26 September 1998
Cambridge U (a)
Cup kings pay
Cambridge United 1 Exeter City 1.
Randall Butt reports as Cambridge United run out of steam and are held to a 1-1 draw with Exeter
Saturday 26 September 1998
Referee: L Gable
Attendance : 3061
THEY almost got away with it. An excellent goal and an exceptional save looked like being enough to get weary Cambridge United home against ineffectual Exeter. Until two of their curses- vulnerability at set-pieces and lack of concentration in the dying minutes - combined to strip two points away from them. Despite losing Worthington Cup hero Trevor Benjamin, victim of a harsh red card decision in the 70th minute, United were comfortably playing out time and easily holding the lead John Taylor gave them midway through the first half. But sluggishness when a corner was cleared, allowing Exeter's big men to remain in the penalty area, gave Jon Richardson the chance he took to grab his team's first away point of the season.
"We moved out quicker, catching Exeter off-side after other set-pieces," said United manager Roy McFarland. "But this time we were slow and paid for it. "We looked leg-weary after the cup match against Sheffield Wednesday, and there was some mental tiredness as well. Unfortunately, we don't have the kind of squad to be able to bring in two or three fresh players with sufficient experience. Under the circumstances I thought we did well to get so close to winning." It would hardly, however, have been the most-deserving victory of the season so far for his men. It was not difficult to see why Exeter had travelled unsuccessfully until they reached the Abbey, but a stronger referee than rookie Lee Cable might well have granted one of their three penalty appeals. It looked suspiciously like handball just inside the box by Marc Joseph after 15 minutes, and although Darren Rowbotham's bounce off goalkeeper Arjan Van Heusden just before the break was undoubtedly theatrical Richardson's second half fall, aided by Joseph, was more convincing. Exeter boss Peter Fox said: "When Jon got into the box, I thought keep going and you're either going to get a shot on goal, or they are going to have to bring you down. He got clobbered, the referee looked at his linesman, but nothing happened. I couldn't believe it." Cable, an edgey, first-year referee was was also criticised by McFarland for chopping the match into a scrappy low-key encounter suffered by just over 3,000 fans. Which meant, at best, around 300 of the extra 4,500 curious Cambridge "followers" attracted by the Worthington Cup tie returned for another look. The best of what they witnessed was a classic centre-forward's goal by Taylor from Neil Mustoe's pin-point cross in the 27th minute, and 10 minutes earlier a brilliant reflex save by goalkeeper Arjan Van Heusden when Darren Rowbotham rammed in a header from just five yards out. But for most of the time the game meandered between the penalty areas without creating much excitement inside either. Taylor's strike was the only time United hit the target in the entire match, and Van Heusden's save was from one of two Exeter efforts which posed any threat. United's midfield, despite the after- effects of the midweek heroics against Premiership Sheffield Wednesday, and the cumulative tiredness of a two-match a week schedule for a month just about prevented Exeter from taking control for more than the occasional short spell. And Benjamin's dismissal after his clash with Geoff Breslan did not appear to hand the visitors any kind of advantage they were able to make very much of. What led to the injury-time blow, however, was ever-tiring United's inability to take the game into the Exeter half in the last 10 minutes or so. They fell deeper and deeper into defence, conceding a series of corners which produced the equaliser and probably a fair result.
Van Heusden, Chenery, Joseph, Duncan, Campbell, Mustoe, Wanless, Russell, Butler, Benjamin, Taylor.
Subs (not used): Preece, Youngs, McCammon.
Bayes, Curran, Power, Fry, Richardson., Gittens, Rowbotham, Baddley, Flack, Holloway, Breslan.
Subs: Gardner (For Holloway 77 mins), Crowe (For Fry 85 mins). Not Used: Gale.
27 mins, 1-0: A corner cleared only as far as Neil Mustoe on the left touchline who swung the ball back into the box where unmarked JOHN TAYLOR powered a header high inside the near post.
91 mins, 1-1: Almost a carbon copy. Geoff Breslan gained possession after a corner was beaten out, and centred for JON RICHARDSON to ram a header under the crossbar.
L Cable (Woking)
Sent Off: Benjamin (United): Late tackle. Booked: United - Duncan (foul), Joseph (kicking ball away).
Exeter-Curran, Baddley (fouls), Rowbotham (kicking ball away).
On Target. United 1, Exeter 3
Off Target. United 4, Exeter 4
Corners... United 5, Exeter 8