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23:59 13th December 2009

Oldham 2-0 Exeter City

An out of sorts Exeter City lost their fourth successive game this afternoon and rarely looked like ending a goal drought that has now lasted for over four hours.

The Grecians were never in control of a match against their previously off-form opponents Oldham who won the game thanks to a purple patch just after half-time.

Deane Smalley opened the scoring from the edge of the box just after half time before Paul Heffernan's deflected shot made it 2-0 with the aid of a deflection minutes later.

City finally created some chances in the final minutes but it was too little too late for Tisdale's side.

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335 superb supporters made the long trek to Greater Manchester and the pre-match talking points were the return of Adam Stansfield and Dan Seaborne to the starting line-up.

Stansfield lined up alongside Barry Corr and Marcus Stewart in a front three but it was an unlikely source who had the first chance of the game; Bertie Cozic letting rip with a 30 yard right footed curler that crashed off the bar.

Oldham winger Danny Whitaker was finding himself in acres of space and their number seven wasted a good chance to score the Latics' first goal since their 2-2 draw with Colchester four games ago when he dragged a shot wide of Marriott's post.

City's front three then carved out a chance for Stansfield but City's number nine could only hit a weak shot at the keeper after Corr had sent Stewart's left-footed cross into his path.

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At the back Seaborne and Matt Taylor were being overworked by the pair were imperious in the air and were repelling every attack from the Latics.

And when Seaborne's slip let Whitaker into a dangerous position just after the half-hour his central defensive partner was alert enough to snuff out the threat.

But the City backline were being overworked and the Oldham wingers were really testing a City defence that hasn't kept a clean sheet in League One since Halloween.

Exeter went in level but with little to be positive about apart. The midfield seemed to lack energy and tempo and were being bailed by what looked like a solid back four.

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That illusion was soon shattered as Oldham really upped the tempo as the second half got underway.

Exeter struggled to cope with the home side right from kick off and when substitute Keigan Parker sent a low shot skidding across the City goal from an angle alarm bells began to ring amongst the away fans.

And that caution was well founded as just six minutes into the second half a ball was laid across the box for Smalley to fire his shot emphatically past Marriott into the top right hand corner.

Seven minutes later Oldham struck again. On-loan Doncaster striker Heffernan latched onto a long ball, cut inside Taylor and his deflected effort left Exeter with a real mountain to climb on the border of the Pennines.

Dave Penney's side had finally broken their duck, then added a second, and a stunned City looked for a way back into the game - Stansfield firing over the crossbar as he stretched to meet Stewart's through ball.

Tisdale then responded on the hour mark as he withdrew Ryan Harley for Steve Tully and he was forced into another change four minutes later when Stewart's thigh injury gave Neil Saunders only his fourth appearance of the season.

And the two subs combined soon after to create a decent chance for Stansfield but the striker headed over.

City were beginning to look threatening and had Taylor converted Scott Golbourne's cross then it could have set up a rousing finale. Golbourne himself then wasted a superb chance inside the box after Logan's clever touch put him through but the left-back's drilled shot flew wide.

Logan had two half-chances as City had a final push but his pair of headers didn't trouble Darryl Flahavan.

Despite creating a host of half chances on loan goalkeeper Flahavan didn't have a real save to make and after scoring 13 times in a fruitful November the Grecians are now experiencing a barren run in front of goal.

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And their misery was compounded in injury time when Cozic was stretchered off after what seemed to be a run of the mill challenge on the half-way line and manager Paul Tisdale admitted post-match that he wasn't yet sure of the extent of the Frenchman's injury.

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More importantly the club's most successful manager of all time faces the tough task of reinvigorating a squad who looked off the pace and put in a performance described by many after the match as lacklustre.

Tisdale has regularly cited Gillingham and Huddersfield as the only real occasions where he has been disappointed at his side but his post-match reaction today suggests 'Oldham away' has now been added to that list.

An advert next to the despondent travelling fans advertised a website aptly titled 'keep the faith'. Despite this afternoon's setback we will need to do exactly that ahead of Saturday's visit of Southend to The Park.

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City lined-up: Marriott, Duffy, Seaborne, Taylor, Golbourne, Russell, Cozic, Harley, (Tully 60) Stewart, (Saunders 64) Corr,(Logan 80) Stansfield

Crowd: 6,230 (335 away fans)

Report written by Peter Evans, photos available for purchase very soon from our gallery.

    Data provided by Press Association