Big returns

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.

Result:

QPR

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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.
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 12th
Match Stats:

QPR

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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.

Jakirovic

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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.

Jakirovic

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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.

September

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There’s also an award for Busao, who is on loan at Hereford United – he wins League 1 Young Player of the Month.

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All change

It’s the return of the League Cup for us following our dull and disappointing performance against Blackpool. And in Round 3, we will play…

Date: Tuesday 26th September 2017
Opponent: Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=11/5, Tottenham Hotspur=Evens
Weather: Dry, 11C
Referee: Mr. Howard Webb

It’s the League Cup, so it’s a completely changed XI that takes to the field. It’s obviously going to take the players a little bit of time to gel and Spurs have early pressure without creating anything. Witsel limps off in the 9th minute for the visitors.

Although Spurs have had the better of the opening exchanges, we have the first chance of note. It comes in the 25th minute. David Bentley is 20 yards out and elects to shoot. Unfortunately, he doesn’t catch it cleanly and it’s a tame effort that Pantilimon saves with ease. Pantilimon gets Spurs moving and Ideye gets played in. He shoots and Carmine Mello makes a smart save at the expense of a corner.

We win a corner 10 minutes before half time. Spurs win the ball and counter down the right. Djalma crosses and it gets deflected. To the feet of Gutierrez. He shoots from 18 yards and puts the visitors in the lead.

Ideye is given the chance to double the lead in the 41st minute. The ball is with Pjanic and he spots Ideye. He plays a perfect pass. Ideye is 10 yards out, but makes an even worse contact than Bentley did earlier. The shot dribbles across the face of the goal and limps over the line for a goal kick.

I look to rally the troops at half time, hoping we can put a bit of pressure on Spurs. I’m looking for an early goal in the second half. It’s just what I get. Two minutes into the half and an effort from 2 yards goes in. Sadly, it’s to double the lead, with Winters the man on hand to turn in Djalma’s cross from the left. Wijnaldum is only denied by the crossbar in the 52nd minute as Spurs look to put the game to bed. Mick Byrne completes the clearance from the danger zone for us.

I look to the bench and Adriano Gazzoli gets the nod in the 53rd minute, replacing Bentley. It doesn’t have a noticeable impact on the side and the next chance also falls the way of Spurs in the 62nd minute. A cross from the right finds Djalma arriving at the far post. He’s unmarked. He’s 8 yards out. It’s a powerful header, but Mello is equal to the challenge, clawing the ball to safety.

Will Keane replaces Michele Marconi in the 71st minute and Harry Maguire comes on for Daniel Berger in the 78th minute as I complete my changes as the game approaches the end. Five minutes after coming on, Maguire loses the ball to Winters and he quickly shoots from 18 yards. To Maguire’s relief, it’s wide. With the game petering out, Gazzoli incurs Mr. Webb’s wrath for a foul and enters the book.

Result: Exeter City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Man of the Match: Djalma
Ratings: GK-Mello (6.6), DR-Mora (6.9), DCR-Byrne (6.5), DCL-Berger (6.1, sub 78), DL-Jenkins (5.8), MCR-Hrubesch (6.9), MCL-Fournier (6.8), AMR-Bentley (6.0, sub 53), AMC-Dubois (6.6), AML-Laudicina (6.8), ST-Marconi (6.5, sub 71). Subs-Gazzoli (6.3, on 53, booked), Keane (6.6, on 71), Maguire (on 78). Unused-Bond, Leggett, Norwood, Francioni.
Attendance: 8,105
Match Stats:

Spurs #FM12

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Poor Gary Lineker

Following an exciting draw with Wolves, would we be able to use it as a springboard to start to take the league by storm?

Date: Saturday 23rd September 2017
Opponent: Blackpool (19th)
Venue: Bloomfield Road
Odds: Blackpool=Evens, Draw=11/5, Exeter City=11/5
Weather: Dry, 14C
Referee: Mr. Mark Clattenburg

It’s a bit of a slow start at Bloomfield Road, but we win a corner in the 13th minute. Bertin Matip goes across to take it and swings it in to the near post. The ball falls to Rainer Breu and he shoots from a tight angle 2 yards out. Kearns gets down remarkably quickly and saves the ball on the line.

Torpor resumes. The next action of note comes 4 minutes before half time when Bapeta looks up 18 yards out and shoots. He beats Ben Amos, but not the post and it bounces away to safety and bring the curtain down on a half lacking, well, anything to be honest.

Both managers have the chance to inspire their troops at half time, but if there were any Churchillian speeches at half time, it can only be assumed that the players were not listening. Mr. Clattenburg books Breu in the 63rd minute for a foul on Connolly, arguably to try and bring some interest to the game. Five minutes later, I replace Breu with Bentley; Bentley plays on the right, Hayes switches across to the left and Cenci moves to centre forward.

Blackpool play a long ball in the 73rd minute and Amos collects it easily at the edge of the area. It’s actually just beyond the line and spotted by the officials. Mr. Clattenburg walks over to Amos. The home fans are chanting ‘Off’ as Mr. Clattenburg reaches into his pocket. Is there finally going to be some excitement? It’s… yellow.

The game continues to drift towards the inevitable draw. In the first minute of stoppage time, a loose ball falls to Hoesen in our area. He’s 6 yards out. He shoots. Disaster! He scores. Blackpool have surely pinched the points. I replace Regis Olivier with Michel and throw players forward, but there’s only time for Bradley Johnson to get booked for fouling Taylor.

Result: Blackpool 1-0 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Nathan Ake
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.7, booked), DR-Zapotoka (6.9), DCR-Ake (7.4), DCL-Vukovic (6.7), DL-Riccardi (7.0), DMC-Olivier (6.8, sub 90), MCR-Matip (6.6), MCL-Johnson (7.0, booked), AMR-Hayes (6.7), AML-Cenci (6.8), ST-Breu (5.8, booked, sub 68). Subs-Bentley (6.5, on 68), Michel (on 90). Unused-Mello, Mora, Jenkins, Norwood, Hrubesch.
Attendance: 19,320
League Position: 17th
Match Stats:

Blackpool #FM12

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Crawley Town offer to loan Michal Krejcik for one month. All parties agree and he makes the temporary switch.

Good viewing for the Big Bank

After a lacklustre (to put it politely!) display at Elland Road, we return to home comforts. Hopefully we will give the home fans something to be happy about.

Date: Saturday 16th September 2017
Opponent: Wolverhampton Wanderers (13th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Wolverhampton Wanderers=7/4
Weather: Gusty, 18C
Referee: Mr. Mike Dean

Gennaro Riccardi leads the team out on his 75th league appearance for the club in a game described as a relegation six-pointer. A slow start to the game springs into life in the 11th minute; Bradley Johnson passes to Jonny Hayes and he coolly slots home from 8 yards. He wheels away in celebration, arms aloft. They instantly drop as the linesman’s flag is up for offside and the away fans groans turn to jeers. Three minutes later, Mpoku crosses from the left and we switch off completely at the far post and Boudebouz has a simple finish from 6 yards. We search for the linesman’s flag to rescue us. The search is in vain and the visitors take the lead.

At the 20 minute mark, David Bentley unleashes a curling shot from 18 yards out. It’s across the face of the goal and is curling back. It doesn’t come back enough and goes wide. Three minutes later, Hayes crosses from the left and it’s cut out by a defender. But Bentley robs him! He’s 6 yards out. He shoots. He s… ees his shot parried by Steele and cleared for a throw. We take the throw and Wolves gain possession. They start a counter. It reaches Fletcher on the halfway line. He gets to the edge of the penalty area and slots calmly under the onrushing Ben Amos to double the lead of the visitors. A real suckerpunch and we’ve been heavily punished again.

Fletcher has his name taken by Mr. Dean on the half hour mark for a foul on Nathan Ake. Elm looks to extend the lead of the visitors in the 32nd minute, but his shot from 16 yards only finds the side netting. Mr. Dean takes Bertin Matip’s name in stoppage time for a foul on Elm.

We haven’t played too bad, but we’ve been punished heavily for switching off. A few strong words at half time will hopefully see the lads keep the pressure on and not switch off. Seven minutes into the half, an inswinging Matip corner is met by Federico Cenci six yards out at the near post. He powers a header goalwards, but Mpoku is well positioned on the near post and heads to safety. A minute later the same two combine, but this time Cenci is denied by Steele, who gets down well and holds onto the ball.

Cenci fouls Mogstad in the 56th minute and picks up what seems to be his customary yellow card. Riccardi looks to mark his milestone a minute before the hour mark, but his effort from 30 yards goes just over the bar. On the hour mark, Michel is fouled by Petrovic and Mr. Dean’s yellow card makes another appearance. Michel is unaffected by the foul and a minute later, shoots from 8 yards. Steele is equal to the shot and although he can’t hold on, Wolves are able to clear. The 63rd minute sees a corner fall to Johnson 2 yards out at the near post. It’s a tight angle, but he gets a shot on goal. It’s going in, but Mogstad is on the line and able to maintain the two-goal lead for the visitors.

We’re piling on the pressure and I make my first change in the 65th minute; Rainer Breu replaces Bentley. Breu plays as striker, Cenci moves to the left wing and Hayes switches to the right wing. The substitution has an almost instant impact. Riccardi crosses from the left in the 67th minute and Breu scores his 3rd of the season from 6 yards. Game most definitely on!

Michel shoots from 20 yards in the 72nd minute and the side net is in action. A minute later, Johnson and Hayes combine, but Steele parries Hayes’ shot from 8 yards. The rebound falls to Hayes and his second effort is deflected wide for a corner. Surely we’re going to find an equaliser?

In the 79th minute, Matip takes an outswinging corner. Cenci meets it with his head 6 yards out at the near post. It’s in! His 3rd of the season! We’ve levelled! He turns away in celebration and runs towards the packed Big Bank that’s celebrating. Eleven minutes to find a winner.

With nine minutes to go, Johnson plays in Michel. He finishes from 10 yards for his first of the season in front of an ecstatic Big Bank. What a comeback! We’ve just got to keep our heads now an… disaster! The linesman has his flag up. Offside. It’s still 2-2 and the Big Bank have plenty of suggestions for the linesman.

Michel looks to turn provider in the 84th minute and sends a delightful through-ball for Breu. Steele is alert and just gets to the ball ahead of Breu. Steele looks to start a counter with a quick ball upfield but we win it back. It ends up with Breu 30 yards out. He looks up and unleashes a fierce shot. Steele is just about equal to it and is able to tip it over for a corner. With two minutes to go, Cenci passes to Breu and he shoots from 12 yards. Steele parries and Wolves clear to keep the score level. There’s just time for a final chance in the 90th minute; Breu crosses from the left and finds Hayes at the far post. He’s 6 yards out and heads goalwards. The Big Bank holds its breath. It’s… a magnificent diving save by Steele, who somehow gets across the goal and tips the ball over for a corner.

Result: Exeter City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Man of the Match: Boudebouz
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.8), DR-Zapotoka (6.1), DCR-Ake (6.0), DCL-Vukovic (6.7), DL-Riccardi (7.1, A), MCR-Matip (7.6, A, booked), MCL-Johnson (7.3), AMR-Bentley (6.2, sub 65), AMC-Michel (6.9), AML-Hayes (6.9), ST-Cenci (7.7, G). Sub-Breu (7.4, G, on 65). Unused-Mello, Mora, Jenkins, Norwood, Hrubesch, Olivier.
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 14th
Match Stats:

Wolves #FM12

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The late drama sees the fans emotionally exhausted. To be fair, they’re not the only ones! Certainly an entertaining game.

We receive month-long loan offers for Valery Tamitu and Kevin Bjerkestrand from Wrexham and Doncaster Rovers respectively. Both accept and move. Luton Town offer to loan Abraham Leggett for a month and I ask for the ability to recall him, which Luton refuse to accept.