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08:57 15th February 2009

Exeter City 3 Aldershot Town 2

So on fresh and dry winter's afternoon perfect for football, City and Aldershot serve up a real slobberknocker with City ending up 3-2 winners in front of an appreciative 4840 supporters. City lined up: Jones; Seaborne, Taylor, Tully; Moxey, Panther, Stewart, Gill, Saunders; Stansfield, Logan.
Just the two changes from the magnificent win against Macclesfield earlier in the week with Seaborne replacing Edwards and Tully replacing Troy Archibald-Henville today, but it was the same 3-5-2 formation with Moxey playing the wing back role on the left to give City a more conventional 4-4-2 formation by dropping back in defence if necessary.
But for the most part it wasn't as both sides struggled to gain the upper hand and by and large cancelled each other out all over the Park, especially in midfield. Indeed, such was the lack of action at either end that the game soon degenerated into a bit of a yawn fest with nothing much happening anywhere . Sure the teams passed, tackled and tried their hardest, but for the first 30 minutes it has to be said it was as dull as ditchwater as a spectacle.
However, as we began to doze, Marcus Stewart stirred us from our slumbers toe poking past the keeper's outstretched hand and just inside his left hand post after good work from Logan holding the ball up and laying it off expertly despite falling to the ground in the process to make it 1-0 to City. The only other action to report on in an instantly forgettable half was a Matt Gill free kick touched sideways to Logan whos smash from just outside the box was easily collected by the keeper after a deflection took all the sting out of the ball.
Thankfully the second half got underway in a much more positive fashion, and as early as the first minute a Deano inswinging corner from the left was met full on by a charging Seaborne who glanced his header millimetres past the angle of post and bar with the defence static. A couple of minutes later Stansfield had an opportunity to repeat his goal from Tuesday when he nipped in to get on the end of Saunders' low driven cross but unfortunately steered the ball fractionally the wrong side of the post. A minute later Saunders sent Logie scampering through the middle with a wonderful 50 yard through ball but the keeper was alert to the danger and raced out to close down Logie and block his terrific close range effort.
But as is always the case the sucker punch wasn't far away. After ten minutes of complete City domination Aldershot produced a move worthy of a far higher division as they carved City's defence apart with a wonderful run of short first time passes culminating in Brighton loanee Jake Robinson smashing the ball past Jones for a delightful, if slightly undeserved, Shots equaliser.
Five minutes later a stunned crowd fell silent as Aldershot took the lead completely out of the blue. There looked to be nothing on when Scott Donnelly collected the ball a long way out towards the right of midfield. However he had other ideas and after looking up let fly with an ugly looking bobbling daisy cutter that beat Jones all ends up flying into the bottom corner of the net to make it 2-1 to the Shots.
Stansfield then made way for McAllister, then ten minutes later Stewart and Logan were replaced by Murray and Basham as City looked to shake things up in search of an equaliser. Within seconds of coming on, Bash nearly found it, but unfortunately could only direct his diving header from Saunders' whipped in cross straight at the keeper.
But with less then 15 minutes remaining the game was turned on its head. After winning the ball and driving forward, Matt Gill won a throw which he took himself deep in the Aldershot half. Whilst the Shots management went mental over an apparent foul throw from Gill, the crowd went mental over defender Anthony Charles under severe pressure from Matt Taylor looping a header over his keeper's hands and just under the bar to make it 2-2 and game on.
Ten seconds later the excitement mounted as City won a free kick 25 yards out to the left of the goal. Up stepped Saunders to smash an unstoppable swerving dipping howitzer into the far top corner as three sides of the ground erupted for another one to add to Neil Saunders' own personal goal of the season collection.
City tails were well and truly up, and with five minute remaining had a glorious chance for a fourth when Bash stooped to head Murray's good looking cross from a bursting run down the left, but he only managed in directing the ball high onto the Big Bank behind. City weren't having all their own way though, as right on full time there was a minor panic when a bobbler from distance found its way through a crowd of players in the City box. Jones had to be at his very best to get down sharply to his left to turn the ball round the post after seeing it very late.
But there was still time for one more chance in a pulsating end to the game when Seaborne rose highest to butt a corner high over the bar deep into stoppage time.
Phew! What a finish, and what a way to come back when it looked dead and buried at 2-1 to Aldershot with just 12 minutes to go. It does show City's resilience though, and their determination to stick to playing football and keep on going until the final whistle. On reflection I think the win was a deserved one as it's difficult to recall too many Shots shots or Jones having to do an awful lot of work, although saying that equally I don't think we tested their keeper all that much either. But what did do was not give up against a decent and hard working Shots side that although going through something of a slump at the moment absolutely ran away with the Conference last season.
In goal Jones has had more difficult afternoons. When called upon he did what he had to do with confidence and ease, his distribution and kicking being a particular plus today. In front it was a welcome return for Danny Seaborne and he slotted in effortlessly beside the imperious Matt Taylor at the heart of the defence. It was good to see Tully back in on the right of the defence, with Deano bombing up and down the left.
The midfield was where the stars today were though - Saunders intelligent probing down the right, and a quite spectacular free kick for his third goal of what's turning out to be a rather good season for him, Stewart through the middle with flicks and dinks just behind the forwards and Manny's strength and determination and willingness to surge forward could all warrant Man of the Match awards on another day, but for me, and the sponsors, for the second game running it has to go to Matt Gill. Everything that was good today came from him, he rarely gave the ball away, played with passion and drive and in the last couple of games has been back to his very best.
Up front, with the midfield having to work so hard for everything, the two strikers struggled a bit I thought. Stans never really got the chance to run as he'd done against Macclesfield, and Logan often found himself crowded out when going for the high balls, but both plugged away manfully.
Of the subs it was Bash who caught the eye with trademark intelligent runs and passes, and maybe should have helped himself to a couple with diving headers at the near post. Like Logie, Macca found it a bit of a struggle against a big Aldershot back line, but again he gave it his all. Good to see Fred Murray get a run out too as City reverted to a 4-4-2 allowing Deano to stay further up as City sought to get back into it late on.
And the upshot of all of that is seven more goals, six more points, plus five on the goal difference column and up to sixth in the table since the 2-2 draw at Grimsby last weekend. Next weekend there's the trip to strugglers Chester before we're back at the Park for the visit of opening day opponents Darlo. Today there were 2000 more supporters in the ground than Tuesday night, and should we get a result next week then there's no reason for there not to be another 2000 extra for the Darlo game.
At times it might not have been pretty today, but this week we've seen how to play attractive passing football and also how to grind out and work hard for a win too. If that don't float your boat then you're watching the wrong sport, but if it does then we'll look forward to seeing you all back here in a fortnight. And bring a friend too, the Park's a great place to be these days, so lets turn up in numbers and give the lads the support they deserve. See you in a fortnight.
    Data provided by Press Association