BRESLAN STRIKE IS THE CLINCHER
Exeter City 1 Bristol Rovers 0
by Noel Sliney, Western Morning News
Homegrown and maturing nicely, Geoff Breslan punctuated another industrious display, both personally and collectively, with the decisive goal against impotent Bristol Rovers.
Winger Breslan, the Torquay-born product of City¹s youth team gave further evidence of his renaissance by steering the ball into the net from 12 yards in the 34th minute after goalkeeper Scott Howie had blocked a shot from Barry McConnell.
Victory in an even contest reinforced caretaker manager John Cornforth¹s claims for the job on a permanent basis, having seen his grip on the position loosened by successive defeats against Cambridge and Cheltenham.
He was aided by the woeful finishing of Gerry Francis¹ Rovers side, which has now failed to score in more than six hours, and the 81st minute dismissal of winger Mark Walters for a foul on McConnell.
Chris Curran made an inauspicious start, underhitting a back-pass in the sixth minute which was seized upon by Kevin Gall. City keeper Arjan Van Heusden was alert to the danger, rushing off his line to nick the ball from Gall¹s feet.
Gall had already wasted a first minute opportunity to score Rovers¹ first goal in four games, having cut in from the left only to drill his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Neither side appeared over burdened with attacking nous in the opening half, although Exeter continued to endure the uneasy moments and Alex Watson made a vital sliding tackle to thwart Martin Cameron as he bore down on goal.
As usual, Exeter¹s threat stemmed from the searing pace and dancing feet of Christian Roberts. The Welshman infuriates, and excites in equal measures, but his current intention to leave next Summer would mean the club losing its greatest asset on the pitch.
Roberts was the catalyst for the goal on 34 minutes with a neat pass out to McConnell in space on the right wing. The full-back cut into the penalty area and struck a low shot which goalkeeper Howie could only deflect into the path of Breslan. The 21-year old, cold shouldered last season, marked his 12th successive start with his second goal.
It was Roberts who held court after the break too, slashing a 30-yard shot a fraction wide and forcing a near-post save from Howie following a thrilling run.
An increasingly ragged Rovers had one more chance squandered by Gall before Walters was sent off.
McCarthy should have added Exeter¹s second in the final minute, but his agony at allowing Howie to save soon dissipated when the final whistle marked Cornforth¹s third win in charge.