A draw in our last game kept an unbeaten run going, but we could do with some wins to keep up our chase for automatic promotion.
Date: Saturday 11th March 2017
Opponent: Crystal Palace (23rd)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=1/2, Draw=13/5, Crystal Palace=9/2
Weather: Gusty, 10C
Referee: Mr. Will Howard
Lubomir Zapotoka is making his 25th league appearance for both us and in his career. Five minutes in, Jonny Hayes plays in Michel and he slots home from 10 yards for his 4th goal of the season and to get us off to a flying start. Six minutes later, we’re two up; Hayes crosses from the right and Federico Cenci powerfully volleys in from 6 yards for his 23rd goal of the season. In the 14th minute, Cenci shoots from 16 yards and Larsen Kwarasey spills the ball. Cenci goes for the rebound, by Mr. Howard blows the whistle for a foul on a defender. Hayes looks to score himself in the 16th minute, but his shot from 25 yards whistles just over. Parr takes an inswinging corner in the 20th minute and finds Ramage unmarked at the far post, but he heads over from 6 yards out. It’s a let off for us. A minute later, Cenci runs into the area and shoots from 8 yards; Larsen Kwarasey gets down well and concedes a corner to keep the score at 2. Oliver Norwood looks for another stunner in the 27th minute, but he can’t keep his shot from 30 yards down. On the half hour mark, Bradley Johnson lifts the ball over the top, but Cenci’s shot from 18 yards goes wide. McQuoid shoots from 18 yards in the 33rd minute and Jonathan Bond makes a comfortable save. Marrow enters Mr. Howard’s book in the 37th minute for a foul on Gennaro Riccardi. Six minutes before half time, Cox takes a powerful shot from 16 yards, forcing Bond to beat the ball behind for a corner. In stoppage time, we counter from a throw. Cenci runs from the halfway line, shoots from 16 yards and scores his 24th goal of the season. Surely game over.
Dikgacoi has his name taken by Mr. Howard in the 50th minute for fouling Michel. McQuoid joins him a minute later for fouling Vukovic, with Ayling having his name taken a minute later for a foul on Cenci. Alain Besse passes to Cenci in the 55th minute. He’s 12 yards out and has a great chance to complete his hat-trick, but it’s a tame shot and Larsen Kwarasey saves comfortably. Riccardi has his name taken a minute before the hour mark for fouling Tomasov, who forces Bond to save his shot from 18 yards four minutes later. Riccardi crosses from the left in the 65th minute and finds Hayes 6 yards out at the far post. He meets the ball with a header and Larsen Kwarasey pushes the ball over the bar for a corner. Michele Marconi is brought on in the 71st minute for Hayes, with Cenci moving out to the right wing. With 12 minutes to go, Dikgacoi fouls Michel. Mr. Howard blows his whistle. He produces a card. It’s a second yellow. Dikgacoi is off! To ensure we don’t end up with 10 men as well, I replace Riccardi with Catalin Rentea in the 79th minute. Vukovic moves across to left back, Rentea goes to right back as Zapotoka moves into the centre of defence. Marconi lays the ball back to Cenci in the 86th minute, but his shot from 8 yards out goes across the face of the goal and wide. It doesn’t look like he’s going to complete his hat-trick. With three minutes to go, Cenci passes to Besse and he hits a powerful shot from 8 yards that produces a stunning reflex fingertip save by Larsen Kwarasey, who tips the ball over for a corner. The last chance comes in the 90th minute when Cenci lays the ball off to Marconi and he lets fly from 25 yards, only for Larsen Kwarasey to tip over the bar again.
Result: Exeter City 3-0 Crystal Palace
Man of the Match: Jonny Hayes
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (7.2), DCR-Berger (7.1), DCL-Vukovic (7.7), DL-Riccardi (7.1, booked, sub 79), MCR-Norwood (7.0), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (9,1, 3A, sub 71), AMC-Michel (7.9, G), AML-Besse (7.0), ST-Cenci (9.0, 2G). Subs-Marconi (6.6, on 71), Rentea (on 79). Unused-McCarey, Spearing, Matip.
League Position: 2nd
A good comfortable win – just what we needed. We got into a quick two goal lead and the goal on the stroke of half time ensured that there would be no comeback. It helps keep us secure in an automatic promotion spot and ensure that Birmingham City can’t take their foot off the gas. It was also nice to play Palace and not have to worry about Scannell after they sold him – he always seemed to play well against us.
After a good performance, I’m expecting to see some players in Team of the Week. Tuesday morning and the team is announced and we have (drumroll please)… one player. And it’s Michel. Whilst I’m delighted he’s in the Team of the Week, I feel very sorry for Hayes and Cenci (evidently their mid-week performance against Peterborough has cost them).
Martin Koci is the subject of a loan bid from Fleetwood Town for one month. All parties agree and Koci joins them. As he leaves, Luca D’Avanzo resumes full training in time for the run-in. I also add a new face to the squad – Bulgarian midfielder Spas Donchev, who we’ve had on trial a couple of times. He’s another prospect for the future.