A win last time out against QPR was a welcome boost and our first win in front of our fans in the league. Hopefully it will be a nice boost and we’ll see if we can record back-to-back wins…
Date: Saturday 7th October 2017
Opponent: Manchester City (1st)
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium
Odds: Manchester City=1/6, Draw=5/1, Exeter City=10/1
Weather: Drizzle, 13C
Referee: Mr. Andre Marriner
Ok, maybe back-to-back wins is asking a bit much as we’ve got arguably our toughest test to date, but it’s nice to dream. It would be the most amazing way to mark Jagos Vukovic’s 250th career league appearance and Jonny Hayes’ 125th league appearance for us! I tweak our tactics, electing to counter attack and play more directly.
Unsurprisingly, we’re defending straight from kick off. And I mean straight from kick off. Manchester City attack from the start, Nathan Ake brings down Nangis and Mr. Marriner produces a yellow card. A centre back on a booking with just 89 minutes left; what could go wrong???? It certainly doesn’t make our task any easier.
Manchester City create their first clear chance in the 7th minute when Isimat-Mirin heads towards goal from 10 yards out. It’s close to Ben Amos and he tips over the bar for a corner.
Federico Cenci picks up his seemingly customary yellow card in the 14th minute for a foul on Savic. Two players booked within the opening quarter of an hour away against one of the league’s potent attacks is not how I’d have hoped things would be going. Still, at least they haven’t scored.
Spoke too soon. Two minutes later, Ayew picks the ball up on the right wing, runs all the way across to the left side of our area, gets into it and shoots low from 12 yards into the net, with the ball going underneath Amos’ arm. A tackle or two along the way would have been nice, but it would probably have led to a third yellow card if we were lucky or Ake being dismissed if we weren’t.
It does seem to have acted as a bit of a wake up though and two minutes after conceding, Rainer Breu shoots from 20 yards. It’s a low effort and Hart saves it comfortably, but at least we’ve got to the right end of the pitch and shown that we can fleetingly cause them problems.
However, our effort seems to have the same effect as poking a bear with a stick. Nangis shoots just wide from 12 yards in the 22nd minute. One minute later, Kompany fires wide from 16 yards out. A minute after that, Ayew finds Nangis 12 yards out. As he did two minutes earlier, he shoots wide. It looks like a matter of time before there’s another goal.
Three minutes later, there’s another goal. It’s from a Kompany pass. A loose pass that Breu picks up and shoots from 18 yards, beating the dive from Hart to find the bottom corner and record his 4th goal of the season to draw us level – we’ll take that! The stadium is stunned into silence. Apart from a section going crazy.
It’s not just the crowd who seem stunned and Manchester City take a few minutes to get going again. Hazard shoots from 12 yards in the 37th minute, but has the same directional problems as Nangis from that distance. Isimat-Mirin earns a yellow card in the 39th minute for a foul on Breu – it seems we’ve got them rattled.
The important thing is that having drawn level, we hold on until half time. In stoppage time, the ball falls to Aguero. He’s 12 yards out. I can think of plenty of other players who I would prefer to see shooting against us from 12 yards out on the stroke of half time. Actually, no I can’t – he shoots wide and we go into the break with the scores level.
We start the second half as we started the first – a booking. This time, Fabio Mora enters Mr. Marriner’s book for fouling Hazard. Ten minutes later, a cross from the right finds Hazard 8 yards out. He hits an absolute thunderbolt that crashes off the bar before we clear to safety.
In the 57th minute, Nangis gets the wrong side of Ake and collects a ball over the top. Ake has already been booked, so any kind of a challenge is going to be fraught with danger. Nangis runs for 20 yards and elects to shoot from 18 yards, but fires harmlessly over the bar.
Rainer Breu is forced to go off injured in the 62nd minute and I bring on Adriano Gazzoli as his replacement. Gazzoli goes to the right wing, Hayes moves across to the left wing and Cenci plays as our striker.
Hazard takes an outswinging corner in the 67th minute. Defensively, it seems as though we’ve decided that Aguero 8 yards out doesn’t need marking. Unsurprisingly, a free header by Aguero from 8 yards out is on target. Thankfully, one of our defenders has stayed switched on – Gennaro Riccardi is manning the near post and he puts the ball behind for another corner, which we defend much better.
With 16 minutes to go, Aguero tries his luck from 25 yards, but is unable to get his shot on target. Three minutes later, he is able to get a shot on target from 18 yards out. Amos gets down quickly and makes a save, with Ake completing the clearance. Before the throw in can be taken, Bradley Johnson replaces Oliver Norwood, with the ex-Manchester United man coming on to a crescendo of boos.
In the third minute of stoppage time, I bring on Michel for Federico Cenci. It’s partly to ensure he doesn’t pick up a second yellow card, partly to play with no striker (Michel comes on as an attacking midfielder), but mainly to try and run the clock down.
We’re five minutes into stoppage time. I’m pointing frantically at my watch. Aguero is 30 yards out on the left hand side. He looks up. There’s few options ahead of him. He hits a wickedly curling shot. It’s a magnificent effort. The only thing that’s better than the shot is the save from Amos. A full length dive and he pushes it round the post for a corner. We defend the corner and Mr. Marriner finally blows his whistle for full time.
Man of the Match: Ayew
Ratings: GK-Amos (7.0), DR-Mora (6.9, booked), DCR-Ake (7.2, booked), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.0), DMC-Olivier (6.8), MCR-Matip (6.9), MCL-Johnson (6.9, sub 77), AMR-Hayes (6.9), AML-Cenci (5.9, booked, sub 90), ST-Breu (7.2, G, sub 62). Subs-Gazzoli (6.4, on 62), Norwood (on 77), Michel (on 90). Unused-Mello, Jenkins, Byrne, Hrubesch.
League Position: 12th
Charlie Howard, the spokesman for the fans, indicates that the fans are slightly concerned following our 1-1 draw at Manchester City. I accept it wasn’t pretty and we rode our luck, but considering we were 10/1 underdogs (and 5/1 to even get a draw), I’d say they should be pretty pleased that we’re travelling back to Devon with a point against the league leaders.
On the injury front, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that Ilica Perak and Alain Besse resume full training. The bad news is that Regis Olivier pulls his hamstring and will be out for 3-4 weeks.
There’s plenty of activity in the loan market. Burnley offer to loan Jon Rune Svendsen for 3 months; all parties agree and he moves. Aaron Walker joins Aldershot on loan for a month after an offer is accepted by all. We welcome back Adolfo Mannino from loan at Chesterfield. He barely has a chance to put his bags down before Rochdale offer to loan him for a month. I accept, so does he and he’s on his way. At least packing should have been easy! AFC Wimbledon would like Chris Hjort on loan for a month. I accept the offer, but he’s not keen and rejects it. Luton would like Nathan Holland on loan for a month. I agree and he also agrees to the temporary switch. Damien Lambert is the subject of a month-long loan offer from Oxford United and he makes the move after all parties agree.
Wrexham offer to extend the loan spell of Valery Tamitu for the 3 months – all parties agree and he’ll stay there until the New Year. Doncaster Rovers would like to extend Kevin Bjerkestrand’s loan by three months. I agree, but he rejects the extension. We also receive a three month loan extension offer from Crawley for Michel Krejcik and he’s happy to stay there.
I also make a couple of new signings on free transfers. @AshTheNeon is unlikely to be surprised by the nationality of our new signings:
Niclas Lindegaard (ST)
Rune Poulsen (DM/MC)