It’s another away trip as we look to move on from our loss at Barnsley. It’s now reached the stage where I’m not too concerned about returning to winning ways, I just want us to score again after three games without scoring.
Date: Monday 26th December 2016
Opponent: Burnley (16th)
Venue: Turf Moor
Odds: Burnley=5/4, Draw=11/5, Exeter City=7/4
Weather: Breezy, drizzle 7C
Referee: Mr. Neil Swarbrick
Scott Malone makes his 25th league appearance for the club. Burnley get off to the better start and Futacs has a chance from 8 yards in the 4th minute. Jonathan Bond is alert and saves, but there is a rebound. Thankfully, we’re able to scramble it to safety at the expense of a corner. It’s an outswinging corner and Fonte meets it at the near post with a header that crashes against the post and we’re able to clear it. Two minutes later, Jonny Hayes cuts in and shoots from 20 yards. It goes over. Michele Marconi has a chance in the 13th minute, but his shot from 18 yards is straight at Grant and he saves comfortably. In the 19th minute, Loic Fournier lifts the ball over the top. Grant is coming out, but Federico Cenci gets to the ball first. He shoots from 16 yards and beats the stranded Grant. GOOAA… no, it hits the post and Burnley clear for a throw. A couple of weeks ago, that would have gone in. It feels like it’s going to be another of those days and I’m already wondering how we’re going to be punished for this miss. It looks like instant punishment as Fonte’s free kick from 20 yards in the 21st minute goes over the wall and is dipping in, but Bond is able to get across and tip the ball over the bar. Four minutes later, Lubomir Zapotoka shoots from 20 yards and it grazes the bar on its way over. We do find the net a minute later through Fournier. Unfortunately, it’s only the side netting. Becchio goes close in the 30th minute, but his effort from 16 yards goes wide and the half fizzles out.
Burnley start the second half well and Becchio heads a right wing cross over the bar from 10 yards out in the 49th minute. Three minutes later, Cenci fouls Koolwijk. It’s in the area. Penalty. McDonald steps up and puts the ball to Bond’s right. It’s not a good penalty and Bond saves! But he can’t hold on. McDonald is first to the rebound and makes no mistake the second time around, blasting in from 8 yards. There’s a coming together between Fournier and Futacs in the 60th minute, but Futacs comes out of it stronger and shoots, but it goes wide. Penalty! The linesman has his flag up and Mr. Swarbrick goes back to the coming together. Becchio hits the penalty high and hard to Bond’s right, giving him no chance and doubling Burnley’s lead through their second penalty in 8 minutes.
Marconi looks to get us back in the game in the 63rd minute, but his shot from 25 yards goes over. Before Grant can take the goal kick, Michel replaces Fournier – Pavlov moves up into central midfield, with Michel playing just behind Marconi as we seek to get back into the game. It doesn’t have the desired impact and we’re unable to create any further chances. Malone marks his 25th appearance for us by getting booked in the 89th minute for a foul on Anderson before leaving injured in the first minute of stoppage time after a tackle by Anderson; Rentea replace him.
Result: Burnley 2-0 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Fonte
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.8), DR-Zapotoka (6.7), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.6), DCL-Vukovic (6.6), DL-Malone (5.5, booked, sub 90), DMC-Pavlov (6.6), MCR-Matip (6.8), MCL-Fournier (6.5, sub 63), AMR-Hayes (6.7), AML-Cenci (6.8), ST-Marconi (6.9). Subs-Michel (6.8, on 63), Rentea (on 90). Unused-Spasov, Varga, Keane.
League Position: 1st
Another loss and another game without scoring. As the stats show, we were in the game, but couldn’t get shots on target. The two penalties in 8 second half minutes changed the game and put Burnley in complete control, allowing them to see the game out professionally. I don’t hold back with my thoughts in the post-match press conference, which catches the attention of the FA who relieve me of £450 for my comments.
Scott Malone’s yellow card was his 5th of the season and he’s banned for one match as a result. Victor Fernandez was in attendance, with Lubomir Zapotoka being the reason why he travelled to Burnley.
In transfer news, Charlie Hollet returns from his loan spell at Newport County. Napoli offer £1.1m for Federico Cenci. It would break our record fee received, but I reject the offer.
Just before the final game of the year, Dacian Varga announces that he will retire at the end of the season. I signed him when we got promoted into the Championship and he’s been an important player for us, but just recently has become a substitute as opposed to a regular starter.
Read Growing the Grecians #53.
Read from Growing the Grecians #1.