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09:46 26th November 2008

Exeter City 1 Rotherham United 1

So on a bitterly cold night at the Park it was a tale of two penalties - one scored, one missed - as City drew 1-1 with Rotherham United watched by a shivering 3402 supporters. City lined up: Jones; Moxey, Seaborne, Murray, Tully; Obersteller, Panther, Sercombe, Harley; Stewart, Watson.
Wholesale changes from manager Tisdale then, some enforced, some not, but nonetheless it was a brave line up that started tonight. It looked to be a wise decision too, as in the fifth minute City had the first real shot in anger when a cross from the left was met fully on the volley by Sercombe on the corner of the box, but his arrow straight rocket towards the top corner bought a terrific save from the keeper.
Sadly that was about it for the next half an hour though as the game got bogged down a bit in midfield with both sides guilty of wasteful passing and just plain sloppy play. However an injury to Jones - thankfully he was able to get up and continue after seeming to get knocked quite heavily in the ribs - seemed to spur the lads on for the first time in the game, and all of a sudden we looked like a team knocking on the door of a second straight promotion.
Not before Jones had palmed a ferocious 25 yarder over the bar though, and a couple of minutes later Harley spurned a great chance crashing a stunning drive over the bar after Stewart had laid the ball off to him following the keeper's acrobatic palming of a Deano free kick away from the angle of post and bar.
With five minutes to go Tully and Stewart swapped passes down the right before Tully delivered the most delicious low cross into the box that beat everyone except the charging Deano in at the back who inexplicably glanced a side footer the wrong side of the post when it seemed easier to score.
But City's purple patch wasn't to go unrewarded and a minute later they were in front. Panther's miscontrol allowed Watson to rob the defender and send Panther out wide around the edge of the penalty area. Seemingly taking a touch too many, Manny stroked in a daisycutter from deep where Watson came steaming through to steer the ball home from close range to make it 1-0 to City in the final action of what was, by and large, a fairly ordinary half.
Still, the second half was soon upon us, and once again Rotherham tried their luck from distance. This time Murray produced a fantastic block just as the striker shaped to shoot, but the ball found itself at the feet of another Rotherham player who sent a stinging drive from just outside the box towards the roof of the net, but fortunately Jones remained alert and effortlessly tipped the ball over the bar for a corner.
A minute later and City had a wonderful opportunity to increase their lead. Bursting through, and inches inside the box, Watson's run was halted by a defender tugging at his shirt, and with no complaints from the Rotherham players the ref had little option but to award a penalty. Up stepped Watson to blast home, but the keeper guessed right and batted away Watson's head height kick to safety. Not really much else Watson could have done, credit must go to the keeper for a great save to his left.
But the ref decided to even things up, as if he thought perhaps he shouldn't have given the first one by awarding Rotherham a penalty of their own in the 20th minute. With Jones rushing out to claim the ball towards the corner of his box, Murray and Rotherham forward Richard Barker got in a tangle chasing the ball and Barker was sent tumbling. The only person in the whole ground who saw a foul was the ref, and so it was that former Argyle player - sent off on his previous visit to the Park - Reuben Reid stepped up to smash home despite Jones getting fingertips to the ball as he dived to his left to make it 1-1.
Two minutes later Stewart was stretchered off after receiving a nasty kick on his ankle to be replaced by Basham, then on the half hour Shephard was introduced at the expense of Obersteller in a like for like switch on the left. Three minutes later City's final substitute Stansfield entered the fray to replace Watson as City sought a late winner, which so very nearly came with five minutes remaining.
After some pretty intense pressure, Deano swung over a hanging corner that the keeper couldn't hang on to, and the ball was spilled for a Bash smash that crashed off a defender on the line and away, then two minutes later the sublime Bash was sent scurrying down the right before delivering a peach of a cross that Harley ghosted in to butt a bullet header goalwards that the keeper turned around the post at full stretch.
Despite a whopping five minutes of stoppage time, City's last chance had been and gone, so a point it was, but it so easily could have been another two. If truth be known though, they didn't really deserve to win any more than Rotherham deserved to lose. City might have had the best chances, but it was Rotherham who had more of the play around our box.
As it was Jones coped well with everything flung at him, and looked confident and assured. In front of him no-one did their chances any harm for future games, and Murray had a decent home debut. What the penalty was about is anyone's guess, but I don't think Murray did anything wrong. Rather like Seaborne actually, who was utterly dominant in the air winning every header that came his way.
In the middle Manny and Sercs got through a lot of work, although at times their control was a little wanting meaning they had to do more than necessary recovering misplaced passes. Up front Watson looked lively and took his goal well, although it was the introduction of Basham late on that properly got things going. Only on the pitch for fifteen minutes, his touch, vision and passing was just pure quality, and even in that short spell he ran Deano close for man of the match. You do wonder just why a talent like that isn't starting more often, but I guess that's why Tis is the manager and we aren't I suppose!
But it was a hard fought match and although some of the fluent and fluid passing that we've gotten used to of late might have been a little short in supply, the effort was there, and sometimes you just have to knuckle down and get through the ugly matches. It wasn't the best game ever, but then again it wasn't the worst and Tis can take plenty of positives from the game.
And positive he'll need to be with a tricky December approaching including games against high flying Wycombe and Brentford. However, before that our next game is home to Lincoln in a week and a bit. Our embarrassing exit from the FA Cup at Curzon Ashton means the boys have next weekend free, so they should be well rested and well prepared for Lincoln's visit then the trip to Dagenham the following week.
It might have been cold, it might have been scrappy at times, but games at the Park have been few and far in between over the last couple of weeks, so it was good to see the boys in action tonight. It'll also be good to see them a bit more often this coming month too, and yes I know there's Christmas and all that, but do come along and give the lads your support. You know it's got to be better than Christmas shopping, hasn't it!
    Data provided by Press Association