Growing the Grecians #64 – It’s a promotion clash!

We’re approaching the business end of the season and whilst there now tends to be a week between games, they’re all big games. Good luck to anyone trying to match Oliver Norwood’s wonder goal against Norwich.

Date: Saturday 4th March
Opponent: Blackburn Rovers (5th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=4/5, Draw=2/1, Blackburn Rovers=3/1
Weather: Downpour, 12C
Referee: Mr. Rob Mills

Oliver Norwood makes his 125th career league appearance and it’s unlikely that he’s going to be able to mark it with anything as special as he did his 124th. It’s described as a promotion clash and if we can win, we can start to put some distance ahead of the chasing pack. However, lose and we’ll have teams breathing down our neck for automatic promotion. So no pressure lads!

In the first minute, Jonny Hayes crosses from the right. It hits a defender before it can reach it’s target and deflects into the near post. Blackburn panic and half clear it to the far post, where Alain Besse heads into the side netting from 4 yards. So close to a perfect start. We go again a minute later when Besse passes to Federico Cenci – he runs into the area and shoots from 10 yards, but Forster catches. The woodwork is rattled again in the 7th minute when Hayes hits it from 18 yards. A minute later, Mphela picks the ball up 10 yards inside our half. He turns Jagos Vukovic, beats Daniel Berger and slots the ball under Jonathan Bond from 18 yards to open the scoring. It’s a good goal, but I feel that we should have stopped him. Norwood marks his 125th league appearance by getting booked in the 13th minute, with Shaban the man fouled. The goal doesn’t deter us and we put together a good move in the 17th minute – Hayes passes to Cenci, who moves the ball on to Besse. Just as he’s about to let fly and surely level the scores, a defender slides in and Forster picks up the loose ball. An equaliser is surely coming and it arrives in the 24th minute. Besse feeds Cenci and he powers it into the roof of the net from 12 yards for his 23rd goal of the season. He must have been reading Roy of the Rovers and decided to mimic Hot Shot Hamish! Hayes enters the book a minute later for fouling Crofts. Mphala shoots from 20 yards in the 32nd minute and it’s a comfortable catch for Bond. He plays the ball upfield and Valkucak is booked by Mr. Mills for fouling Besse. Michel has a chance from 18 yards in the 34th minute, but he’s leaning back and it sails harmlessly over the bar. Eight minutes before half time, Shaban restores Blackburn’s lead with a shot from 18 yards. Cenci looks to draw us level in the 41st minute when he turns his marker on the edge of the area, but he can’t keep his shot from 18 yards down. Two minutes before Mr. Mills blows for half time, Hayes passes to Cenci, but he drags a shot from 16 yards wide.

Michel plays in Cenci six minutes into the second half and he coolly slots finishes from 10 yards. Celebrations quickly stop as the linesman’s flag is up. Cenci was fractionally offside. Bond gets down well to save from Crofts from 16 yards in the 56th minute as Blackburn look to establish a cushion. Three minutes later, the same player shoots from the same distance, but he can’t get the ball on target as it goes wide. I make my first change in the 63rd minute with Bertin Matip replacing Bradley Johnson; Matip will sit and Norwood will be encouraged to get forward more. Mphela has two chances to extend Blackburn’s lead, but his shot from 12 yards in the 65th minute is wide, whilst his shot from 20 yards in the 68th minute is saved by Bond. I bring on Michele Marconi for Michel in the 69th minute, with Cenci dropping back into the hole. Marconi’s soon in the action as Besse plays sends him clear in the 72nd minute. He gets the ball caught up in his feet and Forster rushes out and is on top of his effort by the time Marconi gets his feet sorted and shoots from 16 yards. With 10 minutes to go, Mphela looks to chip Bond from 20 yards, but it goes just over. With eight minutes remaining, the last action of note happens. Gennaro Riccardi passes from the left and Hayes shoots from 16 yards. It’s in! It’s Hayes’ 5th of the season and also his 25th goal for us and 50th goal of his career.

Result: Exeter City 2-2 Blackburn Rovers
Man of the Match: Mphela
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (6.8), DCR-Berger (6.6), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.1, A), MCR-Norwood (6.8, booked), MCL-Johnson (6.1, sub 63), AMR-Hayes (7.5, G), AMC-Michel (6.6, sub 69), AML-Besse (7.9, A), ST-Cenci (7.2, G). Subs-Matip (6.9, on 63), Marconi (6.9, on 69). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, O’Toole.
Attendance: 8,714
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

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The stats show a fairly even game, but I felt that we had slightly the better of it. A win would have been brilliant for us, but as we were a goal down with less than 10 minutes to go, it’s a good result in the end and keeps things pretty much as they were. In truth, it’s a result I’d have settled for at the start of the game and most definitely with 10 minutes to go.

Attilio Tesser, the manager of Cagliari, was in attendance. He’s rumoured to be interested in signing Federico Cenci and was scouting him in person.

Newport County offer to loan Dennis Judge for a month. I accept their offer and he agrees to the temporary switch.

Read Growing the Grecians #65.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.


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