Showing pride in the shirts

Five games to go and eleven points needs. After our loss against Birmingham, this is my focus, not the title. Although if results go completely our way, I won’t turn the title down. We have three home games and two away games, so with the target of eleven points, the plan is to win the home games and draw the away ones. It sounds simple enough…

Date: Saturday 15th April 2017
Opponent: Derby County (8th)
Venue: Pride Park
Odds: Derby County=Evens, Draw=11/5, Exeter City=11/5
Weather: Gusty, 12C
Referee: Mr. Alan Beck

This is one of the two away games we have and I’ll be happy with a point. Whilst it’s difficult to play for a draw, I look to ensure that things stay tight as the attacking Michel is replaced with the defensive Jay Spearing in midfield.

A slow start would be fine by me. However, it doesn’t go like that. There’s action from the off. But it’s us on the front foot. Bradley Johnson shoots wide in the 4th minute from 18 yards. Fie minutes later, Alain Besse feeds Michele Marconi and he runs into the area and shoots from 16 yards. It’s… wide. Five minutes later, Bertin Matip’s inswinging corner is met by the head of Marconi 6 yards out at the near post, but he can’t get it on target. A promising start, but I’d be happier if we could convert a chance into a goal.

I’m soon happier. Much happier. 22 minutes in and Jonny Hayes slips in Marconi and he slots the ball under Fielding from 8 yards for his 12th goal of the season. Three minutes later, Hayes and Marconi exchange passes and Hayes scores his 6th goal of the season from 16 yards. Two minutes later, Johnson passes to Besse and he registers his 5th goal of the season with a cool finish under Fielding from 16 yards. With 33 minutes on the clock, Hayes plays in Marconi and he registers his 13th goal of the season with a first time finish from 8 yards. 11 minutes. 4 goals.

In the 37th minute, Griffiths has the ball in our area and isn’t really going anywhere. Luca D’Avanzo lunges in. Griffiths goes down. Mr. Beck’s whistle goes. Penalty! A way back in for Derby. Griffiths steps up and fires high to Jonathan Bond’s left to pull a goal back. With a minute to go until half time, Hanley meets an inswinging corner at the far post with his head. He’s 6 yards out and heads down. Bond gets down well to save and we complete the clearance by launching the ball upfield off the line.

A three goal lead is comfortable, but the scare before half time has got me worried. Surely we’re not going to score four goals in eleven minutes and still not win the game? If we do, I think we’ll end up in the play-offs.

Eight minutes into the second half, Hayes take a free kick 20 yards out. He finds Jagos Vukovic at the far post. He’s four yards out and powers a header straight at Fielding. It was more difficult not to score. Surely this isn’t going to be a crucial moment?

Griffiths goes close from 25 yards in the 64th minute as we continue to have success in limiting Derby’s chances. With 20 minutes to go, Hayes is replaced on the right wing by Adriano Gazzoli. Three minutes later, Besse chances his arm from 30 yards and Fielding has to be alert, tipping the ball over for a corner. Matip takes the resulting corner and swings it in to the near post. Marconi, 6 yards out at the near post, meets it. It’s in! His 14th goal of the season and the one that seals his hat-trick and has me accepting we’re definitely going to win this game (even though Derby haven’t shown much going forwards).

Michel replaces Johnson in the middle of the park with 12 minutes to go. Derby win a free kick 20 yards out with three minutes to go. It’s not going to be anything other than a consolation if it goes in. It doesn’t. Griffiths gets it over the wall, but can’t get it down again in time. Matip takes a free kick from the right with a minute to go. It’s another free kick that finds Vukovic 4 yards out at the far post. He makes no mistake this time and registers his 6th goal of the season to complete a comprehensive victory.

Before Derby can kick off, I replace Marconi with Philipp Langer. It gives the away fans the chance to applaud Marconi for an outstanding performance in an excellent victory.

Result: Derby County 1-6 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Michele Marconi
Ratings: GK-Bond (7.0), DR-Zapotoka (7.6), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.4), DCL-Vukovic (8.6, G), DL-Riccardi (7.0), DMC-Spearing (7.6), MCR-Matip (9.1, 2A), MCL-Johnson (7.6, A, sub 78), AMR-Hayes (9.0, G, 2A, sub 70), AML-Besse (8.6, G), ST-Marconi (9.7, 3G, A, sub 89). Subs-Gazzoli (6.9, on 70), Michel (on 78), Langer (on 89). Unused-McCarey, Rentea.
Attendance: 19,953
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Derby #FM12

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Wow. Just wow. I’d have been happy with a point, but am delighted with the response from the lads after losing the big game against Birmingham. Marconi looked like the striker he was in Autumn when he was scoring plenty before drying up over winter and Federico Cenci is available next time out, which is a lovely selection dilemma to have. The only downside on the day is that Blackburn also win. So we’re still only six points ahead, but now there’s only four games to go. Dare I dream?

Mathematically, the results secure play-off spots for Birmigham and ourselves. However, a six point lead with four games to go means that I’ll be disappointed if we have to take part in them.

Unsurprisingly, we have plenty of representatives in Team of the Week – Gennaro Riccardi, Jagos Vukovic, Bertin Matip, Jonny Hayes, Alain Besse and Michele Marconi all get the nod.

We welcome back Will Keane from his loan spell at Middlesbrough and Frankie Timmins from his loan spell at Burton Albion.

The top two clash

An important away win at Bristol City (marred only by conceding the most bizarre of goals) set us up for our clash against league leaders Birmingham City. Unfortunately, it’s a fixture that we go in to without our leading scorer and talisman, Federico Cenci. His goals have been invaluable and I don’t mind my players going for the ball, but he picks them up regularly and I could do with having his services to call on for easily our biggest game of the season. If we can win, we can challenge for the title; lose and the focus will have to be on ensuring automatic promotion.

Date: Saturday 8th April 2017
Opponent: Birmingham City (1st)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Birmingham City=13/8
Weather: Wet, 15C
Referee: Mr. Mike Jones

It’s a crucial game and there’s three milestones being made. Michel is making his 250th career league appearance. Michele Marconi, Cenci’s replacement up front, makes his 100th league appearance for the club. And the third milestone? It’s mine. My 300th game in charge of my beloved Exeter City. Could my 300th game in charge be the one that is a big step into getting promoted into the Premier League? The next 90 minutes will reveal all!

Seconds after kick off, Rybus shoots wide across the face of goal from 10 yards. Whilst it could have been much worse, it’s hardly the kind of start that I wanted. The game settles down, but Birmingham are the better side. Spector shoots over from 30 yards in the 14th minute and Rybus can only shoot wide from 8 yards in the 22nd minute. Birmingham are doing a good job of preventing us building up any kind of momentum and creating some chances of their own.

Our first chance of note comes in the 29th minute. Bradley Johnson shoots from 16 yards, forcing Foster into a good save. Birmingham are able to react quickly, get to the rebound and clear to safety. Two minutes later, Altman shoots from 12 yards and we require the bar to come to our rescue before completing the clearance.

Our woodwork being struck seems to be the spur we have been waiting for and we finally seem to wake up. Johnson shoots from 25 yards in the 33rd minute and Foster catches comfortably. Whilst it may have been a comfortable save for him, at least we’re making him work and getting out way into the game. Three minutes later, Oliver Norwood takes an inswinging free kick from the left. He lands it on the head of Jagos Vukovic, who is 8 yards out. Vukovic powers a header at goal, forcing Foster to tip over the bar for a corner.

It’s as close as we get to a goal in the first half. But not as close as Birmingham get. Three minutes before the break, Bond parries a Blackstock shot from 18 yards and Beausejour rolls in the rebound from 12 yards to give the visitors a lead on the stroke of halftime. The dugout wall takes a beating as I can’t believe we’ve conceded at the end of an even half with few chances.

My half time words act as inspiration to the lads. Four minutes into the half, Johnson plays in Alain Besse. Besse takes a first time shot from 16 yards, forcing Foster into a save. Five minutes later, Johnson is involved in the action again. He’s 18 yards out and beats Foster. Unfortunately, the bar keeps Birmingham in the lead.

The bar has barely stopped rattling before Birmingham have their next chance. Altman is 12 yards out, but can’t keep his shot down. Although we need to to kick on and get at least a point, Birmingham do a great job in keeping the match dull. Gunter has name taken by Mr. Jones with 15 minutes to go for a foul on Besse.

With nine minutes to go, Norwood is able to fashion a chance for himself. He’s 25 yards out, so well within his range. If anything, it’s too close, shown by his shot going over the bar. Before Foster can take the goal kick, I replace Michel with Adriano Gazzoli.

The crossbar is rattled for the third time in the 85th minute. This time, it’s a shot from 20 yards. Spector is the player denied as Birmingham look to ensure they will be leaving with all three points. They do wrap the points up with a minute to go when Rybus fires home from 18 yards.

Result: Exeter City 0-2 Birmingham City
Man of the Match: Jonathan Bond
Ratings: GK-Bond (9.1), DR-Zapotoka (6.1), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.6), DL-Riccardi (6.8), MCR-Norwood (6.8), MCL-Johnson (6.6), AMR-Hayes (6.7), AMC-Michel (6.7, sub 81), AML-Besse (6.9), ST-Marconi (6.6). Sub-Gazzoli (on 81). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, Spearing, Langer.
Attendance: 8,714
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Birmingham #FM12

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No Cenci, no goals. A fairly even game in which late strikes in both half were enough to give Birmingham three points and all but ensure they will get promoted and win the title. Marconi was involved very little and I’m sure that Cenci would have made a difference. It might not have been enough, but he would have kept the Birmingham defence busy. It was an excellent away performance by Birmingham, very much mirroring our performance at St. Andrews earlier in the season.

Before the match, a loss would result in me conceding the title to Birmingham and focusing on winning automatic promotion. With five games to go, we’re six points ahead of Blackburn Rovers. Wins will be important as even going unbeaten until the end of the season might not be enough.

Jonathan Bond’s Man of the Match performance was surprising. Not his performance, but the fact that he was named Man of the Match. It’s unusual for a keeper to be Man of the Match, especially after a 2-0 loss at home. It gets better for him as he gets named in Team of the Week.

I welcome three players back from loan; Martin Koci, Rob McNally and Aaron Walker from Fleetwood Town, Bristol Rovers and Cambridge United respectively. Hopefully the loan experience will have helped them push for first team places.

A key turning point?

After somehow only managing a draw at home against a chasing Brighton and Hove Albion, we could do with three points this time out.

Date: Saturday 1st April 2017
Opponent: Bristol City (14th)
Venue: Ashton Gate
Odds: Bristol City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Exeter City=13/8
Weather: Dry, 11C
Referee: Mr. Stuart Attwell

Jay Spearing makes his 100th league appearance for us. It’s a bit of a slow start, but the game springs into life in the 14th minute when Jonny Hayes shoots from 18 yards. The shot hits the post and the rebound is headed back to Gerken by a defender. Federico Cenci receives the ball with his back to goal in the 21st minute. He expertly turns his marker, but his shot from 10 yards flies harmlessly over the bar for a goal kick. 28 minutes in and Bradley Johnson plays in Cenci, who scores his 27th goal of the season from 12 yards to put us into the lead. Cenci is involved in the action again in the 39th minute when he fouls Cranie and enters Mr. Attwell’s book. He reacts to the booking well, immediately passing to Alain Besse who scores his 4th goal of the season from 16 yards. In stoppage time, Cenci looks to repay the favour to Johnson by setting him up. Johnson shoots from 18 yards and Gerken parries. Besse reacts quickest and gets to the rebound, but can’t keep his header from 8 yards down.

Twelve minutes into the second half, Conneely has name take by Mr. Attwell for a foul on Besse. Bristol City’s first chance of note comes in the 69th minute, but Mulready’s shot causes no panic to Jonathan Bond who watches it sail over his bar. Before the goal kick is taken, I replace Cenci with Michele Marconi in a straight swap. Five minutes after being introduced, Marconi is given the ball by Hayes. Marconi shoots from 16 yards and it requires a good low save by Gerken to keep the ball out, although he does concede a corner in doing so. With seven minutes to go, Mulready shoots from 25 yards again, but this time it goes wide. Elliott’s name is taken by Mr. Attwell in the 85th minute for a foul on Johnson. With three minutes to go, Conneely is 16 yards out. He shoots. He drags it wide across the face of goal. In stoppage time, our defence is replaced by the Keystone Cops. The ball falls to Vukovic in our area and he launches a clearance upfield. Or at least he would have if he hadn’t hit a team mate in the head. The ball loops up. Bond has it covered. An easy catch. But he drops it. Pitman is the beneficiary, grabbing a consolation goal from 1 yard out.

Result: Bristol City 1-2 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (7.1), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.0), DMC-Spearing (6.9), MCR-Norwood (6.9), MCL-Johnson (7.2, A), AMR-Hayes (6.9), AML-Besse (7.5, G), ST-Cenci (8.1, G, A, booked, sub 69). Sub-Marconi (6.4, on 69). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, Michel, Gazzoli.
Attendance: 13,388
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Bristol City #FM12

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A deserved win and only a set of bizarre circumstances managed to deny us a clean sheet. The two first half goals proved to be enough and we were comfortable throughout.

Jose Antonio Comacho, the manager of Xerez, was in attendance. He was watching Lubomir Zapotoka.

The Man of the Match award for Federico Cenci was his second in two matches. It was also his 8th of the season, breaking Petar Zlatinov’s club record of 7. His yellow card was also his 10th of the season and he will miss the next two games as a result. Losing our leading scorer who seems to score every match feels like it could change the course of our season. Especially as our next match is against table-topping Birmingham City…

One way, then the other

Three more vital points in our quest for promotion in our last match at Middlesbrough; a win this time out would be a massive boost in our chase for automatic promotion.

Date: Saturday 25th March 2017
Opponent: Brighton and Hove Albion (6th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=1/2, Draw=13/5, Brighton and Hove Albion=9/2
Weather: Breezy, Wet, 16C
Referee: Mr. Eddie Ilderton

Another game described as a promotion showdown! Bradley Johnson makes his 125th league appearance for us, whilst Jonny Hayes makes his 300th career league appearance. If we can make it a day to remember to them, we can take a massive step towards automatic promotion; a bad day and it may be the play-offs again.

Alain Besse shoots from 16 yards in the 3rd minute, but Hamer gets down quickly to save at the expense of a corner. Six minutes later, an inswinging corner from Faouzi Aaish is met by the head of Lelo 12 yards out and we require the bar to come to our rescue. Lalkovic crosses from the left in the 14th minute and Palenkov, sliding in, puts Brighton in the lead from 8 yards out. Federico Cenci looks to get us straight back in the game by turning Reid and shooting from 20 yards in the 18th minute, but Hamer tips over for a corner. Besse plays in Hayes in the 23rd minute and he marks his milestone by finishing from 12 yards. Or he would mark his milestone with a goal if the linesman’s flag wasn’t up. Hayes was a fraction offside. Oliver Norwood takes an outswinging corner in the 35th minute and Cenci meets it with his head 6 yards out at the near post but is unable to keep it down. Hayes shoots over from 25 yards in the 38th minute and then tests Hamer from 18 yards a minute later; Hamer can’t hold, but Brighton clear. Two minutes before half time, Johnson shoots from 30 and is denied by the post.

We could have done without half time as we seemed to be building up a head of steam. To be fair to the players, they don’t let it affect them much and within a minute of the half starting, Brighton have to clear for a throw after Hamer parries a Cenci effort from 12 yards. Two minutes into the half, Cenci heads over from 6 yards. Surely we will make the breakthrough. Nine minutes into the half, Michel feeds Besse, but he can only shoot wide from 16 yards. With 29 minutes left, Cenci takes a free kick from the left and finds an unmarked Jagos Vukovic at the far post. He’s 4 yards out and scores his 5th goal of the season to pull us level. Three minutes after equalising, we’re in the lead. Reid brings down Cenci and Mr. Ilderton has no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Cenci steps up and fires low to Hamer’s left for his 26th goal of the season. The lead is short lived as in the 71st minute, a Cohen cross from the right is headed home from 8 yards out by Lalkovic. 19 minutes for either team to find a winner and record a massive victory. With 13 minutes to go, Michel shoots from 25 yards. The net ripples! He’s don… no, he hasn’t; it’s side netting only. Hayes passes to Besse in the 80th minute, but Besse can only fire his shot from 16 yards wide across the face of the goal. The final chance falls in the final minute. It falls to Hayes. He’s 20 yards out. He shoots. It’s wide.

Result: Exeter City 2-2 Brighton and Hove Albion
Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.7), DR-Zapotoka (6.7), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.1), DCL-Vukovic (7.3, G), DL-Riccardi (6.5), MCR-Norwood (6.8), MCL-Johnson (6.7), AMR-Hayes (6.4), AMC-Michel (6.8), AML-Besse (6.3), ST-Cenci (8.3, G, A). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, Spearing, Gazzoli, Marconi.
Attendance: 8,205
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Brighton #FM12

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A bit of a strange one. After being behind for a long time, I’m pleased that we avoided defeat. However, we had much the better of the game and Brighton capitalised on a couple of defensive lapses to nick a point. Whilst it was important not to lose to a team chasing us, a win here would have put down a marker to the chasing teams and strengthened our position considerably.

Attilio Tesser was in attendance, watching Federico Cenci again. I’m starting to wonder how he’s able to manage Cagliari when he spends so much time watching Cenci.

Nathan Holland and Dennis Judge extend their loans at Yeovil Town and Newport County respectively.

Leigh Griffiths (Derby County) is named Player of the Month. Young Player of the Month goes to our very own Federico Cenci – he averaged 7.54 and scored 5 goals throughout March. Slaven Bilic (Derby County) is named Manager of the Month. Goal of the Month goes to Katlego Mphela for his effort against us at the start of the month. In League 2, Rob McNally (on loan at Bristol Rovers) comes 3rd in the Young Player of the Month award.

Down by the Riverside

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.
Attendance: 14,067
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Boro #FM12

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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.

One from top, one from bottom

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.
Attendance: 8,714
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Palace #FM12

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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.

Donchev #FM12

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Knocking at the door

A draw last time kept things pretty much as they were; hopefully we can win this time out and start to put some distance between us and the chasing pack. However, it’s a mid-week game and we don’t tend to be at our best mid-week.

Date: Tuesday 7th March 2017
Opponent: Peterborough United (11th)
Venue: London Road
Odds: Peterborough United=7/4, Draw=11/5, Exeter City=5/4
Weather: Drizzle, 6C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud

Bertin Matip takes an inswinging corner in the 5th minute and the ball falls to Federico Cenci, but he can only find the side netting from a tight angle 2 yards out. Vallee enters Mr. Stroud’s book in the 6th minute for fouling Loic Fournier. Matip takes an outswinging corner in the 9th minute and Cenci meets it at the near post. He’s four yards out and his effort hits the post before being scrambled clear by Peterborough. Cenci collects a ball over the top in the 14th minute and shoots from 12 yards, but only succeeds in hitting the post again. Jonny Hayes shoots just over from 25 yards in the 24th minute. A minute later, Cenci fouls Ake and has his name taken by Mr. Stroud. Peterborough’s first chance of note comes in the 30th minute, but Ross’ shot from 18 yards goes well wide. Fournier lifts the ball over the top in the 32nd minute and Hayes runs onto it, but his shot from 16 yards goes across the face of the goal and wide. Eight minutes later, Hayes runs into the area and shoots from 12 yards. Incredibly, it’s the third time in this half that we find the post and Peterborough put the ball behind for a corner. In stoppage time, Cenci shoots from 30 yards but it’s wide.

Three minutes into the second half, Gennaro Riccardi is booked by Mr. Stroud for fouling Prager. A minute later, Prager crosses from the right and Robson-Kanu shoots from 8 yards. Jonathan Bond gets down well and saves. Hayes shoots just over from 16 yards in the 65th minute. Before the goal kick is taken, I make a straight swap as Michele Marconi replaces Cenci. Jenkins gets booked by Mr. Stroud in the 71st minute for fouling Hayes. With three minutes to go, Bradley Johnson plays in Marconi, but his shot from 10 yards goes wide. Two minutes from time, Buljat fouls Marconi and has his name taken by Mr. Stroud and the game soon comes to an end.

Result: Peterborough United 0-0 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Gennaro Riccardi
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.8), DR-Zapotoka (6.8), DCR-Berger (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.7, booked), DMC-Fournier (7.0), MCR-Matip (6.8), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (6.9), AML-Makris (6.9), ST-Cenci (5.8, sub 65). Sub-Marconi (6.7, on 65). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, O’Toole, Norwood.
Attendance: 6,419
League Position: 2nd
Match Stats:

Peterborough #FM12

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A midweek game away from home – I’d definitely have settled for a draw before. However, with how the game went, it feels like we’ve dropped two points instead of gaining one. Their woodwork took a battering, whilst Bond had a fairly quiet evening. I’ll have to try and focus on the positive that we took the point I would have accepted before kick off.

Hereford United offer to loan Juho Virkki; all parties agree and he moves to them.

UEFA announce the host of Euro 2024. England (hopefully!) will be packing their passports and boarding a flight to Spain.