After a resounding victory at home, we hit the road in a midweek fixture.
Date: Tuesday 29th November 2016
Opponent: Cardiff City (9th)
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Odds: Cardiff City=3/1, Draw=2/1, Exeter City= 4/5
Weather: Dry, 6C
Referee: Mr. Mike Dean
Three of my starting XI make a milestone appearance. Scott Malone, coming in at left back, makes his 150th career league appearance, Federico Cenci makes his 75th league appearance for us and Jonathan Bond makes his 100th league appearance for us.
Bradley Johnson looks to get us off to a flying start with a shot from 16 yards in the 4th minute, but Marshall is able to get a hand to it and Cardiff clear their lines. Two minutes later Cenci crosses from the left and finds Jonny Hayes 12 yards out. Hayes shoots, but his shot is blocked at the expense of a corner. Cardiff have a chance through Borges in the 12th minute, but Bond saves his shot from 16 yards. Bond is unable to hold on, but we’re able to clear the ball to safety. Cardiff win a corner in the 14th minute and as the ball’s coming in, Klukowski goes down. Mr. Dean has no doubt and points straight to the spot. Cenci marks his 75th league appearance for us by conceding the penalty and going into Mr. Dean’s book. Bettiol steps up. He shoots to Bond’s left. Bond guesses correctly. But Bettiol’s penalty is right in the corner and Bond can’t get a hand to it as Cardiff take the lead. We look to hit straight back and in the 17th minute, Bertin Matip takes an inswinging corner. Johnson meets the ball at the near post and his header from 6 yards hits the post. The rebound falls to Luca D’Avanzo, but Cardiff clear the ball off the line for a throw. One minute later, Cenci passes from the left and Johnson crashes an effort against the bar from 20 yards and once again, Cardiff clear for a throw. We’ve certainly responded well to going a goal down and are applying plenty of pressure. Catalin Rentea crosses from the right in the 25th minute and finds Cenci at the far post, but he’s only able to head over from 12 yards. Cenci goes closer 9 minutes later with a low curling shot from 25 yards, but Marshall is just able to scramble across and tip the effort around the post for a corner. Matip takes the resulting corner and his outswinger is met by Cenci at the near post. He’s unmarked and heads in his 13th goal of the season (and 25th of his career and for us) from 6 yards. It’s well deserved for the pressure we’ve been applying. In stoppage time, Jagos Vukovic enters Mr. Dean’s book following a foul on Bettiol.
After a strong first half, we start the second half on the front foot. Cenci takes a free kick from the right in the 50th minutes and finds Vukovic unmarked and 8 yards out at the far post. He really should do much better than head over and wide. It’s the kind of chance that I hope we don’t come to rue. Two minutes later, Bettiol is 6 yards out and shoots. Bond is able to get a hand to it and we’re able to scramble the ball away for a throw. Rentea enters Mr. Dean’s book in the 57th minute following a foul on Rybus. The foul follows Spearing going down with a knock and I substitute him for Michel. Hayes becomes the 4th player into Mr. Dean’s book in the 68th minute and I replace him two minutes later with Dacian Varga. Varga looks to make an instant impact and in the 72nd minute, Cenci crosses from the right and finds Varga at the far post. He sends his effort from 8 yards back across the goal and Marshall tips the ball wide for a corner. Malone becomes the 5th name into Mr. Dean’s book in the 76th minute after a foul on Mason. One minute later, Cenci crosses from the right and this time finds Varga unmarked at the far post and 6 yards out. He heads downwards, but Marshall saves and holds. Delfouneso has a rare chance for Cardiff in the 78th minute and Bond saves his shot from 12 yards. With eight minutes to go, another outswinging Matip corner is met by the head of Cenci at the near post 6 yards out. Marshall blocks Cenci’s header and D’Avanzo turns the ball in from 3 yards for his 2nd goal of the season. It’s fair to say that Cardiff aren’t happy and surround Mr. Dean, appealing for handball. Mr. Dean waves away the protests, but his cards stay in his pocket. With one minute to go, Malone plays the ball over the top and Varga robs McNaughton. He’s 16 yards out and has a great chance to wrap up the game and points, but Marshall is able to save his shot form 16 yards at the expense of a corner. Matip takes an inswinging corner in the 90th minute and Cenci gets his head to it at the near post, but his header from 6 yards goes just wide. In the first minute of stoppage time, Delfouneso shoots from 20 yards, but it’s straight at Bond and he holds on. In the 3rd minute of stoppage time, Davies takes a free kick from the right and he finds Keinan unmarked and 10 yards out at the far post. It’s a glorious chance to rescue a point and… he heads over. The points are ours.
Result: Cardiff City 1-2 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Luca D’Avanzo
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Rentea (7.3, booked), DCR-D’Avanzo (7.8, G), DCL-Vukovic (7.0, booked), DL-Malone (6.9, booked), DMC-Spearing (6.7, sub 59), MCR-Matip (7.1, A), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (6.4, sub 70), AML-Cenci (7.6, G), ST-Marconi (6.9). Subs-Michel (6.9, on 59), Varga (6.9, on 70). Unused-Spasov, Zapotoka, Keane.
League Position: 1st
Another game, another 3 points. We were able to apply plenty of pressure, but struggled to convert chances, although Marshall made some good saves. We were perhaps fortunate that Cardiff wasted a great chance deep into stoppage time, but I’d say that we deserved the win and another three points.
It’s not all good news from the match though as the physio reports on Jay Spearing, who has picked up a hip injury. A specialist is the only course of action and he’ll be out for 2-3 months.
The end of November sees the monthly awards being announced. Player of the Month is Michele Marconi. He’s averaged 8.00 for the month and scored 5 goals in 5 games. Young Player of the Month is Jan Valkucak (Blackburn Rovers); Luca D’Avanzo comes 2nd and Federico Cenci comes 3rd. Joel Campbell (Norwich City) scores Goal of the Month. Manager of the Month is awarded to Mark Bentley (Blackburn Rovers) and I’m third. Charlie Hollet, on loan at Newport County, comes 2nd in the League 2 Young Player of the Month award.
With a month to go until the transfer window opens, the media go into overdrive. Will Keane is reported to be a transfer target for Fulham, Phillip Langer is linked with a move to Southampton, Como are reportedly interested in Sasha Chirico, Napoli are apparently poised to bid for Federico Cenci, Metodi Spasov is linked with a move to Pescara and the Rangers/Bradley Johnson story restarts.