MATCH REPORT: A great game of football

Yet again it was another beautiful Spring day for a game of football and the crowd to me looked more than the Yeovil game although at 10,254 it was actually 10 less! I looked upon this game as a must win game if we were to maintain hopes of an Automatic place and at the best I really expected us to remain in 5th spot with the other clubs in the race all winning what on paper were far easier games than what we faced. Well I was right with the “must win” as defeat would have left us 4 points adrift and it would have been Play offs for us without a doubt but as is always the case with football results are not forgone conclusions and Plymouths defeat to already relegated Dagenham was a real shock as to be honest I thought that was the one that was a banker. This must also warn us that playing the two relegated clubs in our remaining games is not a foregone conclusion but I very much hope that injuries permitting DC selects the same side for the hopefully, two last games of this season. Whilst we must respect the opposition in the same way they must respect us and we have the ability to attack sides with the team selected yesterday so lets bloody do it! Anyway on to the individual performances yesterday.

Mildenhall 7.5 I expect there is somebody out there who will slow the goal Exeter scored down and say Mildy should have stopped it but it was a quality goal and he had no chance whatsoever. For me this was another top class goalkeeping performance and on his present form he is as good as any keeper in this division. His distribution all game was good as was his handling and made two quality saves at important times. On this form he is worth a goal start.
Leadbitter 7 Felt he defended very well for the majority of the game and provided an outlet on many occasions where only the quality of his crossing let him down. The difference between him and Browner is this very quality of providing assists, however what must be taken into account is that Danny is playing pretty well on his own because Billy Bodin for all the qualities he does provide, defensive cover is not one of them  and this is why I have marked him the same as Browner and they both put in good performances as did the defence as a unit
Brown 7 Kept things pretty tight and weighed in with a brilliant free kick which made me wonder why he didn’t have a crack with the free kick in the last few minutes at Stevenage. Brown has this great knack of scoring spectacular goals and this one was up with the best finding the top left corner with a beautiful strike. I really feel also that he is building a partnership with Montano who understands tracking back and first half especially I thought they kept things neat and always looked dangerous.
Lockyer 8 Proved today that he has grown physically in the last year and but for the moment he was beaten for the Exeter goal would have been my Man of the Match there again his performances have been so consistent that he is always in the running and deservedly so. Stockley is an awkward customer and overall I think Tom did a great job to contain him especially after the challenge in the first half that I thought was going to end his game yesterday but he eventually got himself up,brushed himself down and started all over again. Blimey I nearly had a song then!
McChrystal 8 Great captains performance and I hope he plays the remaining games which will mean we don’t see that awful 3-5-2 again this season as there is certainly no need for it as we have a more than capable team to play OUR formation and let the opposition do the worrying. Another who took a dreadful challenge but when the going gets tough the tough get going. A totally no nonsense display from a player who seems to be written off far too easily at times but just comes back in and proves any doubters wrong.
Bodin 8.5 MOM  Faded in the last 20 minutes but for me still contributed enough quality to the game to be named Man of the Match and unlucky not to be celebrating one or two more. He certainly is a handful for any defender with his clever footwork and tricks and started the game like a man possessed who was out to show the Manager just why he should have started at Stevenage.  Great shot for the first goal  and always involved in the first half generally. Has the capability to change a game and keep his defender busy. Another quality strike in the second half deserved a goal  but was saved by a very capable keeper although I must say after watching it again that I think Mildenhall would have been criticised if he had let the first goal in although it was a cracking shot. He is a bit of a luxury in that he does little good defensive work but it is well worth it given the creativity  and goals he brings to the side. I felt he should have been substituted the last twenty minutes and gone off to a well earned reception.
Lines 8 I really think that the Mansell /Lines combination is the best partnership for central midfield and it seems to bring the best out of both players. Whilst Exeter had long spells of dominance in the centre of the park in the second half this was more down to their ability as a team to pass the ball around with confidence rather than the failings of Lines and Mansell. Chris was always involved and although there was still the odd wayward long pass where a simple pass was the better option I thought he was always involved and willing to run at players and pretty creative in the process. Yesterday was the first time in a long time that I can remember him actually having a great shot! I am still sure he will score before the season is out.
Mansell 7.5 Great to see Manse back in the middle as there is a certain presence about him and his enthusiasm seems to run through the team. Was particularly impressive in the first half, as was the entire team but understandably tired towards the end of the game. He possesses the ability to break up the game and lets opponents know he is there, always harassing them and then laying off a simple pass. Had two cracking shots that deserved better.
Montano 7 Always looks to me like he has a goal in him and was very unlucky that McCrystal managed to get in the way of his blockbuster that looked on its way. Kept chasing and harassing the opposition when not in possession and always willing to move inside to give Brown the chance to go down the left. It was this ability to take the ball inside and his awareness of other people that enabled him to set up Bodin for the first goal when others would probably have had a shot themselves. Did fade a bit in the second half but personally would have substituted Bodin who appeared to have tired more.
Taylor 6 For me was well off his game in the first half although it was his trickery which upset Exeter into an unnecessary foul which gave us the free kick that Brown scored from. Overall I felt his game was a 5 but then he did what only Matty can do and scored an absolute gem of a goal to put us back in control when Exeter were threatening to equalise. In my opinion Matty’s general game has not been up to his usual standards recently but he has gained more confidence in his goalscoring ability and no longer can he be looked upon as a striker who needs four or five chances to score one. His 28 goals shows that he is now the deadliest striker in this division and the big 30 is looking a distinct possibility and well done DC in his management of him. He is well worth keeping on the pitch even if he is below par because he is always capable of scoring a goal.
Gaffney 7 Personally would have rested him yesterday which showed why I am a supporter reporting on games and DC is the Manager. Gaffs responded with an all action performance where he ran himself into the ground, showed some great close control and lay offs and generally gave the Exeter defenders a tough time. He seems far happier when the ball is played into him rather than  up to him if you see what I mean – he is not great in the aerial challenges but anywhere below his head he is more than capable of holding his own and has a quick, clever pair of feet for a big man. I would probably have brought Harrison on for him the last twenty minutes as by then for me he had given his all and the effects of that were showing.

O. Clarke 6 Did exactly what he was brought on to do as we were getting outnumbered in the centre of the park. Showed tenacity and the willingness to have a shot at goal.
Easter 6 Made a fantastic challenge immediately after coming on and for me is very unlucky not to be starting more games as his class is there for all to see and the ball sticks to him. it is a shame that it is near the end of the season because I think Jermaine is definitely looking sharper and fitter and if we could afford to have a player in the hole between strikers and midfield he would suit this role to perfection however how we play you would need to be allowed a twelve man team to accommodate that luxury!
Lawrence X Not long enough to mark, in fact I probably have taken longer to write this assessment of him than he spent on the pitch! Personally I would have brought him on  a bit earlier.

Exeter 8 Many thought after the Northampton game that this was our most difficult game remaining and despite a good 3-1 win this is exactly as it proved to be and make no mistake this was a very good Exeter side who possibly played the best football of any side seen at the Mem this season and it amazes me how they start a season with a side that look well short of quality and yet Tisdale manages to get them playing some wonderful stuff especially in the middle of the park. When they sold Tom Nicholls they took a few games to get over it and probably it was that spell that cost them a Play Off spot rather than the result yesterday. Shame they have a nasty side to their game too!

Crowd 9 Another 10,000 plus crowd and very loud from the off.
Ref 2 Way below the standard of the game that he was officiating and not helped by a linesman on the Dribuild side who had obviously forgotten his spectacles. I really think his leniency caused the nastiness later in the game because Exeter knew they could get away with it and they were very lucky and can thank him that they ended up with 11 players on the pitch.

DC After the Stevenage game it was good to arrive at the Mem and see a team sheet that as much as anything showed to me that DC is completely human and not a God and had made mistakes with his Selection and method of playing on Tuesday. Ok many will say there was no mistake and it was just another different project and that may be true but for me it was back to normality and a team that has goals in it and the ability to attack the opposition rather than just try to stop the opposition playing. DC take a bow for managing the team to 13 wins out of the last 14 home games and an amazing 40 points out of those 42 at stake. Bloody amazing is the only words I can think of and can never in my 50 years of following the Gas remember such a record. Now Sir all you have to deliver is 6 points out of the next six and cross everything going!!

So we move on to what is now another must win game that will not be easy but could well be more like a home game with the natives giving it a miss and very unlikely to be up to much vocally after their relegation to non league was confirmed yesterday.

The important games to us next week are

York v Bristol Rovers (Obviously)

Carlisle v Oxford

Wycombe v Accrington

Cambridge v Plymouth

For me Wycombe getting something at Accrington is the only chance we have of  overtaking Accy but the most important thing is to make sure we win and then look at the situation going into the last game. Like our last fateful season in the League we could be going into the last game relying on Wycombe at Oxford or Stevenage at Accrington. How much I would give for it to be in our own hands come the Daggers game because at least then if it goes wrong we only have ourselves to blame.

I would suggest an unchanged team and let York do the worrying although obviously they are at a stage where there is nothing to worry about other than visits to Braintree and those other wonderful haunts we had last season. UTG

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