1st March 1980.
ECFC v Reading
ECFC 1-0 Reading (W 1-0)
FURY OVER GOAL SCARE
WHAT a game... what a result... what a startling decision ... and what a winning goal!
Exeter scraped together both points at St James' Park yesterday, yet the fragile scoreline tells nothing of the agony and ecstasy which they went through to keep themselves in with a Third Division promotion chance. Starting in reverse order, the winning goal arrived after just three minutes from another of City's well worked set pieces. Peter Hatch deliberately sent his corner kick swirling outwards beyond the penalty spot and towards Phil Roberts. Roberts arrowed a downwards header into the heart of Reading's goalmouth with the specific intention of unsettling defenders. Finally, there was the huge man himself, Jimmy Giles, to apply the kiss of death with a shot from the left foot that he openly admits is there purely to make up the number! What about the startling decision? It came a minute from time when Hatch cleared off his own line on to the bar and former Exeter loan signing Gary Heale headed it back into the net. Referee Brian Stevens (Stonehouse) appeared happy at first but then disallowed the goal on the strength of one of the linesmen's offside signal. Reading were perfectly justified in protesting how could any of their players be offside when Hatch was straddling the line? And now to the result. In fairness, it was an injustice to Reading during a game in which City took the first half honours and played on their luck after the interval. Lee Roberts had two chances before the break to build on their lead but sent a free header over the top in the 42nd minute and a shot in the same direction three minutes later. The once again impressive Dave Pullar might also have stretched City's lead with a thrilling 40-yard dash in the 16th minute. He sent in a shot that inched its way across goal and was just wide of the target. Couple that with a remarkable reflex save from another Pullar effort by 'keeper Steve Death and Exeter should have had the game stitched up before the change round. In the second half, however, Reading applied the screw and skipper Richie Bowman cleared the ball from inside the six-yard box before City 'keeper Ian Main rescued his side in the 79th minute. Heale's shot looked an equaliser all the way but Main reached towards his top right hand corner to push the ball to safety. A Bowman shot three minutes from time took an uncomfortably close deflection from Giles. And then Reading suffered the trauma of that late disal- lowed goal, with practi- cally everyone acknow- ledging that they had won a well deserved point. What of the game? Read- ing played with a great deal of confidence after arriving in Exeter unbeaten in their previous five games and climbing away from the foot of the League table. Nevertheless they were always inferior when Exeter chose to play the ball on the ground and decided to play to the strength and the speed of Pullar; the glorious one touch play of Delve, and the inventiveness of Hatch. Unfortunately City didn't do it often enough, with the result that they can count themselves lucky in avoiding another home disaster.
Three players were booked: Reading's Dave Moreline for dissent and Lawrie Sanchez for ungentlemanly conduct. City's John Delve was also cautioned for retaliation although City will appeal in writing since all Delve did was to try and avoid a nasty show of temper. The booking puts Delve on 19 points one away from a period of automatic suspension.
MAIN, MITCHELL, HATCH, HORE, GILES ROBERTS (P), NEVILLE, ROGERS, ROBERTS (L), DELVE, PULLAR