5th April 2005
Halifax T (h)
Town pay for missed chances Shaymen slip back to fourth
By Dave Fletcher football reporter
Exeter City 2 Halifax Town
A STUNNING 35th-minute free kick from Andy Taylor proved to be the difference. between two sides battling for a play-off spot.
Taylor curled a 25-yarder into the top left hand corner of the net, leaving the Halifax defence bewildered and keeper lan Dunbavin flat-footed. But Town were left to rue their failure to make more of a dominant second half display as they slipped a further place down the table to fourth. The Shaymen had plenty of opportunities to get back on level terms for a second time. Their problem was that they were unable to capitalise on any of them due to a combination of poor delivery, disappointing finishing or pure bad fortune. Had their luck been in, Greg Young's injury time header at the end of the game would have crossed the line rather than striking a defender and being cleared. Town's defence was never put under too much pressure by the twin threat of veteran Exeter strikers Steve Flack and Sean Devine. And such was Flack's frustration with his evening's work that he might even have seen red in the second half when he clattered Adam Quinn, moments after dishing out similar treatment to Dunbavin. Les Afful caused a few problems with his pace down the tight hand side." But it was his short passing game that helped give the Grecians the lead after 15 minutes when he fed Paul Buckle and his mis-hit shot bobbled into the net. Within five minutes, the Shaymen had levelled. And it was the persistence of Craig Midgley down the right hand side that eventually allowed Lewis Killeen to fire home from 12 yards. A couple of minutes later, Jason Blunt got a flick onto a Martin Foster corner, but City stopper Paul Jones nipped in to claim the ball ahead of Ryan Sugden. Exeter enjoyed their best spell of the game just after the half-hour mark. Devine had a cross tipped over the bar for a corner by Dunbavin and from the resulting deadball, Santos Gaia thumped a header against the right-hand upright. And with 10 minutes to go before the break they regained the lead when, after Henry McStay's foul on Flack, Taylor curled in his impressive free kick. Devine was unable to keep down a header from Alex Jeannin's cross in first half injury time as Exeter looked for more. But, an Afful shot that ballooned over the bar apart, they were not allowed to get back into their stride after the break as Town looked for improvements. Sugden got away down the right in the 47th minute but his cross was over the head of strike partner Killeen. Midgley volleyed over from the edge of the area soon after and Killeen's 55th-minute header went straight into Jones's arms. Exeter responded with a Jeannin free kick that Dunbavin claimed and a Chris Todd shot well saved by the Town keeper who would not have known the offside flag had been raised. At the other end. Town continued to press in search of an equaliser, but Sugden sliced a shot wide of the target after latching onto a decent through ball from skipper Steve Bushell, and Young looped a header into the keeper's arms. With Darren Mansaram and John Grant joining Sugden in attack in the closing stages, the Shaymen had plenty of firepower. But it was a defender who went closest to snatching something 90 seconds. into time added on at the end. Sugden had done well initially to win a corner after everyone apart from him and Scott Hiley had waited for the referee to stop play for an apparent high foot. Foster's delivery from the right was spot on, as was Young's powerful goalbound header. But, like any defender worth his salt, Hiley was waiting on the line and managed to block the ball before it crossed the line. Town's players put their heads in their hands while Exeter put the points in their pockets.
Jones, Hiley, Sawyer, Gaia, Todd, Afful (Martin 86), Taylor, Buckle, Jeannin (Ampadu 79), Devine (Phillips 83), Flack. Subs (not used): Rice, Sheldon.
Goals: Buckle 15, Taylor 35.
Flack (70, foul), Martin (90, dissent).
Dunbavin, McStay, Young, Quinn, Ingram, Midgley, Blunt (Grant 85), Foster, Bushell, Sugden, Killeen (Mansaram 67). Subs (not used): Croudson, Clarke, Chin.
Goal: Killeen 20.
Sent off: None
Referee: R East (Wiltshire).