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12:03 1st February 2009

Exeter City 2 Barnet 1

So on a cold and blustery winter's day, City finished up well worthy 2-1 winners over struggling Barnet in an entertaining affair enjoyed by 4145 hardy supporters. City lined up: Jones; Edwards, Taylor, Tully; Moxey, Gill, Panther, Saunders, Sercombe; Stewart, McAllister.
Despite an attacking line up and an attacking 3-5-2 formation, it took a lot of huff and puff from both midfields to get the game going. Neither keeper had had a sniff of the action as defences cancelled out attacks, but having said that it was still fairly entertaining fare as both sides tried to pass their way to success.
Ironically, it was from a more direct route that City opened the scoring in the 20th minute. A booming clearance was won on the edge of the box by Stewart who's innocuous looking header looped its way to Saunders patrolling deep looking for scraps. Watching the ball all the way, Saunders showed wonderful skill and awareness to hit the ball full on the volley from a least thirty yards out high over the keeper's head and under the bar to make it 1-0 to City with the first strike on goal from either side. However, it has to be said it was some strike, and well worth the wait!
The teams continued to cancel each other out, but also continued to try and play football, albeit with neither keeper called upon to do anything other than regulation stuff. But City had a chance to increase their lead on the half hour: the ball was lofted in from the right and with his back to goal on the edge of the box McAllister expertly chested the ball back to the lurking Saunders who hit a chest height drive straight at the keeper from a little over 20 yards.
Five minutes later City thought they'd increased their lead. A corner was met by a defender who's clearance went straight up in the air. As the keeper struggled to get past players - both his own and City's - Matt Taylor met the ball about a foot out to nod home. As is always the case these days the protection afforded keepers borders on the ridiculous, and because he wasn't able to barge players out of the way to get to the ball the ref decided he was impeded illegally and thus what looked like a perfectly good goal was ruled out. City didn't let them off the hook though, as in the very next move Stewart and Deano combined superbly on the left side of the box to set up Gill for an edge of the box piledriver that was blocked at source. The rebound fell to Manny just outside, and his crashing Exocet was acrobatically clawed from the top corner by a wonderful full stretch save from the keeper.
But in the end City were made to pay fully, and I suppose it could be argued that in such an even game Barnet deserved their 45th minute equaliser. As a ragged line of defensive arms raised in unison, Paul Furlong broke through a poor offside trap to confidently drive home low into the corner of the net to make it one each in the last action of an entertaining half.
With McAllister limping down the tunnel, Logan was drafted in as replacement for the start of the second half, and after twenty minutes of cut and thrust from both sides - again without troubling the keepers too much - Logie had a great chance to restore City's lead. Tully sent in an inch perfect cross from deep and Logie rose highest to plant a bullet header towards the goal line. Unfortunately the keeper was on his toes and scrambled the ball away to safety.
In the 27th minute manager Tisdale saw fit to shake things up a bit withdrawing the overwhelmed Sercombe and hard working Stewart and introducing Basham and Harley in their stead. Ten seconds later City were in front! Saunders played a raking ball into the box where Logan nodded down for the rushing Harley. In a single, breathtaking and entirely outrageous move, Bash ran over the ball and backheeled it into the path of Gill who majestically drilled a side footed daisycutter into the bottom right corner of the far post to make it 2-1 to City.
City's tails were up and they were going for everything, and three minutes later a third goal looked on the cards when Logan battled manfully against a persistent defender down the left before delivering a delicious near post cross that Bash got tangled under his feet before somehow scooping wide of the upright. Eight minutes later it was Manny's turn to chance his arm, dispossessing a dawdling midfielder before bursting towards the box and launching a curling shot that was well saved.
From the resulting clearance Barnet broke up to the other end and only a last ditch tackle inside the box prevented a Barnet forward equalising. However, as Saunders slid in, the ball was deflected - accidentally - by his arm giving the ref little option but to point to the spot for what seemed like the billionth penalty in a City game this season.
Michael Leary placed the ball and while the crowd held its breath proceeded to prod a low lame effort to Jones' left that he pounced on gratefully as three sides of the ground erupted more in relief than celebration! The action wasn't over though, and two minutes later, with five minutes remaining City thought they'd finally sealed victory. Harley floated a wicked free kick into the box and Bash beat everyone glancing a good looking header low into the far corner, but alas his effort was ruled out by the umpteenth offside flag of the afternoon.
In the end though, especially for the way they dominated the second half, it was a deserved win. Two good goals and two more ruled out meant City were value for their win, up against a controversial offside and poor penalty being virtually the only times Jones was called upon to do anything. Which he must be pleased about I guess, as this stuttering 2009 has seen the City keeper busier than most in the current squad!
In front it was good to see Matt Taylor starting once again, and in the last couple of weeks we've sorely missed his steadying presence at the back. In midfield it was battling performances from Gill and Panther, allowing Saunders to push on, and with the support of the wing backs - Deano in particular - it looked like Macca and Stewart would have some decent supply.
It didn't quite work though, as despite their lowly position Barnet made City work for their possession and defended resolutely. But City's quality eventually came good, and evidence of this was shown with two excellent goals. A word on the subs too, particularly Logan who's been out of the side for a very long time, I thought today was one of his best performances in a City shirt this season.
So where to from here? Well, a run of consistency wouldn't be a bad thing. On Tuesday we have a good chance to climb back into the play-off race when we entertain Port Vale, then after travelling to Grimsby next week we've got three out of the next four games at home before we get to the nitty gritty stage of the season. All these games are winnable, and should we do what we know we can do, there's no reason to believe we can't have a second successive promotion season.
It won't be easy - no game in this division is - but with everyone capable of beating everyone else and having arguably the best manager we've had since the Championship season, there's no reason not to believe we can't prevail once again. So the fight's begun, and continues on Tuesday. These are troubled times with precious little spare change sloshing about, but surely given what we know we're capable of, it's a worthwhile gamble to take. So well done the boys today, and more of the same in the coming games please. We're a second half of the season team under Tis, so be prepared for fireworks, starting on Tuesday.
See you all there.
    Data provided by Press Association