Whilst I’m not expecting us score as many as against Portsmouth, hopefully we can string a couple of wins together.
Date: Saturday 11th February 2017
Opponent: West Ham United (2nd)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=7/2, Draw=9/4, West Ham United=4/6
Weather: Drizzle, 5C
Referee: Mr. Lee Probert
Luca D’Avanzo makes his 25th league appearance for us in a game billed as a promotion showdown between 2nd and 4th. We put some pressure on early and force a number of corners. The opening goal comes from a corner in the 12th minute. Oliver Norwood takes an inswinger and Bradley Johnson, 6 yards out at the near post, heads in his 6th goal of the season. Four minutes later, a ball over the top is collected by Cole, but his first touch is heavy and Aaron McCarey is able to smother the ball. Cole shoots from 16 yards in the 21st minute, but McCarey is able to make the save and we clear for a throw. Three minutes later, Nolan shoots from 10 yards. Despite being so close, it goes wildly over the bar. West Ham are piling the pressure on and McCarey is called into action again in the 26th minute, with Cole being denied from 18 yards. McCarey doesn’t hold, but we clear and Federico Cenci picks up the clearance but gets fouled by Mora, who has his name taken by Mr. Probert. A cross from the left wing in the 33rd minute is met by the head of Faubert 8 yards out, but it’s straight at McCarey and he holds. Two minutes later, McCarey again denies Faubert from 8 yards, although he’s unable to hold this time. We are able to clear the ball to safety. In the 37th minute, we have a rare opportunity when an outswinging Norwood corner is met 6 yards out at the near post by Cenci, but his header goes just over. Two minutes before half time, Mora goes through Cenci. It’s a clear free kick and booking, but Mr. Probert waves play on.
Michel shoots from 20 yards in the 48th minute, but there’s no danger to West Ham’s goal as it goes high and wide. Faubert crosses from the right in the 54th minute and Cole levels the scores from 6 yards. I introduce Michele Marconi for Jonny Hayes in the 57th minute; Marconi plays as striker, with Cenci moving to the right wing. West Ham continue to pressure and McCarey saves from Cole from 20 yards in the 61st minute. Matic enters Mr. Probert’s book one minute later for a foul on Michel. Three minutes later, Nolan joins him in the book for a foul on Norwood. With 23 minutes left, Johnson plays in Michel and he hits a first-time curling effort from 20 yards – Boffin saves well and pushes away, allowing the defence to put it behind for a corner. Norwood takes the resulting corner and it’s an outswinger that is met by the head of Cenci at the near post 6 yards out. He heads the ball powerfully downwards and Boffin parries. It’s going in, but Ward-Prowse clears off the line. Johnson enters Mr. Probert’s book in the 73rd minute for a foul on Nolan. Cole remains a threat and he fires just over from 20 yards in the 75th minute. Four minutes later, Michel shoots from five yards further out, but the result is same. With 5 minutes to go, Cenci tangles with Viler in the area and goes down. Mr. Probert’s whistle goes. PENALTY! Cenci steps up. It’s high to Boffin’s right. It’s in! It’s his 19th goal of the season and surely the winner. Loic Fournier replaces Michel in the 90th minute as I look for a defensive midfielder to screen the defence and see the game out. He does and we record the win.
Result: Exeter City 2-1 West Ham United
Man of the Match: Faubert
Ratings: GK-McCarey (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (6.9), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.0), MCR-Norwood (7.5, A), MCL-Johnson (7.4, G, booked), AMR-Hayes (6.2, sub 57), AMC-Michel (6.9, sub 90), AML-Besse (6.9), ST-Cenci (7.2, G). Subs-Marconi (6.9, on 57), Fournier (on 90). Unused-Bertolucci, Rentea, Keane.
League Position: 3rd
Not a great performance, but we scrape the win. It’s an important win against a rival at the top of the table and it’s the third time this season we’ve beaten West Ham 2-1 (although we did require stoppage time in the League Cup). It was a nerveless late penalty from Cenci to seal the win.
Stefano Colantuono, the manager of Atalanta, was in attendance. He’s rumoured to be interested in signing Jagos Vukovic.
Dacian Varga resumes full training. However, we lose Jan Pavlov for three months with a broken ankle that he picks up in a reserve team game.
Birmingham City and Middlesbrough both offer to loan Will Keane for 2 months and a future fee of £275,000 to buy him at any point during the loan spell. With Birmingham being top of the league, I reject their offer as I don’t want to help a promotion rival. I negotiate Middlesbrough’s offer, removing the future fee.