Down and out in South East London

Saturday, 26 September 2009

This is first. A Happy as Larry analysis of a City game on the day of the game and having seen said game in question.

Shame said game didn't quite deliver the desired result then.

It's strange, though, how similar situations in football can produce such different reactions. Losing 2-1 at Leeds, City fans were nothing but smiles, sad that we'd lost to a late winner, but happy that we'd played well.

Six weeks later, we come back from the Valley having lost 2-1 to a team, like Leeds, much better than us, and having played well, but rather than joy at the performance there was just anger and disappointment.

While Tranmere (yeah, sorry about that, we just didn't get around to that one) was an expected three points, this was a game where even a last-minute scrappy equaliser after being under the cosh for 90 minutes would have been seen as a victory.

Quite simply, even the most optimistic City fan probably expected Charlton to tear us apart.

What we got, instead, was one of the best City performances of the season and on another day, the Grecians would have come away with a point or perhaps more.

Without wanting to sound like the archetypal 6-0-6 caller, Charlton were a bit lucky. Or rather, we were unlucky. But then you make your own luck, and Charlton can feel satisfied with what they did. Yeah, it was that sort of game.

The first 15 minutes, the worst fears seemed to be coming true. Charlton came out of the blocks flying, with Lloyd Sam on the left giving Danny Seaborne - who really isn't a fullback - a torrid time. You could feel the collective tensing every time Sam got the ball.

Yet somehow City weathered the storm and started to come into the game. The 4-5-1 formation with Stanno up front did occasionally leave him isolated but Harley and Noone made some nice moves. Half time approached, and City looked as if they might actually be able to push Charlton all the way.

Then we switched off from a throw-in on the stroke of half-time, a simple ball into the box evaded everybody and Nicky Bailey ghosted into the box to tap home. Arse.

But the second half was a case of "who are you and what have you done with Exeter City" as the Grecians abandoned their trademark cautiousness and, quite simply, went for it.

To see Exeter camped in the opposition half is a rare site these days. To see them camped in the half of the second-placed team in the League is almost unheard of. Yet there we were, Ryan Harley running the show and Stanno, then Barry Corr and Richard Logan, making tricky little runs, and Troy just heading over from a header.

But, alas and woe. When it's not going for you, it's not going for you. Soon after Corr had a goal ruled off for offside (a close, but probably correct decision), Charlton sent a cross into the box, Oscar in the City goal spilled it and Macleod tapped it in for 2-0. Double arse.

At that point, City decided to throw the kitchen sink - or rather Bertie Cozic - at the Charlton defence and pretty quickly it came off. Bertie had one shot blocked, which, on another day, would have trickled in, but from the corner, the Frenchman got on the end of Corr's header across goal to pull a goal back and set up a grandstand finish, albeit one with nothing, ultimately, to show for it.

So, that's that. We went into the game expecting to be tonked by one of the league pacesetters, but ended up nearly taking something from it. And, boy, where there some good performances.

"Big" Rob Edwards came back into the side, first as a defensive midfielder, before swopping with Troy in the second half, allowing the Spurs loanee to become a box-to-box central midfielder, something he did rather well. Meanwhile, at the back Big Rob and Matty Taylor were awesome and mopped up everything.

In the middle, Ryan Harley was also awesome. He still can't tackle, but that doesn't matter when he's able to find such space and time on the ball, and sit at the heart of everything Exeter did. Every time Harley got the ball, he was in acres of space. He can only get better.

Up front, Stanno ran his socks off, while Corr showed glimpses of why he's been getting the nod, with some intelligent runs and great play. His finish for the disallowed goal was top-notch. Logie looked very hungry when he came on as well. He'll even Alex Russell was good, keeping the side ticking over nicely and popping up in positions he, frankly, had no right to pop up in.

But all that hard work was for nothing. We played well, but just couldn't make it count and two moments of switching off were punished.

So, another double arse of a day where we deserved better. The worry is we'll continue to play well without winning, and we're better than that. At least I hope we are. Play like we did today, and we'll be more than a match for everyone else.

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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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