Read my column in The Grecian Gazette after our trip to Watford.
Read from Growing the Grecians #1.
Re-read Growing the Grecians #105.
We move on from a somewhat disappointing late point and are on the road again.
Date: Saturday 2nd December 2017
Opponent: Watford (6th)
Odds: Watford=4/6, Draw=9/4, Exeter City=7/2
Weather: Dry, 12C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud
It’s a reasonably slow start to the game. Twelve minutes in, Bertin Matip swings a corner in. Federico Cenci meets it at the near post, but he’s unable to keep his header from six yards down. Three minutes later, Anakoglou fires over from 25 yards. One minute later, Michel shoots from the same distance. He has no problem keeping the ball down, but it’s wide as the goalkeepers remain untroubled.
With 24 minutes gone, Michele Marconi chases after a long ball. Hanley also goes after it and is edging ahead. Hanley gets to the ball first in the Watford penalty area, but Marconi slides in to win it. He brings Hanley down. Mr. Stroud’s whistle goes and he comes running over. Mr. Stroud reaches into his pocket and produces a red card. Marconi is off! So we only have 66 minutes to play away from home against a team featuring a nemesis of mine in Jay Rodriguez.
As Marconi trudges off, I decide that I will make no immediate change and we’ll play without a striker. No focal point does cause a problem seven minutes later when Cenci takes a shot from 18 yards. It goes over, but it was a poor angle and he’d have been better crossing. If someone was in the middle.
Diogo elects to cross from the left in the 35th minute. He picks out Rodriguez, who meets the ball with a header from 8 yards out. I’ve been here before and know how this ends. It’s a… what? He’s headed over. Maybe we will be able to claw something from this game. Then again, Rodriguez has had games against us before where he’s barely had a kick and then grabs a couple of late goals.
With a man down, set pieces become even more important to us if we’re to grab a goal. With 6 minutes to go until half time, we win a free kick 20 yards out. Cenci steps up. It’s over the wall. And over the bar. Two minutes into stoppage time, we win another free kick near the Watford goal. It’s on the right hand side and Cenci crosses the ball to the far post. His free kick has picked out Matip, who connects well with his header from 8 yards. It’s straight at Akif Akkayo – he’s unable to hold onto the ball, but Watford clear to safety as they finish the first half surprisingly on the back foot.
The Watford manager has evidently had some strong words for his side over the break and Watford come out with renewed purpose. Three minutes into the half, Bangura slots home from 8 yards to put Watford into the lead. He wheels away to celebrate, but his celebrations are cut short when he sees the linesman on the far side has his flag up for offside. We’re still level and have something to hold on to.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Snodgrass takes an outswinging corner. Rodriguez meets the ball six yards out and sends it goalwards. Thankfully, I have men on the posts and Lubomir Zapotoka prevents Watford taking the lead. The pressure continues though and two minutes after the hour, N’Guema shoots from 25 yards and Ben Amos watches it over the bar.
Mr. Stroud’s cards return to the game in the 64th minute when Gibbs’ name is taken for fouling Zapotoka. Eight minutes later, Matip joins Gibbs in Mr. Stroud’s book following a foul on Anakoglou.
With thirteen minutes remaining, Michel shoots from 16 yards out. It cannons into Rogne and loops up. Akif Akkoya makes a comfortable catch under no pressure. Three minutes later, Snodgrass lets fly from 16 yards and Amos makes a good save. With seven minutes remaining, Cenci crosses from the left and finds David Bentley 16 yards out. Bentley shoots low and finds the net.
It’s Bentley’s second goal of the season and his second in two games as he strikes late again. Surely we’re now going to come away with at least a point and considering how long is left, we’ve a grant chance of somehow snatching all three.
Watford push forward in search of an equaliser and as the 90th minute appears on the clock, Viergever shoots from 20 yards. Unlike the other shots from distance in the match, this one’s on target. Amos keeps it out, but can’t keep hold of the ball. Ake preserves the lead by dispatching the ball into Row Z at the expense of a throw. I bring on Reinier Breu for Michel with two minutes of stoppage time having been played. Breu goes up front as a target man so we have someone to hit with clearances in an attempt to stop the ball coming straight back at us. It works as one minute later, Rogne enters Mr. Stroud’s book following a foul on Breu. We take the free kick and Mr. Stroud blows for full time.
Man of the Match: David Bentley
Ratings: Amos 6.5; Zapotoka 7.2; Ake 6.8; Byrne 7.3; Riccardi 7.5; Matip 6.9, booked; Johnson 6.8; Bentley 7.6, goal; Michel 7.0, sub 90; Cenci 7.0, assist; Marconi 6.9, sent off 24. Sub- Breu, on 90.
League Position: 13th
I warn Michele Marconi following his red card and he accepts the warning. David Bentley announces he will retire from football on Monday 16th July 2018. Marconi receives an additional two game ban from the FA after they review the sending off. I don’t ask him to reconsider, but if his form continues then I might.
The Sunday Mirror runs a story that I’m interested in signing right back Gianni Zuiverloon from Udinese. I deny any interest, primarily based on the fact that he’s not on my shortlist; considering that my shortlist comprises of over 5,000 players, that in itself is quite an achievement.
Rune Daugaard returns from his loan spell at Plymouth Argyle.
As January approaches, transfer rumours hot up. The biggest rumour from our perspective (and certainly the most worrying) is that Chievo and Sampdoria are interested in signing Federico Cenci. I’m asked for a response to the rumour and issue a hands off warning to any interested parties.
The draw for the 2018 World Cup is made. England are drawn in Group H along with Bahrain, Senegal and Switzerland. Will the summer of 2018 be a successful one?
Read from Growing the Grecians #1.
Re-read Growing the Grecians #103.
Ten days after a fairly insipid display against Everton, we run out in front of our fans again. Everyone is expecting a better performance and result.
Date: Saturday 25th November 2017
Opponent: Wigan Athletic (20th)
Eight minutes in and David Bentley, being given an opportunity after a slow start to his Exeter career, picks the ball up in our half. He drives infield and shoots from 30 yards, but it poses no threat to Al-Habsi and the Wigan goal as it sails over. A minute later and Mr. Dean’s notebook finds Dann’s name being added to following a foul on Reinier Breu.
On the quarter-hour mark, Matip heads a Wigan corner clear. Michel gets to the clearance first and plays it on to Bentley, who is on the halfway line. He runs from the halfway line into the Wigan area unchallenged. He steadies himself and shoots from 16 yards. It’s straight at the outcoming Al-Habsi, who parries and the ball is cleared. It’s an amazing chance that we’ve spurned and the kind that I can’t help but feel will come back to haunt us.
Vukcevic joins Dann in Mr. Dean’s notebook in the 25th minute, with Federico Cenci being the player fouled this time. Two minutes later, Cenci looks to exact the perfect revenge, but his shot from 16 yards goes well wide. We continue the pressure and two minutes later, Bertin Matip passes to Michel; he has his back to goal, turns on a sixpence and shoots from 12 yards, forcing an outstanding save from Al-Habsi at the expense of a corner.
Of course, with an outstanding chance wasted and pressure having been applied, Wigan take the lead on the half-hour mark. Barnetta crosses from the right and it hits Di Santo. He gets to the ball first and scores from 8 yards. It’s a real body blow as we’ve been playing pretty well.
We look to hit back. Specifically, Bradley Johnson looks to hit back. He tries his luck from 25 yards in the 38th minute, but it goes wide. Five minutes later, he shoots from the same distance and is closer, finding the side netting. The half finishes with Borelli shooting well wide from 18 yards.
After having the last chance of the first half, Wigan have the first chance of the second half. Gibson tries his luck from 25 yards wide and Ben Amos watches it wide. Two minutes later, Barnetta finds the side netting from 16 yards. It’s a strong start from Wigan and it looks as though they’re after the second goal that will surely give them a valuable win in their battle against relegation.
Breu shoots from 18 yards in the 52nd minute and his shot clips the bar on its way over. Gibson enters Mr. Dean’s book three minutes later for fouling Breu. Cenci steps up to take the resulting free kick. It’s 25 yards out and goes over the bar. On the hour mark, Cenci is only 6 yards out. Al-Habsi makes a good save, but the ball runs loose. Before Cenci can prod home the rebound, Wigan clear the ball behind for a corner. It’s going to be one of those days. Again.
Vukcevic swings in a corner in the 64th minute and Borelli gets up highest. He powers a header goalwards from 6 yards and Amos makes an outstanding save. He can’t keep hold of it, but Riccardi is on hand to launch it out of the area and to safety. Hopefully we can use that as a turning point and get something out of the game.
With 20 minutes remaining, I make a change up top as Michele Marconi replaces Breu. Michel fires wide from 30 yards with eleven minutes remaining. Before Al-Habsi takes the goal kick, Jonny Hayes is introduced for Mick Byrne. This sees a change of formation – it’s three at the back, Cenci joins Marconi up top and Hayes goes out wide left.
With five minutes remaining, Johnson lifts a ball over the top. Michel collects the ball and bears down on goal. There’s just Al-Habsi to beat. Michel pulls the trigger from 8 yards. Al-Habsi parries. Another wasted gilt-edged chance. But Al-Habsi has only parried to Bentley. He’s 6 yards out. It’s a tight angle, but an empty net.
It’s his first ever goal for the club and surely rescues a point for us. Unless we can use it as a springboard to pinch a winner…
We can’t. But I ensure at least a point by bringing on Fabio Mora for Michel in the second minute of stoppage time. Mora goes to right back, with Lubomir Zapotoka partnering Nathan Ake in the centre of defence.
Man of the Match: Bradley Johnson
Ratings: Amos (6.5); Zapotoka (6.7); Ake (6.7); Byrne (6.4, sub 80); Riccardi (7.0); Matip (6.9); Johnson (7.4); Bentley (7.4, G); Michel (6.7, A, sub 90); Cenci (6.7); Breu (6.5, sub 70). Subs: Marconi (6.9, on 70); Hayes (on 80); Mora (on 90).
League Position: 16th
Despite not being Man of the Match, David Bentley’s late leveller is enough to earn him a place in Team of the Week.
Bob Bradley, the Stoke City manager, was in attendance. We’re unlikely to be losing any players to Stoke though because he was scouting Boselli.
Yeovil Town offer to extend Niklas Christensen’s loan spell by three months. I negotiate, including a future fee if they wish to buy him, but they reject the negotiation and he returns from Somerset. We also welcome back Abraham Leggett, who returns from loan at Wrexham. We’re also likely to be keeping Daniel Berger a bit longer as he requests I remove him from the transfer list, which I’m happy to do.
Miltos Makris, on loan at Portsmouth, comes second for the Championship Young Player of the Month award. Dariusz Lenartowski, on loan at Brentford, scoops the League 1 Young Player of the Month award.
Read from Growing the Grecians #1.
Re-read Growing the Grecians #101.
After returning from Arsenal, it’s a few days before we’re back in action again and looking for a positive result in front of our fans.
Date: Wednesday 15th November 2017
Opponent: Everton (8th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Everton=7/4
Weather: Dry, 6C
Referee: Mr. Will Howard
Carmine Mello makes his league debut as Ben Amos receives a rest. We win the coin toss and choose to defend the Big Bank in the first half. Everton kick off and move the ball to Coleman on the right. He runs down the right wing and crosses. The ball reaches Damari, who makes no mistake from 6 yards as he puts Everton into the earliest of leads. Not the ideal start!
With 13 minutes on the clock, Jonny Hayes tries his luck from 20 yards, but it’s a comfortable catch for Wiland. Three minutes later, Sow plays a perfectly weighted ball around the corner and Coleman slots home from 8 yards to double the lead. Or he would have, if the linesman didn’t have his flag up. Offside. We’re still only one down.
Nathan Ake enters Mr. Howard’s book in the 18th minute for a foul on Damari. Before the resulting free kick is taken, I make a change at the heart of the defence with Mick Byrne replacing Jagos Vukovic, who has picked up a knock and can’t continue. Byrne’s entrance brings up his 100th career league appearance.
Sow hits a great effort from 18 yards in the 25th minute. It comfortably beats Mello, but not the post and Fabio Mora clears the ball to safety. Ake is joined in Mr. Howard’s book by Foley in the 29th minute following a foul on Bradley Johnson, who looks to level from 20 yards five minutes later. Unfortunately, he can’t keep his shot down and Wiland watches it over the bar.
The woodwork is rattled again in the 36th minute when Rodwell shoots from 20 yards. Ake is first to the rebound and ensures that the score stays at 1-0. One minute later, Michele Marconi shoots from the same distance. He doesn’t find the woodwork… he doesn’t find the target – it’s wide. Federico Cenci goes closer with a header from 12 yards one minute before half time following a cross by Hayes, but it’s still an effort wide of the target.
Two minutes into first half stoppage time, Everton win a free kick on the right. Young hits a deep free kick in, Barkley pulls the ball back and Damari doubles his tally and Everton’s lead from 8 yards. So they’ve scored with pretty much the first kick of the half and the last kick of the half.
The dressing room is not a place for the faint-hearted at half time as I deliver an aggressive team talk. Think Mike Bassett against Mexico. It certainly gets the troops fired up and Bertin Matip scythes Barkley down in the 46th minute to earn a booking. Mora then brings Sow down three minutes later. He doesn’t earn a booking, but does concede a penalty. Damari steps up to complete his hat-trick. He goes high. Too high! It’s over!
Six minutes into the half, Marconi looks to play provider by playing in Hayes. He’s 8 yards out. He shoots… he misses the target completely. Three minutes later, Rodwell plays in Damari, who does find the net from 8 yards. Thankfully, it’s the side netting and his quest to complete his hat-trick continues. Before Mello takes the goal kick, Lubomir Zapotoka replaces Ake at centre back.
One minute before the hour mark, Matip delivers an outswinging corner to the near post. It finds the head of Cenci 6 yards out and he sends it goalwards. He’s denied by a fine save from Wiland. With 24 minutes remaining, we go in search of goals as Alain Besse replaces Ilica Perak. Besse plays on the left, with Cenci slotting in behind Marconi. Three minutes after the change, Bradley Johnson fires wide from 25 yards. Hopefully it’s a sign that we’re going to apply some pressure.
Our next chance of note (and also the next chance of note in the game) comes with 9 minutes remaining. Cenci hits a first time shot from 10 yards and Wiland makes a smart save in tipping the ball over for a corner. Four minutes later, Matip delivers another outswinging corner. This time, the ball finds Marconi 4 yards out. It’s a chance to set up a grandstand finish, but he only finds the side netting, which surely ends our faint hopes of rescuing a point.
With three minutes remaining, Besse crosses from the left. Cenci is powering into the box like a runaway express train and thunders a header past Wiland from 6 yards. It crashes against the post and Everton scramble the ball behind for a corner. Two minutes later, Marconi cuts the ball back to Cenci, who shoots from 16 yards straight into Wiland’s arms. The final chance of the game falls in the 90th minute, but Coleman fires narrowly over from 16 yards.
Man of the Match: Damari
Ratings: Mello 6.3; Mora 6.8; Ake 5.8, booked, sub 54; Vukovic 6.3, sub 18; Riccardi 6.7; Perak 6.7, sub 66; Matip 6.8, booked; Johnson 6.2; Hayes 6.7; Cenci 6.2; Marconi 6.9. Subs: Byrne 6.8, on 18; Zapotoka 6.8, on 54; Besse 6.9; on 66.
League Position: 16th
The physio reports back on Jagos Vukovic and it’s not great news – he’s out for five to six weeks with a sprained ankle.
Arsenal sack Stake Solbakken. Paul Lambert is made favourite by the media, but there are whispers linking me to the hotseat at The Emirates. The press are accurate and Lambert is duly installed. Meanwhile, at the DW Stadium, their new manager is welcomed – Steve McLaren.
I receive a loan offer for Kye Gibson for one month from Walsall, which I accept and so does he. Kevin Bjerkestrand lengthens his loan spell at Hereford United after they offer an extension that I agree to. Damien Lambert’s loan spell at Oxford United comes to an end and we welcome him back to the club.
Read from Growing the Grecians #1.