I’m hoping that we can use our League Cup victory as a source of inspiration when we return to league action.
Date: Saturday 27th August 2016
Opponent: Rotherham United (21st)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Rotherham United=7/4
Weather: Dry 13C
Referee: Mr Paul Hutton
There are changes aplenty as we return to league action, but it’s a bit of a slow start following the excitement of the League Cup game against West Ham United. The first action of note comes in the 19th minute when Federico Cenci turns a defender on the edge of the box and shoots. Blackman gets to the shot, but can only push it away. Rotherham react quickest and clear for a corner. It seems to have been the spark we were looking for and three minutes later, Cenci picks out Jonny Hayes, but Rotherham pressure him and his shot from 20 yards goes wide. In the 29th minute, Bertin Matip takes an outswinging corner and Cenci, 6 yards out, heads it into the net. Unfortunately, the side netting. Cenci and Hayes combine again in the 34th minute and with similar results again, the only difference being that this time Hayes blazes over from 18 yards. Matip looks to play provider in the 39th minute with a clever pass into the area, but an alert Blackman gets to the ball just ahead of Cenci. Two minutes later, Michel shoots from 10 and finds the side netting only. We go into half time level, but having had all the chances and I’m feeling a bit nervous as teams that don’t take chances tend to be teams that get punished.
I was right to be nervous as 2 minutes into the second half, Do Marcolino cuts a ball back from the left and Novak is on hand to score from 6 yards and put the visitors into the lead. An outswinging Matip corner in the 57th minute is met by the head of Cenci, but he can only head over from 8 yards. With 30 minutes left and having had most of the chances against a team lower than us in the league but not having taken one whilst they’ve made the most of their chance, it’s starting to feel like it’s going to be one of those afternoons. In the 69th minute, Matip has a second go at being provider when he plays in Hayes. He’s 6 yards out. He must. He does! Hayes gets his first of the season. We’ve equalised and no-one can say that we haven’t deserved it. We continue to push on to try and find a second and with 10 minutes to go, Dacian Varga crosses from the left and finds Cenci 16 yards out. Cenci pulls the trigger and blasts a rocket into the roof of the net for our second of the afternoon and his second of the season. Before Rotherham kick-off, I replace Michel with Ryan Mason. We win a free kick in the 87th minute in an attacking position and Matip takes an outswinging one. It is met by Brown on the 6 yard line and he blasts the ball clear. Or he would have if Daniel Berger hadn’t been right in front of him. The ball rebounds off Berger and into the net with Blackman a helpless bystander. It’s Berger’s first of the season and he definitely knew nothing about it, but they all count! Berger’s joy turns to agony two minutes later when injury forces him off, with Luca D’Avanzo coming on as his replacement as we successfully see the game out.
Result: Exeter City 3-1 Rotherham United
Man of the Match: Bertin Matip
Ratings: GK-Spasov (6.9); DR-Rentea (7.2); DCR-Berger (7.9, G, off 89); DCL-Vukovic (6.9); DL-Riccardi (7.2); MCR-Matip (8.4, A); MCL-Johnson (6.9); AMR-Hayes (7.6); AMC-Michel (7.1, off 80); AML-Varga (7.7, A); ST-Cenci (7.9, G). Subs-Mason (on 80); D’Avanzo (on 89). Unused-Wilkinson, Fournier, Keane.
League Position: 10th
The result looks as though it was a comfortable victory, but it was late on we took the lead and even later when we made it comfortable. I certainly hope we can improve on our finishing as otherwise I can see us being punished against teams higher in the league.
The physio reports on Daniel Berger and it’s not good news – he’s torn a hamstring and will be out for 3 months. However, Berger (along with Bertin Matip) get named in Team of the Week following our victory over Rotherham United. With the end of the transfer window approaching, Alaves offer £3,000, £5,000 over 12 months and 20% of the next sale for Hugo Fernandez, whilst AlbinoLeffe offer £150,000, £200,000 over 12 months and 10% of the profit from the next sale for Manuel Gavilan. I accept both offers and both players leave for pastures new.