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11:20 7th December 2008

Exeter City 2 Lincoln City 1

So on a perfect winter's day City and Lincoln struggled to provide much entertainment for the 3916 faithful until Deano's late, late winner gave the Grecians a much needed 2-1 win. City lined up: Jones; Moxey, Seaborne, Edwards, Tully; Harley, Gill, Panther, Saunders; Watson, Stansfield.
However, for us the day didn't begin at 3.00, it began some two hours earlier as we arrived at the club and parked up in our allocated space as matchball sponsors for the day. We were greeted by Richard Knight, Paul Farley and Mark Thorne and shown our way to the Flybe Suite upstairs and our table for ten, bedecked with, amongst other things complementary match programmes, menus and Pride of Devon booklets.
We enjoyed a splendid meal of chicken in asparagus, with chocolate pyramids for dessert. The reason for our sponsorship today was my daughter Charlotte's 15th birthday, which was announced by match day host Giles Ashman along with five other birthdays that day. Literally the icing on the cake was when catering manager Rose Clace bought out an ECFC birthday cake for Charlotte - a lovely touch from the club. Giles continued to keep us entertained, including a brief interview with former player and City legend Jimmy Giles, then it was time to take our seats for the game itself.
But not before we were invited onto the pitch by commercial manager Mark Jenkins where we had our photo taken with the two captains and match officials.
And then, finally, the game kicked off. And for the first 45 minutes we wondered what on earth we were watching as the game lurched from one misplaced pass to the next, one snuffed out attack to another and a general huff and puff with absolutely no end product whatsoever from either side. Except for the very first minute when Deano's quick throw was seized upon by Stansfield who sped goalwards only for the keeper to come racing out to narrow the angle and Stans to screw horribly wide - so wide in fact that the shot ended up going for a throw in.
Thankfully we retreated to the Flybe Suite for a welcome cup of tea at half time, but seemingly within seconds it was time to go back out for the second half.. Four minutes in we wished we stayed in the bar. An attacker twisted and turned down the right getting Rob Edwards in all sorts of trouble before firing off a shot that Deano scuffed off the line. Unfortunately it went straight to Lincoln striker Lennell John-Lewis who crashed home from close range to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
City came back quickly though, and a couple of minutes later had a great chance for an equaliser when the ball was played out wide to Tully who his a wonderful hanging cross to Harley ghosting in at the far post, but sadly his shot lacked power and the keeper had an easy save.
Two minutes later though and Lincoln had a gilt edged chance to put the game beyond doubt. A strong run down the right resulted in a cross to the far post where John-Lewis was lurking in an identical position to his goal earlier, although fortunately for City he could only volley his fierce drive against the base of the post and away to safety.
Looking to step it up a bit, first manager Tisdale replaced the livewire Watson with Basham, then ten minutes later Stansfield and Saunders were withdrawn for McAllister and Murray. It paid dividends almost immediately, as a couple of minutes later Matt Gill sent over a monster throw into the box that saw McAllister glance a looping header over the keeper and into the far corner for an unlikely equaliser.
And all of a sudden the game changed! There was passing, movement, running, tackling and a belief that the game could be won. Ten minutes to go and finally we saw our team beginning to perform as we all knew they could! McAllister charged down a clearance from the keeper and it ricocheted out to Deano on the left flank. He cut inside and let fly with a screaming drive that beat the keeper all ends up, but unfortunately it beat the bar too and sailed harmlessly onto the Big Bank.
Five minutes later Lincoln were reduced to ten men, and despite his protests Dan N'Guessan can't really have many complaints about the manner of his dismissal. A ball through to Deano beat the offside trap perfectly, and with Deano scampering in on goal, N'Guessan hauled him to the ground just outside the box. Being the last defender, the ref had little choice but to show the red card. City failed to make it count though as Harley hit the resultant free kick straight into the keeper's midriff.
But it wasn't over just yet - three of the four minutes stoppage time had elapsed when once again Deano was set free down the left, but this time he made no mistake smashing an unstoppable daisycutter through the keeper to make it a final score of 2-1 to City as the place erupted.
Yet the day wasn't over though. We went back to our table in the Flybe Suite and waited for the players to come up. First Dean Moxey was awarded Man of the Match by match sponsors City Plumbing - although they actually invited my ten year old son to choose, the lad knows his footy, and it was a popular choice that few could disagree on. After the Man of the Match presentation, it was our turn as match ball sponsors, and Charlotte was both suitably embarrassed - she is 15 after all, aren't they all like that - and delighted to be called up to the front to have her signed ball presented by towering centre half Matt Taylor, then the rest of our party joined her, Matt and Deano for a couple of photographs.
We then had a few more drinks and chats to both players and club officials before making our way home. It has to be said that this is one thing the club does particularly well, and one thing that goes largely unreported too. We were looked after wonderfully well all day by the club, and nothing was too much trouble. The food was delicious and there was plenty of it too. And there were the nice touches too, like the signed card and ball for Charlotte. If anyone is thinking of trying hospitality at all, then the call you make to operations manager Andy Gillard really will be one that you won't regret, and I guarantee you'll go home having enjoyed a spectacular day out courtesy of yours and my football club.
But what about the players? After all, they're the reason we go each week. Well to be honest after that first half we were probably all wondering just why we do, it was a shocker of a half, and I doubt that any of the 22 players out there can be completely happy with how they performed. However the second half was a different matter, and despite falling behind the lads showed good determination in knuckling down and working hard to turn the match around.
Deano was deservedly Man of the Match with a tireless display down the left flank, despite the whole Moxey family being struck down with heavy colds. In midfield it was good to have Gill back after serving his three match suspension, and in particular Manny Panther did a terrific job holding it all together in the first 30 minutes or so. A most welcome sight, however, was Neil Saunders making his first start for the club, and getting a good 70-odd minutes under his belt. I bet at times he thought it would never happen, but he must have been delighted to finally make his debut after nearly eighteen injury ravaged months at the club.
Up front, too, it was a welcome return to action for Craig McAllister. He took his goal well and won pretty much everything in the air when he came on. Unlike poor Stansfield and Watson, forced to chase high balls which clearly isn't to their liking. If you're going to bang the ball long, then surely the likes of McAllister or Logan should be starting? But hey ho, that's why Paul Tisdale is the manager and I'm merely a supporter I guess.
But when all's said and done, it's a most welcome three points that takes us back up to sixth spot in the division and only two points off second spot. Next week we go to Dagenham before returning to the Park for the visit of Rochdale in the final game before Christmas. With luck we could be breathing right down the necks of leaders Wycombe by the time we go there on Boxing Day, so please try and get along to cheer the lads on for what is traditionally a poorly attended fixture weekend the length and breadth of the country. Attendances are holding up well though, so there's no reason not to believe you won't be there in numbers as you have done all season so far. Look forward to bumping into you then, only this time I'll be leaving me suit behind and will back in me City shirt. See you in a fortnight then.
    Data provided by Press Association