A strong first half performance against Crystal Palace saw us score three goals and earn three points. We have another good opportunity to add three more points to our tally.
Date: Saturday 18th March 2017
Opponent: Middlesbrough (20th)
Venue: The Riverside
Odds: Middlesbrough= 4/1, Draw=5/2, Exeter City=4/7
Weather: Breezy, drizzle, 6C
Referee: Mr. Mark Clattenburg
We’re the favourites and in the 6th minute, we get our first shot on goal; Federico Cenci plays in Jonny Hayes and his shot from 10 yards is fumbled by Hamilton for the expense of a corner. Hayes shoots from twice the distance three minutes later, but Hamilton watches it wide. A minute later, Michel shoots from 5 yards further back, but Hamilton is untroubled as it is comfortably over his bar. Hayes looks to turn provider in the 13th minute with a long ball that Cenci collects. He runs into the area before shooting from 12 yards, but Hamilton is equal to it. Hamilton makes a more comfortable catch in the 19th minute when Michel shoots from 20 yards. We’re piling on the pressure and three minutes later, Bertin Matip passes to Cenci and his first time shot from 12 yards cannons off the bar to safety. Middlesbrough’s first chance of note comes in the 32nd minute when Pilkington swings a corner in. McManus meets it with his head 8 yards out at the far post and it requires Gennaro Riccardi to clear it off the line. A few weeks ago, that would have opened the scoring and given Middlesbrough the points, so hopefully it’s a good omen. It looks as though it might be five minutes before half time – Hayes crosses from the right and Alain Besse heads in his 3rd goal of the season from 6 yards out. That makes the half time teamtalk a bit easier and is no less than we deserve.
The lead is short lived. Three minutes into the second half, a Campbell cross from the left is deflected and falls to Moore, who makes no mistake from 6 yards. Five minutes after Middlesbrough’s equaliser, Oliver Norwood take a free kick from the right and Matip flicks it on to the far post, where Jagos Vukovic heads towards goal. Hamilton blocks. There’s a rebound. Vukovic is quickest to react. Instead of trying to force it through the bodies between him and the goal, he squares it. To Cenci. Who is 2 yards out. He’s never going to miss from there and records his 25th goal of the season to put us back in the lead. The goal seems to take all the fight out of Middlesbrough, although they do have Semedo and McManmus booked for fouls on Vukovic and Hayes respectively. With 7 minutes to go, I replace an attacking midfielder with a defensive one as Jay Spearing replaces Michel to ensure we see the game out.
Result: Middlesbrough 1-2 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Jonny Hayes
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.8), DR-Zapotoka (7.0), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (7.0, A), DL-Riccardi (7.0), MCR-Norwood (6.9), MCL-Matip (6.8), AMR-Hayes (8.2, A), AMC-Michel (6.9, sub 83), AML-Besse (7.5, G), Cenci (7.4, G). Sub-Spearing (on 83). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, Koch, Marconi.
League Position: 2nd
A well-deserved three points as we looked the team most likely to score throughout. Against Palace, we got a couple of early goals and won comfortably. A couple of early goals would have helped make the result more comfortable and been deserved, but we were denied by Hamilton and the woodwork and Middlesbrough were always in with a chance of snatching something. For away games, Michel has generally been on the bench and I’ve played a defensive midfielder instead of an attacking one, but we’ve some tough-looking games coming up so I decided to gamble by playing a more attacking formation that usual when away from home and it paid off. A special mention to Jonny Hayes, who records back-to-back Man of the Match awards. This time, the award earns him a place in Team of the Week.
Attilio Tesser, the manager of Cagliari, was in attendance and watching Federico Cenci again. I think it’s going to be quite a challenge to keep hold of him during the summer. Speaking of Cenci, his 2 yards tap-in sets an Exeter City season record of 25 goals, beating the 24 scored by Michele Marconi last season.
Adriano Gazzoli resumes full training, but Florian Koch dislocates a shoulder and will be out of action for 2 months. Whilst on the treatment table, he requests to be removed from the transfer list and I agree.
Luton Town offer to extend Charlie Hollet’s loan spell for another month. I agree to the offer and he agrees to the extension.