Thursday, 1 May 2008

Not Plainmoor sailing for the Grecians

Well, it's not over yet, but tonight was a bitterly disappointing one for Exeter City, who lost the home leg of their Blue Square promotion play off tie 2-1 to southwest rivals Torquay United. The clincher was a disastrous goal right at the end, resulting from a howler by second string 'keeper Paul Jones. Kicking a relatively straightforward through ball directly into the Gulls' Chris Zebroski, he gifted the striker the winner. This sad denouement to a tense but hard fought game came after Grecians' Wayne Carlisle had equalised Sills' first half opener for Torquay with a fabulous strike.

Exeter managed to dominate large chunks of the game with good, passing football. But early on they lacked penetration in and near the box, and top scorer Richard Logan came on too late in the second half to make much difference. With Steve Basham injured and Adam Stansfield struggling in the air against Torquay's big back line, the options are constrained. City were also very unlucky to have a Carlisle goal ruled offside after a great break by young George Friend, when Setanta TV's replay (so I'm told) suggested that it wasn't.

So now Exeter have it all to do on Plainmoor on 5 May. Wembley is still within reach, but it's going to be a tough call and the team will need all the resources at their disposal. That will surely include goalkeeper Andy Marriott. In spite of his slip up against Aldershot, he has played very well all season, providing assurance, experience and solidity at the back.

I confess I was very surprised when Paul Tisdale dropped Marriott for tonight. No doubt keeping Paul Jones on board by giving him a spin of the turf was partly on the manager's mind, and presumably he's done well in training. But he lacks experience and first team match practice this season, and he looked nervous on and off all evening. His error was a mistake waiting to happen, it felt. But the Grecians will live to fight at least one more day.

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