Growing the Grecians #107 – The Grecian Gazette 03/12/17

Read my column in The Grecian Gazette after our trip to Watford. Read my column

Growing the Grecians #106 – Saturday afternoon’s alright for fighting

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) Find out how we do against Watford

Growing the Grecians #105 – The Grecian Gazette 26/11/17

Following our game against Wigan, I penned my regular column for The Grecian Gazette. Read my column

Growing the Grecians #104 – It had better be a D(raw) or W(in)

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) Read on to find out how we do against Wigan

Growing the Grecians #103 – The Grecian Gazette 16/11/17

My column for The Grecian Gazette after playing Everton.

Read Growing the Grecians #104.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #102 – A sticky mid-week fixture

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
Lineups:

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.

Result:

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.
Attendance: 12,714
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 Growing the Grecians #103.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #101 – The Grecian Gazette 5/11/17

My column in The Grecian Gazette following our game at Arsenal.

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Read Growing the Grecians #102.

Re-read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #100 – Are we Gunner get back to back wins?

Re-read Growing the Grecians #99.

An increased capacity meant that we brought joy to more fans than before. It was a much needed win ahead of a trip to London.

Date: Saturday 4th November 2017
Opponent: Arsenal (8th)
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Odds: Arsenal=4/7, Draw=5/2, Exeter City=4/1
Weather: Drizzle, 7C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud
Lineups:

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Arsenal

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Bertin Matip makes his 75th league appearance for us. Arsenal kick off and within the first minute, Walcott has a strike from 12 yards. It goes narrowly wide, which is a relief because it looked as though we could concede without touching the ball. Six minutes later, Collison finds the net for Arsenal from 12 yards. Luckily for us, it’s the side netting only. Arsenal keep the pressure on and with twelve minutes on the clock a cross from the right wing is met by the head of van Persie six yards out. The crowd arise in anticipation, but are left disappointed as he heads over. The sixteenth minute sees our first chance. Well, more of a half chance really when Bradley Johnson decides to try his luck from 20 yards. It goes wide, but at least we’ve been in their half of the field.

It’s only a temporary foray into Arsenal’s half and they’re soon back on the front foot. Walcott unleashes a thunderous drive from 25 yards in the 21st minute. It beats Ben Amos, but not the bar and goes over. Two minutes later, Capoluppo takes a free kick from the right. It’s a deep one and finds an unmarked Lovren unmarked 6 yards out at the far post – 1-0 to the Arsenal.

It had been coming and Arsenal smell blood. Four minutes later, Jose Angel crosses from the left and Gervinho doubles the Arsenal lead from 6 yards out. Not a great response to conceding it must be said and we’re in danger of disappearing without a trace.

Jonny Hayes tries his luck from 18 yards in the 28th minute, but his shot is well over the crossbar and still rising, with spectators in Row Z in more danger than Szczesny and his goal. With five minutes to go until half time, Federico Cenci plays a delightful through-ball through the Arsenal defence. Szczesny is quick off his line, but Rainer Breu is chasing after it. It’s a race. Breu slides in and beats Szczesny to the ball. He pokes it past Szczesny from 6 yards and claims his 5th goal of the season and the 500th goal of my reign.

Going into half time just a goal down after having spent much of the half under the cosh – we’ll take that! On the stroke of half time, Arsenal win a corner. Capoluppo swings the corner in and Nathan Ake gets his head to it. He’s diverted it goalwards. Gennaro Riccardi is on the line and looks to clear, but only succeeds in putting the ball into the net. So much for going into half time just one goal down! But to be fair, Arsenal deserve their two-goal lead.

Four minutes into the second half, Johnson threads a ball through the Arsenal defence. Breu chases and is favourite to get to the ball. It’s a great chance to pull a goal back. Lovren slides in and pinches the ball of Breu’s toe and concedes a corner. Matip swings the resulting corner in and Cenci meets it at the near post. Goal! It’s Cenci’s 7th of the season and his 50th goal for us. We’re one behind again. Stirring words from me at half time!

Hopefully we can kick on and secure the equalising goal. However, it’s Arsenal who go closest to scoring again when Walcott shoots from 25 yards in the 57th minute. The shot gets deflected and goes narrowly wide at the expense of a corner, which we deal with far better than the one before half time.

One minute before the hour, Matthew Jenkins is introduced in place of Jagos Vukovic. With 17 minutes to go, Song enters Mr. Stroud’s book for fouling Breu. I search for an equaliser and Matip’s 75th league appearance for us is ended 15 minutes early as I bring on the more attack-minded Oliver Norwood. Ake joins Song in Mr. Stroud’s book in the 80th minute after fouling van Persie.

van Persie is not the type of player to be discouraged by being fouled. Two minutes after Ake’s booking, he shoots from 25 yards, forcing Amos into a smart save as he tips the ball over the bar. He’s also capable of looking after himself, something he proves in the 84th minute when he fouls Cenci and picks up a yellow card from Mr. Stroud. After Mr. Stroud has produced the yellow card and noted down the name, I make my final change of the afternoon with Ilica Perak making way for Michel.

We’re searching for one good chance to snatch a point. Two minutes into stoppage time, Mick Byrne crosses from the right. Cenci rises amidst a crowd of players. He’s 6 yards out. He… can’t direct it either side of Szczesny due to the attention he’s receiving from the defence and it’s a comfortable save. It feels like our last chance has gone, something that’s confirmed two minutes later when Breu commits a foul in our box. Mr. Stroud points to the spot and van Persie fires high to Amos’ right to secure victory for the home side.

Result:

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Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos 6.0; Byrne 5.6; Ake 6.0, booked; Vukovic 5.5, sub 59; Riccardi 5.9; Perak 6.2, sub 84; Matip 6.9, assist, sub 75; Johnson 6.8; Hayes 6.0; Cenci 8.7, goal, assist; Breu 7.1, goal. Subs: Jenkins 6.1, on 59; Norwood 6.5, on 75; Michel on 84.
Attendance: 59,584
League Position: 14th

Federico Cenci’s 50 goals have come in 108 games for us, which isn’t too bad considering it took him about a dozen games to get off the mark.

Plymouth Argyle offer to loan Rune Daugaard for one month. I agree and so does he and he travels across Devon. Aaron Walker extends his loan spell at Aldershot. Rochdale would like a two-month extension on Adolfo Mannino’s loan spell; I agree, but he doesn’t and he rejoins us. We also welcome back Nathan Holland from his loan spell at Luton Town.

Regis Olivier resumes full training.

QPR announce their new manager, with Steven Gerrard sitting in the hot seat. Up in Lancashire, Wigan dispense of Gus Poyet’s services. My name is in the mix for being the potential replacement, but the media say the smart money is on Steve McLaren being appointed.

Read Growing the Grecians #101.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #99 – The Grecian Gazette 29/10/17

My latest column in The Grecian Gazette after our game against Sunderland.

Read Growing the Grecians #100.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #98 – But this ground goes up to 12 (k)

Re-read Growing the Grecians #97.

A seven-goal thriller was the final game at St. James Park before the expansion work was completed. Would the first game with the increased capacity bring such excitement?

Date: Saturday 28th October 2017
Opponent: Sunderland (9th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=11/5, Draw-11/5, Sunderland=Evens
Weather: Dry, 9C
Referee: Mr. Alan Beck
Exeter City lineup:

Sunderland lineup:

As well as it being the first game at the expanded St. James Park, Jagos Vukovic makes his 125th career league appearance for the club. He’s been a stalwart at the back since joining us.

Thirteen minutes in, Federico Cenci passes to Rainer Breu. Breu passes back. Cenci instantly shoots low from 10 yards and…

a diving Gordon pushes the ball around the post for a corner.

It’s not a game full of end to end excitement. Thirty one minutes in, Cenci crosses from the left and the ball falls to Breu. He’s 8 yards and steadies himself. The steadying gives Paolo Andre the chance to get back and slide in, taking the ball off his toe at the expense of a corner.

Two minutes later, we win a free kick 30 yards out. Instead of electing to shoot, Cenci passes to Bradley Johnson. He’s 25 yards out and unmarked, but shoots first time, low and hard…

It’s his first goal of the season. He’s evidently been saving it for the increased capacity!

Nothing further happens in the first half and Sunderland look to change things up at half time in an attempt to get into the game.

The 57th minute sees Sunderland have their first chance of note. Vossen is 20 yards out and shoots, but it’s safely over the bar.

Johnson finds himself 20 yards out in the 62nd minute. He’s got the taste and shoots again…

forcing a magnificent diving save from Gordon and we win a corner. Before it’s taken, Sunderland make their second change.

Five minutes later, Sunderland make their final change in an effort to rescue something from the game.

The change sees a chance a minute later. Johnson is 20 yards out again. He’s already had success shooting low, does it again and…

it’s straight at Gordon, who make a comfortable save.

Ortigoza enters Mr. Beck’s book in the 73rd minute for a foul on Breu. Two minutes later, Ilica Perak is 25 yards out. He shoots. He…

fires just over the crossbar.

With seven minutes to go, Ortigoza takes a free kick from the left. Djuricic is 4 yards out at the far post and heads in, drawing the visitors level. They haven’t really deserved it, but we haven’t really threatened enough to make the game safe.

With four minutes to go, Ortigoza enters Mr. Beck’s book for a foul on Cenci. Four minutes later, Cenci has evidently recovered. He plays in Jonny Hayes who is 10 yards out. He goes to pull the trigger, but Paolo Andre is alert and slides in to take the ball off his foot.

He’s put it past Gordon and surely scored the deciding goal! Plenty of late drama to mark the opening of the expanded stadium! Before Sunderland kick off, I make a change.

It’s a defensive move as Marcel Hrubesch will play deeper. We see the game out and the larger crowd head home happy.

Result:

Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos (6.9), Byrne (6.9), Ake (7.0), Vukovic (7.0), Riccardi (6.8), Perak (6.9), Matip (6.9), Johnson (8.1, G, sub 90), Hayes (7.3), Cenci (9.0, 2A), Breu (6.8). Sub-Hrubesch (on 90)
Attendance: 12,714
League Position: 13th
Match Stats:

The increased capacity at St. James Park sees us set a record for gate receipts of £275,000.

Federico Cenci and Bradley Johnson get named in the Premier League Team of the Week.

Wrexham offer to loan Abraham Leggett for a month and he makes the switch. Yeovil Town would like Niklas Christensen on loan for a month and he agrees to spend time there. Crawley Town offer to extend Nicky Holmes’ loan spell by three months and all parties agree to the extension. I also receive and offer from Aldershot to extend Aaron Walker’s loan spell by three months, which I accept. Meanwhile, Bruno Pierrat returns from his loan spell at Carlisle United.

There’s good news on the injury front as Lubomir Zapotoka resumes full training.

Queens Park Rangers sack Julian De Guzman. The media make me the favourite to take over at Loftus Road and ask me about my interest. I tell them that I have no interest in taking the job.

Federico Cenci comes third in the Player of the Month award. For Young Player of the Month, Rainer Breu comes in second place and Bertin Matip rounds out the top three. The League One Young Player of the Month award sees Josef Neckar, on loan at Reading, claim second place.

Read Growing the Grecians #99.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #97 – The Grecian Gazette 22/10/17

My latest column in The Grecian Gazette following our home fixture against Aston Villa.

Read Growing the Grecians #98.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #96 – Moving up the Match of the Day order

Re-read Growing the Grecians #95.

We return to action after the shock result before the international break.

Date: Saturday 21st October 2017
Opponent: Aston Villa (13th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Aston Villa=13/8
Weather: Drizzle, 13C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud
Exeter City Lineup:

Aston Villa Lineup:

Bertin Matip makes his 75th career league appearance. Three minutes in, Federico Cenci passes to Rainer Breu; he turns and fires low from 12 yards out. Loach dives, but can’t reach it. Unfortunately, it goes just wide of the post. Three minutes later, an inswinging Matip corner is met at the near post by Cenci. He heads downwards. Unlike Breu, he’s able to get his effort on target. However, a diving Agbonlahor header clears the ball off the line and keeps the scores level.

19 minutes in and Johansson passes to Agbonlahor. He’s 12 yards out and, like Breu, elects to shoot low. Amos dives, but can’t reach it. Unfortunately, it goes in and the visitors take the lead.

We look to hit straight back. One minute later, Cenci snaps a shot from 12 yards, but it’s straight at Loach who holds on to the ball. The 22nd minute sees Fabio Mora cross from the right. It gets deflected. To Cenci. 12 yards out. He makes no mistake, firing a low, powerful shot past Loach for his 5th goal of the season.

Cenci’s evidently got the taste and goes looking for more. Three minutes later, he’s 25 yards out and lets fly, but it’s no danger to Loach’s goal as it soars well over the crossbar.

Aston Villa go close to retaking the lead in the 31st minute when Agbonlahor crosses from the left; Kovacic meets it 10 yards out and hits the post, with Nathan Ake on hand to remove the danger. We go close to taking the lead in the 35th minute when Breu shoots from 20 yards. Loach saves on his line.

A goal before half time seems inevitable and it comes in the 40th minute. Muamba hits a free kick down the middle and Agbonlahor flicks on. The defence watches Amos come out, but no-one has gone with Bent, who gets to the ball first and finishes from 8 yards out. A straight free kick and no-one tracking a runner is a disappointing way to concede, especially with half time so close.

Whilst Villa’s second goal is disappointing, their third goal is outstanding. It comes two minutes later. Ku Ja-Cheol is 25 yards out and curls an effort into the top corner, putting Villa in complete control.

My half time words seem to have little impact and Villa start the second half the stronger of the two sides. Agbonlahor shoots wide from 16 yards in the 48th minute. Three minutes later, he’s 12 yards out and fires into the roof of the net, extending Villa’s lead further. Things are starting to get embarrassing now…

I make a straight swap substitution in the 53rd minute:

With little happening, I make another like-for-like substitution in the 62nd minute:

Aston Villa make a change of their own in the 67th minute:

With 74 minutes on the clock, Breu cuts the ball back from the right byeline. It reaches the penalty spot, where Cenci volleys in his 2nd of the game (and 6th of the season) for what can only be a consolation goal.

Aston Villa make two changes before restarting the game:

I make my final substitution a minute later, moving to a more defensive formation as I look to ensure our goal difference gets no worse:

Agbonlahor comes close to ruining this plan in the 79th minute when he hits the post from 8 yards. With three minutes to go, he enters Mr. Stroud’s book for a foul on Ilica Perak.

We win a corner in the 89th minute. Matip takes an outswinging corner and Breu flicks the ball on at the near post. It reaches Ake at the far post. He’s two yards out. He heads the ball. He scores! His first goal for the club! Surely we can’t snatch a draw…

The first minute of stoppage time sees Bent hit a ferocious shot from 16 yards as he looks to secure the points for Villa. Amos makes a wonderful save, diverting the ball behind for a corner. Kovacic shoots from 18 yards a minute later and Amos parries the ball. Although we clear the ball, it’s enough for all three points to head to the West Midlands.

Result:

Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos (5.9), Mora (6.7, A), Ake, 7.2, G), Vukovic (5.6), Riccardi (6.3), Matip (6.9), Johnson (5.9, sub 62), Hayes (5.7, sub 53), Michel (6.6, sub 74), Cenci (9.2, 2G), Breu (7.3, 2A). Subs-Gazzoli (6.9, on 53), Norwood (6.9, on 62), Perak (6.9, on 74).
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 13th
Match Stats:

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Cenci’s two-goal stormer sees him make the Premier League Team of the Week.

Fabio Mora goes down with the flu and will be out for 5-7 days whilst he recovers. That means my top two right backs are out for our next game.

Kevin Bjerkestrand moves to Hereford United on loan for one month after an offer is made and all parties agree. I receive loan extension offers for Erik Stage and Bruno Pierrat from Yeovil Town and Carlisle United respectively. I agree to both; Stage agrees, but Pierrat rejects.

Our stadium expansion is completed and we will have an extra 4,000 seats for our next home match. We’ll have a five figure attendance!

Read Growing the Grecians #97.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #95 – The Grecian Gazette 8/10/2017

My post-match interview with The Grecian Gazette after our visit to the City of Manchester Stadium:

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Read Growing the Grecians #96.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #94 – You can’t please all of the people all of the time

Re-read Growing the Grecians #93.

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.

Result:

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Man City #FM12

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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.
Attendance: 46,531
League Position: 12th
Match Stats:

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Man City #FM12

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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)

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Lindegaard #FM12

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Rune Poulsen (DM/MC)

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Poulsen #FM12

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Read Growing the Grecians #95.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #93 – The Grecian Gazette 1/10/17

My post match thoughts following our Premier League game against QPR.

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Grecian Gazette

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Read Growing the Grecians #94.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #92 – Big returns

Re-read Growing the Grecians #91.

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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read Growing the Grecians #93.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #91 – The Grecian Gazette 27/09/2017

My post-match thoughts in The Grecian Gazette following our League Cup game against Spurs:

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#FM12

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Read Growing the Grecians #92.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #90 – All change

Re-read Growing the Grecians #89.

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:

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Read Growing the Grecians #91.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #89 -The Grecian Gazette 24/09/2017

After our loss at Blackpool, I spoke with The Grecian Gazette:

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Read Growing the Grecians #90.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #88 – Poor Gary Lineker

Re-read Growing the Grecians #87.

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:

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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.

Read Growing the Grecians #89.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.