Retiring delight

Monday, 13 September 2010

No sooner do I express fears about Exeter City's season, then they go and record three wins on the spin - one in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and two in the league - and two are away from home no less. Up to that point, I'd been one of the few who'd witnessed Exeter's previous win on the road, away at Nuneaton in the FA Cup.

So we're now firing on as many cylinders as we've got. Defeating Hartlepool 3-2 was an important result, both in the league and mentally, with victory over Charlton was wonderfully unexpected And Ryan Harley, that little ginger wizard, can't stop scoring. His opener against Hartlepool was a delight.

But that's Exeter. Just as you think they're starting to fail, they turn it around. And vice versa. It's what makes the successes at this club so much the sweeter.

And with that, I think it's time to put this blog into semi-hibernation.

I'm hoping this won't upset all five readers too much, but there's a number of reasons. Largely, I have less and less time, but also because I doubt I'll bring anything new to the table.

Due to various commitments I'm probably only going to make one Exeter game between now and November. And, frankly, if I'm just going to be posting "We won! Yay!" and "We lost. Boo," plus cribbing news from other sources, then there's not much point.

I've always said I'll only blog if I can bring something different to the table - be that actually watching matches, or offering a small bit of analysis and opinion that you can't get elsewhere. But I really don't like copy-and-paste blogs and I really don't want this to become one.

I'll keep this place open, in case things get interesting at the club, or there's something worth writing about. But in the meantime, there's plenty of places to get your City news and fix from. Honestly, if you're reading this, you probably know where they are.

I'm back into optimistic mode again and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season. UP THE CITY.



Leyton Orient 3 Exeter City 0: Misery personified

Monday, 30 August 2010

There are no words. Well, there are, but mostly they consist of adjectives such as poor, abject, rubbish, shocking and many more that can't possibly be reprinted here.

It's taken me a good day and a half to calm down enough to write a more measured analysis of the match. At 5pm on Saturday the only sensible option was to get drunk. On Sunday, the anger and hangover was too great. Now, after sleeping on it twice, we're ready for measured analysis.

We. Were. Fucking. Terrible.

What, you want more? You want to know that Exeter were clueless for the first 45 minutes, looked for all the world if they'd only just met and then conspired to give a lesson in how not to defend for Orient's second two goals? You really want to wallow in that misery? If you insist.

Exeter haven't won on the road for over nine months now and from the opening minute we never remotely looked likely to breaking this unwanted run.

With no Matt Taylor or Richard Duffy, we played a 4-4-2 with full back Billy Jones at centre-half and four central midfielders across the middle. We were, quite simply, ripped a new one.

Orient came at Exeter from the off and Paul Jones nearly fumbled a shot into his net soon after. Wave after wave of O's attacks burst forward and Exeter could offer, well... nothing. There was the occasional foray into the Orient half but we failed to get a shot on target.

Meanwhile, Rob Edwards made a hooked goal line clearance and Jones just managed to push a shot onto the post. When even Ryan Harley had to resort to hoofing the ball out of defence, you know that Exeter's neat passing game just wasn't getting going.

What was most depressing was the middle of the park. James Dunne, David Noble, Liam Sercombe and Harley are all fine midfielders but all were trying to occupy the same ground in the centre of the pitch. Consequently, we had no width and no link between midfield and attack and Orient found it easy to pick holes through the centre of the park.

Nonetheless, Exeter very nearly made it to half time level, which would have been a travesty to football but encouraging for us travelling Grecians. After all, there was no way we could have been as bad in the second half.

Orient, though, finally made the breakthrough when a simple cross from the left saw Alex Revell given a free header and leaving Paul Jones with no chance to see Exeter head into the break one down.

Half time and Tisdale took action, pushing Sercombe out to the right wing and bringing on Richard Logan for Jamie Cureton, who I'd completely forgotten was on the pitch. The improvement wasn't immediate but it was there.

With Logan, we had a striker with a bit of height and physical presence so the balls weren't immediately getting pinged back to our half and for about 15 minutes, Exeter put a half decent spell together without hugely troubling Orient.

Ryan Harley had the best opportunity after being slipped through but Terrell Forbes produced a good block to deny the ginger wizard. Our other chance of note was Sercombe's effort after a mazy run but his decent effort hit Logan on the arse on its way towards goal. This just about summed up our afternoon.

The second and third goals, which were no less than Orient deserved, were horror shows of our own making, with the second in particular likely to have me waking up in a cold sweat for a good six months.

The home side launched a speculative punt upfield, but rather than clear the ball, Dunne and Edwards decided to walk into each other, leaving Scott McGleish with an easy run on goal. A new low had been reached.

Dean Cox's third for Orient was an impressive strike, but Troy Archibald-Henville, making his first sub appearance since injuring his knee in January, afforded the diminutive frontman too much time and space and you could see the goal flying in the moment Cox skipped away from his marker.

It really is a struggle to pick out any highlights other than the final whistle. It was nice to see Troy kick a football again after so many months out. And, er, that was it. This really was like watching EastEnders most miserable moments while listening to Tindersticks in the background.

In mitigation, Stanno's funeral was midweek, so this may have still been affecting the team. But for all that still leaves a very heavy burden on us all, the side has to pick itself up and start winning matches.

It is a very long time since I've seen an Exeter performance that bad. Hopefully it was just a blip, a one-off, and will serve as a wake-up call. Because, although we're only three games into the season, if we play like that every week, we will get relegated.

HAL Man Of The Match: Tempted to say no-one, as we were that poor. If pushed, either Richard Logan, who made a bit of a difference after his introduction, or Scott Goldbourne, who was one of the few Exeter players to show any attacking intent, even if the movement around him so so poor he often had to hit it 30 yards back up the pitch to find a player.


Goodbye Stanno

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Adam Stansfield will be laid to rest this afternoon. I imagine there'll be a big turn out at Exeter Cathedral as City fans pay their last respects to our number nine.

And if you want to read a moving tribute to Stanno that will bring another lump to your throat, Oliver Holt's piece in the Mirror is one of the best things I've read.

RIP Adam.


Jamie Cureton earns a permanent stay at the park

Less of a surprise this one. Much-travelled striker Jamie Cureton has signed a permanent contract with Exeter City after a couple of sub appearances on a pay-as-you-play basis.

It's no secret that Paul Tisdale wanted to sign Cureton but needed to free up some money in his budget, and Cureton himself has made very positive noises about wanting to stay at Exeter.

The jury's still out on whether this is a good signing or not. Last season neither Norwich nor Shrewsbury fans were overly impressed with the striker, but he has scored goals wherever he's been and he was very impressive leading the line on his own against Bristol Rovers at the weekend. His movement away from defenders caused them plenty of problems and he was willing to put in a lot of running against them.

I can't see him displacing O'Flynn or Nardiello at the moment, although could see him working well in a partnership with Richard Logan. And you'd be disappointed if he didn't net a few this season given his record.

No word on the length of the deal, but I'd be surprised if it was for longer than 12 months, given his age and record.

The squad's looking pretty complete for this season now, although another centre-half would be nice, unless we're planning on blooding Furzer and Bennett.


Exeter City 2 Bristol Rovers 2: A game for Stanno

Sunday, 22 August 2010

In many respects, the result on the pitch today was irrelevant. This was a day for paying tribute to our sadly departed number 9, a cathartic afternoon of grieving. A win in memory of Adam Stansfield was the result everybody was hoping for. Sadly football has never been one to respect the script.

Emotions were always going to run high and the way the players got through the tributes and played the way they did for 90 minutes was impressive, especially Adam's best friend and Man Of The Match Steve Tully. He was immense in every sense of the word.

Certainly the players coped better than I did. Walking past the Flybe stand entrance towards the Red Square and seeing the hundreds of tributes left for Stanno by the railings brought a lump to my throat. Reading the numerous tributes to Adam in the matchday programme had me choking back tears. When the minutes applause started for him, I welled up and could hold it in no longer.

I've never been much of a crier. I've never been one much for grieving in public, but I clearly wasn't the only one. All around me, grown men who paid to watch Adam put in a tireless shift every week were wiping tears from their eyes.

Adam Stansfield embodied the heart of Exeter City and all that every could be described as good about football. That he was taken from us a month shy of his 32nd birthday with so much to give to both the club and his young family is heartbreaking. I hope God realises when a gem he's signed from us.

But while it would be easy to fill this post with more memories and tributes to Stanno, they have been and will continue to be done elsewhere. The game may have always been for Adam, but it was also about taking three points from Bristol Rovers.

And for much of the first half, this looked like a serious possibility. Exeter started by playing some crisp, impressive passing football and it was no surprise when the Grecians went one up. Steve Tully was sent scampering away down the right touchline, found some space and produced a pinpoint cross for Daniel Nardiello to head home emphatically for his first goal for the club.

It was no less than Nardiello or City deserved and there was no doubt who the goal was for. The players immediately ran to the Exeter bench and collected Adam Stansfield's number 9 shirt before displaying it to all corners of the ground. That one was for Stanno.

For much of the first half, it looked as if Exeter would add a second quite comfortably. Another perfect cross by Tully was headed wide by Scott Goldborne, never the best header of the ball, while the Grecians were involved in what can only be described as tika-taka in the centre of the park.

Liam Sercombe in particular caught the eye with his quick feet a movement. Last season the youngster seemed hesitant and, at times, overawed, but this season he looks like he believes he belongs in the team. With Ryan Harley missing through illness, much of City's best work came through Sercombe.

Rovers, meanwhile, were limited to the odd foray up the field, most of which were tidied up by Richard Duffy or 'Big' Rob Edwards, deputising for the injured Matt Taylor. At 38 Edwards is still a class act and positively relished keeping the Gasheads' front line quiet, at one point unceremoniously dumping a forward on his backside for having the terminity of trying to take the ball past him.

But the nagging fear grew that while City were good in possession, they were still vulnerable with just a one goal lead and so that fear came to pass.

First the impressive Nardiello limped off to be replaced by Jamie Cureton. Given the striker's injury woes this was a major concern and Cureton took a while to get into the game.

Then, on the stroke of half time David Noble, largely solid up to this point, gave the ball away in the centre of the park. Rovers broke and worked the ball into the penalty area. Although the City defence appeared to have things covered, Jo Kuffour was allowed to turn and smashed a shot passed Paul Jones to level the scores.

Exeter were still rattled after the break as Rovers built in confidence and it didn't take long for City to self destruct completely. First a long ball over the top saw Duffy caught one on one with the Bristol striker. Whether he accidentally or deliberately clipped the attacker's ankle, I'm not sure, but as soon as Hoskins went down there was only one outcome and Duffy was already halfway back to the changing rooms before the ref had brandished the red card.

Eight minutes later, Rovers had the lead after the City defence failed to clear the ball properly and after a bit of penalty area pingball Hoskins poked home to give the Gas the lead.

Without Duffy, Exeter reverted to a flat back four, with Billy Jones playing centre-half, while up front John O'Flynn dropped deeper to give the midfield extra support.

But without the extra man, City struggled to impose themselves on the game and twice Paul Jones pulled off some exceptional saves, including one point blank shot from close range that looked destined for the goal.

But Exeter never gave up trying and Tully in particular seemed determined to haul Exeter back into the game single-handed with and all-action display down the right flank. Eventually City settled and started working the Rovers backline again. An equaliser looked highly unlikely but not totally impossible.

You can debate the challenge in the penalty area on James Dunne all you like, and my view is Dunne saw the challenge coming and played for it, but the spot kick offered Exeter a way back into the game and O'Flynn calmly slotted home to open his account for the Grecians and level the scores at two all.

Noble, who had been off the pace for much of the second half, was replaced with Bertie Cozic to give Exeter extra muscle in the centre of the park, while up front Cureton provided a masterclass in how to hold up the ball and work the channels, but despite a positive end from both sides, it remained level, probably a fair result over the course of the 90 minutes.

Under the circumstances, this wasn't a bad point. We were missing Taylor and Harley, two of our best players, while Nardiello only lasted half an hour and we had to play nearly all the second half with ten men. If Goldborne's sitter had gone in, it could have been a different story, but the team showed character to come back. It does suggest that last season's problem of too many drawn home games still hasn't quite been fixed.

But, hey, I'm not the one playing in front of nearly seven and a half thousand people having just lost a well-loved and popular colleague to cancer. Under the circumstances and emotion, we did well.

And, in many respects (and hopefully this won't be taken the wrong way), we needed to get that game out of the system and we needed not to lose. It would be easy for heads to drop and Stanno's death affect the team badly. As it is, the performance and the fightback was one of a mentally strong team and would have done Adam proud.

And secondly, sadly, life goes on for the club and for Tisdale and his team. We've now grieved for Stanno and have to turn our attention to picking up wins, starting with a trip to Leyton Orient on Saturday.

But while we, as a club, have to move on, the little things - the memories, the numerous articles, and the memorial tributes outside the ground show that Adam is gone but will never, ever be forgotten.

RIP Adam Stansfield

HaL's Man Of The Match: Steve Tully. A magnificent, mature display down the right hand side. Rallied the team after Duffy's sending off and his cross for the goal was perfect. The former Weymouth full-back just keeps getting better, even though he's now a veteran.


Happy As Larry

This is an Exeter City fan blog by Gary Andrews, covering news, views and action from the real St. James' Park.

Come on you Grecians!

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