After the squad players got a run out in the League Cup against Spurs, the regular starters return for an important match. Obviously the Premier League brings exciting games for us against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea et al, but the real big games for us are against the teams who are likely to be battling to avoid relegation.
Date: Saturday 30th September 2017
Opponent: Queens Park Rangers (19th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Queens Park Rangers=7/4
Weather: Wet, 13C
Referee: Mr. Lee Mason
Ten minutes in, Cox plays the ball over the top of our defence. They turn and chase, but Himcinschi was already running forwards and gets to the ball first. He shoots from 8 yards out. Ben Amos dives. He gets a firm hand to the ball and puts it behind for a corner.
On the quarter hour mark, Mutesa brings down Lubomir Zapotoka. Mr. Mason blows his whistle and comes running over, brandishing a yellow card to the retreating Mutesa. Whilst Mutesa is retreating, Zapotoka is still down. The physio comes running on and it soon signalling to the bench that a change is needed. I send on Fabio Mora as his replacement, which sees him make his first league appearance for the club. With the change completed, Bertin Matip stands over the ball on the right to take the free kick. Matip whips the free kick in. It hits Federico Cenci, heads goalwards and rolls under Woods. It’s in! His 4th goal of the season. He certainly didn’t mean it and has definitely scored better goals, but they all count. Perfect punishment for QPR for injuring Zapotoka.
We continue to probe and press, looking to extend our lead. In the 29th minute, Bradley Johnson plays a killer through ball. It’s a race between Michel and Woods for who will get to it first. If it’s Michel, the lead will double. If it’s Woods, the danger for QPR will be gone. First to the ball is… Woods.
Mr. Mason takes Brecko’s name in the 35th minute for a foul on Cenci. Four minutes later, Whelan takes an outswinging corner. It’s deep and reaches the far post. The head of Addison, 6 yards out, meets the ball and draws QPR level. After having had the best of the half, it’s disappointing to concede. Especially from a set piece.
We look to hit straight back. Two minutes after conceding, Cenci plays in Rainer Breu. He’s 12 yards out and hits the ball goalwards. Woods is forced into action and concedes a corner. The last action of the half is in stoppage time, with Jonny Hayes picking up a booking for a foul on Bennett.
I rally the troops at half time as I feel that this is a game we can win. Eight minutes into the second half, we win a free kick 20 yards out. The challenge with a free kick so close is getting the ball up and down in time. Cenci steps up. It’s up. It’s down. It’s on target. It’s in Woods’ hands. He looks to get a counter attack started, but we win the ball back. The ball ends up with Hayes. He passes to Breu, who is 8 yards out. Unfortunately, he’s leaning back and his shot goes harmlessly over the bar.
In the 64th minute, Brecko fouls Cenci. The crowd are chanting for his dismissal. It’s just a free kick. Two minutes later, Brecko brings down Gennaro Riccardi. Again, the crowd chant for his dismissal. As before, Mr. Mason is happy to just award a free kick.
In the 70th minute, Matip takes an inswinging corner. QPR meet it at the near post and clear from the danger zone. It’s only a half clearance and reaches the edge of the area. Johnson is lurking on the edge of the area. He runs on to the clearance and fires an absolute bullet from 18 yards. It whistles just wide.
With fourteen minutes to go, Cenci runs down the left and crosses. It’s every defender’s nightmare – a low cross along the 6 yards box. Any touch could divert it in. It reaches the far post. Hayes is there and he scores his 1st goal of the season from 2 yards.
Hayes is replaced two minutes after giving us the lead, with David Bentley his replacement. Hayes is experienced, but I’m looking for the extra experience that Bentley will bring as we hopefully close the game out and claim three points. I also bring on Regis Olivier for Michel in the 90th minute, sacrificing my attacking midfielder for a defensive midfielder. It has the desired effect, with Johnson having a shot in stoppage time that Woods catches.
Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (6.8, sub 18), DCR-Ake (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (6.9), MCR-Matip (6.9, A), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (7.4, G, booked, sub 78), AMC-Michel (6.9, sub 90), AML-Cenci (7.6, G), ST-Breu (6.9). Subs-Mora (6.9, on 18), Bentley (on 78), Olivier (on 90). Unused-Mello, Byrne, Norwood, Hrubesch.
League Position: 12th
The physio reports on Lubomir Zapotoka and it’s not good news. He will be out for 5-6 weeks with a sprained ankle.
There’s plenty of activity in the loan market. Carlisle United offer to loan Bruno Pierrat for a month, Yeovil Town offer to loan Erik Stage for a month, Crawley Town offer to loan Nicky Holmes for a month and Millwall offer to loan Arnaud Aubert for a month. I accept all offers and all the players make the temporary switch. Rochdale offer to extend the loan of Jon Rune Svendsen for three months; I accept, but he rejects and returns from his loan spell. Chesterfield offer to extend the loan of Adolfo Mannino for three months, whilst Brentford offer to extend Dariusz Lenartowski’s loan for three months. I agree to both extensions; Lenartowski agrees, but Mannino rejects.
I sign Swiss midfielder Ermin Jakirovic on a free transfer. As with most of my signings, he’s one for the future. However, he may get a run out in the FA Cup.
It’s just as well I’ve signed him as Oliver Norwood is unhappy about playing second fiddle to Bradley Johnson and hands in a transfer request. I reluctantly accept.
There’s also an award for Busao, who is on loan at Hereford United – he wins League 1 Young Player of the Month.