed what all Grecian fans thought from the opposite end of the pitch, but the referee and his assistant failed to see it As the whistle for half time sounded we all had to pinch ourselves as we looked over to the scoreboard that confirmed it was indeed still 0-0 at 3:47pm.

The second half saw fewer chances for Exeter, although, to be fair, nothing clear cut from our illustrious opponents either, until on 60 minutes Sir Alex (their boss, not ours!) brought on Paul Scholes and Ronaldo. Surely it was only a matter of time until the City defence was breached now, we thought. But no, City stood firm, a great tip over from a header by Jones, and seconds after Alan Smith was introduced, a superb save from a Ronaldo shot (the only time he caused Jeannin any trouble) kept the scores level, While Moxey saw a terrific shot go just wide of the Manchester goal. With five minutes to go, with the dream of a replay within touching distance, Alan smith chested the ball down in the area, spun and shot....wide! With the clock ticking down to 0.00 the fourth official announced 3 minutes of stoppage time. This seemed to last for ten minutes, and then with almost the last kick, after a great last ditch tackle by Scotty, the ball fell to Scholes who only had to slide the ball past Jones and into the net from about 8 yards out. The East stand held it's breath, then let out a massive cheer as the ball dribbled wide of the far post! Seconds later and the referee blew the final whistle. and the scoreboard recorded the fact that at 4.49 the score was 0-0 with 0.00 minutes remaining. City had done it! The scenes that followed were ones that I will never forget. Grown men and women with tears welling, this time, unlike the last time I shed tears at a City game (Southend) they were tears of delirious joy and everyone jumping up and down, cheering and shouting. Absolutely amazing! Our team of little known heroes had stood tall in the cathedral of football against a Manchester United team comprising of Internationals and the cream of their youth academy. Every player in a black and gold jersey rightly soaked up the adulation from the massed ranks of Grecian fans, and to be fair, several thousand Manchester fans stayed behind to show their appreciation of a fine team performance, and perhaps offer up a prayer of thanks that they had not been dumped out of the the cup. The fans didn't want to go home and the players didn't want to leave the pitch, although, eventually they did, and we slowly filed down the steps to the exits. Some just simply stayed in their seats, letting the feeling wash over them, while others hugged and congratulated everyone in sight.

Once outside Old Trafford (by now about 5.30pm) the scene was no different, with fans wandering around, many looking shell shocked, while TV and radio crews where everywhere asking for reactions. Back at the car and into the queues, the car homs were beeping, and fans leant out of cars and mini-buses singing and cheering, while any poor United fan caught in the traffic prayed for a quick exit!

Having watched the extended highlights from Match Of The Day several times, our teams performance seems to get better each time. The defence was simply magnificent with nobody rushing into rash tackles, no panicky clearances and when there was time to pass the ball out, it was. Our midfield quartet chased and unsettled their opponents, giving them no time to rest on their laurels, and often got forward to join the attack. Up front, Flack and Devine chased everything - nothing was a lost cause. I'm sure that United's more experienced defenders, In Alex Inglethorpe, we have a rookie manager who got his tactics just right. We didn't go with the idea of putting eleven players behind the ball and wallop it up front for the forwards to chase, we went with the plan to defend, yes, but also to attack when the chance arose, and it worked. Finally, every single one of us, the fans, played our part too. We sang, we cheered, we clapped and we shouted our support from kick-off to final whistle - and for that we can all be proud that we played our part as well. Best songs of the day were "Have you ever played Brazil?", "0-0 to the Exeter" and "Premiership, your having a laugh"!

Was it really a dream? 

QUOTE, UNQUOTE - CITY FAN'S COMMENTS AFTER THE GAME AT OLD TRAFFORD

"What can you say? City battled their hearts out and ran their socks off and FULLY DESERVED a draw and were maybe unlucky not to win it? And the 9000+ faithful were a credit - we never stopped singing for the whole 90 minutes. Never have I been so proud to be a Grecian. Bring on the replay!"

"It was absolutely marvellous. Well done indeed and we're all so very proud of the team which excelled itself. The support too was out of this world. What more can I say? Couldn't sleep last night because of anticipation and probably won't tonight as haven't come down yet!!!! All this an MORE money towards the CVA amount"

"Stand up, if you love CITY, stand up, if you love City! ..... When the final whistle blew I noticed more than the odd tear of so many faces."

"Just to repeat the sentiments already expressed, what a day. A day when the best thing in the world was to be a Grecian at Old Trafford. A day to burst with pride."

"Got home about 10.30, in time to collapse, open a bottle and enjoy it all again on Match Of The Day. On the way home we stopped at Corley services, also the stopping point for lots of southbound Man United fans, who were magnanimous, and a coach load from Canvey Island, who, despite being slaughtered 4-0 at Morecambe, were absolutely delighted that we had upheld the honour of the Conference."

"My wife who has had to put up with years and years of my sons and I talking nothing but Exeter City was screaming louder than any of us at the end with tears in her eyes! What else can I say but - THANK YOU THANK YOU to EVERYONE of you who made today possible!2

"A day Never to Forget. Interesting stat on Match of the Day at the end of the game with the scroll at the bottom of the screen-Possession: Man Utd 62% Exeter City 48% - to me that makes 110% and sure enough our heroes, because make no mistake that's what they are, certainly gave 110%. This was an emotional day from the moment our suited stars walked out onto the pitch to moment they finally left.'

"Just woke up and my first thoughts (probably along with most City fans) were Was it a dream? Was it real? DAMN RIGHT IT WAS REAL!"

"First, proud, proud, proud! I had tears in my eyes as I was listening on intemet radio to hear the city faithful singing. I strained my ears to try and hear United fans and I only heard them briefly when Scholes and Ronaldo came on. I think I looked at my watch every single minute in disbelief. It seemed listening on the radio was just as tense as being there itself! The fact that we actually had chances was amazing enough. Secondly, the result. I've had a weekend of incredible mixed emotions. But the euphoria of the result has certainly helped. I don't think I'm being selfish in saying the draw was the best result possible as it gives me a lifeline to see them at St. James'. But the extra cash from the replay will be fantastic."

"I managed to wake up just in time to see the repeat of match of the day and "Press the red button" and got extended highlights which showed more of the celebrations and interviews with the City players which were a bit rushed on last night's version'

"Well just to say again yesterday that everyone, fans players and Alex were absolutely superb - never been so proud in all my life. I have what will now officially be know "as Trafford throat" and it hurts like hell but its worth it- someone pass the strepsils."

"I had a match of my life today... Thank you Thank you all..."

"If, like me, you are sitting there with a whacking great smile on your face this moming and you're puffing out your chest with pride then keep smiling and keep savouring the feeling -I don't think it will go away for at least another 9 days!"

"How do I feel tonight? Well the answer is immensely proud of the team I live and breath. Got back to Stoke around half 8ish on the train and now have finally calmed down.......well perhaps not!"

"What can I say, it was an absolutely superb performance from the lads today and each and every one of them I can easily say has done Exeter City FC proud. I had a lump in the throat just before kick off and the renditions of 'City Till I die' were superb. The atmosphere created by all 9,000 City fans in the East and South Stands today was second to none. I don't think I have known noise like it in all of the 16 years I have supported City.'

"Having just come back from Old Trafford, i have to say, never in my life have i been so proud of anybody in my life, as i was at the players of Exeter City Football Club.. At the final whistle, im not ashamed to admit, when the players did the lap of honour, i had a lump in my throat, and felt the tears welling up. I am so proud, and honoured, to call myself an Exeter City fan."

"Thank you to all the players, staff, and fans of this wonderful club for making my day memorable."

"I can't quite believe I saw our team hold Man Utd to a draw at Old Trafford, a feat that some Premiership teams find beyond them. We are top story on BBC Sport and I can't wait for Match of the Day. Congratulations to all the players and the staff for today, they are all heroes"

"SO, THIS is why they call it The Theatre of Dreams."

"I am a Exeter supporter here in Northern Ireland and have followed the Grecians for nearly twenty years. I have had been given stick for years about my football club, but after the excellent display on Saturday I can hold my head high and dish out the stick to my friends who are Man Utd supporters. Well done boys."

"May I apologise to the lovely lady who was sat behind me. I didn't catch her first name, but at the final whistle, she copped a massive hug & kiss from me and I think she was a little shocked (think she enjoyed it though)."

"Isn't it great reading the papers this morning and the hairs on your neck stand up as you realise that you were there. Isn't it great that papers like the Times have got more than a whole page on Exeter and are praising the socks off our performance and fans. And above all, isn't it great that all those people in the office/shop/factory this morning, who are usually taking the mick out of you for supporting a "little part-time Conference club" are saying how good it was"

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