First published in The Grecian, 22 April 2008, Exeter City -v- Stafford Rangers
As the Grecians face tonight’s final home match of the season, you will either be eagerly anticipating another victory to tip us into the play-off places or anxiously hoping others lose to give us another chance.
Will be get there? As Vicky Pollard would say, “yeah but no but yeah but no but…” a final “yeah”, we hope. It’s been a rollercoaster season. At the start I didn’t think we’d do as well as we have – fearing the after effect of the disappointment at Wembley in May, plus the loss of a couple of inspirational players (I particularly liked Jon Challinor).
Then we had an incredible run, followed by a mini slump, followed by… as many twists and turns as you can imagine. Sometimes City have played with verve and imagination, while on other occasions we have lacked a vital killer punch, had defensive wobbles, or felt key absences in midfield.
Overall, this side really deserves another crack at the play-offs and Paul Tisdale, greeted with scepticism by some associated with the club when he was first appointed, has done a very good job indeed.
With a strong youth policy and everyone rallying around, Exeter’s future is bright. We just pray that the glow intensifies sooner rather than later. But whatever the outcome of this campaign, it is important that Grecians supporters get behind the team and its management, rather than squabbling or grumbling.
There certainly wasn’t much to grumble about in that pulsating game against Aldershot. It was the best I have witnessed this season. End-to-end stuff at times, the game was marked by moments of real quality, passion and commitment.
In reality, Exeter were unlucky not to come away with three points. But for a breathtaking save from Nicky Bull right at the end, we would have. There were squandered chances at both goals, plus lightening breaks, crunching tackles, deft touches and tactical battles across the park.
We also witnessed a bit of history, with Aldershot Town finally securing their return to the Football League 16 years after Aldershot FC sadly folded. These boys are no Shots in the dark. They have oozed quality and appear to have what it takes for a top ten finish or better in League Two next term.
What’s more, Exeter lived with them and even out-manoeuvred them on occasions. That’s a real signal for the future. Playing against decent sides often brings the best out in the Grecians. What is needed is greater consistency and penetration.
Given that Aldershot needed just a point, they could have thrown a blanket over this game. But they knew City were too good to do that. They often had five across the middle, but always geared for a possible attack.
Similarly, Exeter nudged players forward, going for victory rather than accommodation against a side that many would have been grateful for a solitary home point off. We were vulnerable on the right flank in the first half, but plugged that gap in the second.
Bringing on Carlisle and Moxey on the hour was nearly Tisdale’s miracle, with the two combining for what was almost the perfect super subs’ goal. But Deano’s header was narrowly squeezed away. So near but so far. That, of course, is the phrase we all hope we don’t end up using next week.
Heartening, too, to see Exeter fans congratulating Aldershot on their well-deserved promotion success at the end of the game as the cameras swooped. Rivalry and ribbing aside, football is sport – and it is all the better for being conducted in that atmosphere. No buts – yeah.