Match 55
7th April 1990
Stockport County (h)

Chasers falter as Cooper's men held


Exeter City 1 Stockport County 1
Report by TRINA LAKE

THIRTY-EIGHT games gone, eight to go and Exeter City are still top of the Fourth Division with promotion firmly in their sights. They survived one of their most searching examinations of the season at St James's Park on Saturday against an adventurous Stockport County side who fully deserved the draw.

And with a number of other results in the division going their way-including Grimsby held at Halifax and Carlisle losing at Hartlepool - City remain the team that everybody must chase. They needed a twice- taken penalty from Jim McNichol to earn the point that keeps them clear at the top after Stockport danger man Brett Angell had struck a 23rd minute opener. The penalty was awarded for a blatant push on Kevin Summerfield by Mark Payne.

McNichol tucked away the kick past goalkeeper Scott Barrett's right hand but had to choke back his celebrations as Croydon ref eree Roy Bigger ordered it to be retaken because Tom Kelly was encroaching. "Some friend Tom is. I was really worried then," admitted McNichol. "As I went to take it, I heard one of their players shout to the keeper that I was going to put it the other way so I put it the same way and the keeper guessed right. I was very glad to see it go in," he added. The goal takes McNichol's tally to nine and what a valuable one this was as City were presented with a real battle to extend their unbeaten home run to 27 games after two deflating away defeats at Hereford and York.

Stockport, themselves desperate for points to stay in the promotion frame, came with a positive at- titude. The pace and height of Angell and Chris Beaumont, combined with good support from midfield, made them a dangerous at- tacking force that gave City's defence an uncomfortable afternoon. The visitors also defended solidly and in numbers to restrict City's penetrative power and the absence of injured top scorer Darran Rowbotham - whose ability to conjure a goal out of nothing at times keenly felt. was

The new-look strike com bination of Steve Neville and Summerfield is nowhere near as potent and Richard Young's arrival for the final 15 minutes did little to improve City's effectiveness up front, although he did have an 84th minute goal disallowed for offside. With Richard Dryden also sidelined through injury. manager Terry Cooper was also forced into a midfield reshuffle and opted for Clive Whitehead on the left, Brian McDermott on the right and Kelly and Danny Bailey in central harness with Angus McPherson switching to left back.

The changed formation took time to bed in but there was no shortage of enter- prise once they did get go- ing as Summerfield and Shaun Taylor went close and Whitehead should have had a penalty when Andy Thorpe felled him in the 21st minute. A one-two between former West Brom men Sum- merfield and Whitehead cre- ated another good opening but Thorpe again came to Stockport's rescue to concede a corner from which County scored! McDermott swung the kick on to McNichol's head but his misdirected effort was easily cleared to send Beaumont scampering clear. And instead of jockeying his man, covering defender Scot Hiley dived in but mis- sed his tackle and Beaumont unselfishly squared for the unmarked Angell to pick his spot and beat Kevin Miller from 12 yards. Miller then saved well to deny Angell a second before City recovered to mount a storming finish to the first half. Their equaliser was fashioned by the influential Whitehead, who tormented Stockport right back Steve Bullock with guile rather than pace. He left his mark on the de- fender in a touchline clash that angered the Stockport players but earned City a free kick which Whitehead curled in himself. As Summerfield rose to meet it, he was clearly shoved in the back by Payne and the referee had no option but to agree with City's penalty claims this time and up stepped McNichol to do the business. City then applied con. siderable pressure before the break with a Whitehead header cleared from under the crossbar by Bullock and a number of other near mis ses from a succession of corners .

The second half started brightly enough but deteriorated as the game wore on and both sides squ andered good opportunities to win it.

Beaumont shaved the post with Miller beaten in the 49th minute, the City "keeper produced excellent fingertip saves to deny Bullock and David Frain late on while Bailey, whose de fensive covering was crucial at times, survived a penalty appeal when Frain went down under his challenge. City had their chances too. Whitehead touched the ball narrowly wide from a corner, McNichol crashed an 18 yard free kick against a defender who was patently not 10 yards away, McDermott sent a shot high on to the Big Bank when he had time to do better and Summerfield headed off target just before Young replaced him. And then, of course, there was that disallowed Young effort. But a draw was undoubtedly the fairest result with City nevertheless disap pointed that they weren't quite able to stretch their run of successive home league wins into double figures.

Exeter City
Miller, Miley. McPherson, McNichol, Taylor, Whitehead, Kelly, Bailey, McDermott , Neville Summerfield (Young 75)
Sub not used. Rowe.

Stockport County: Barrett, Bullock, Logan, Thorpe, Jones, Leonard, Brabin, Payne, Beaumont Frain, Angell.
Subs [not used) Cecare, Brockman.

Attendance: 4,817.



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