The Ant Moxey Report
So on a bitterly cold afternoon at the Park City and Southend serve up a festive sizzler with City eventually running out 1-0 winners in front of a chilly 4839 supporters. City lined up: Jones; Archibald-Henville, Taylor, Duffy; Golbourne, Harley, Russell, Cozic, Tully; Corr, Stansfield.
With Jones making a welcome return between the sticks City reverted to a 3-5-2 formation in the hope of ending a four match losing streak, and with that in mind it was City who had the better of the opening exchanges earning the first chance on goal in the eighth minute. Stansfield was fouled just outside the box so up stepped Harley to take the free kick, but unfortunately although on target it was easy pickings for the Southend keeper.
However he had little chance in the 16th minute when City took the lead. Troy played the most delicious 60 yard cross field pass into the path of the racing Stansfield just in front of the players' tunnel whereby Stans controlled the ball expertly before scampering in on goal. Spotting the keeper back pedalling furiously, Stans smashed the ball over the keeper's outstretched palm and into the net via the far post to make it a 1-0 scoreline to City.
A minute later City had the chance to increase their lead when Russell had a 25 yard free kick that he rolled sideways to Harley. However once again Harley didn't make the most of it screwing his shot well wide of the far post.
With Southend pressing City hard, it was a good ten minutes before City could fashion anything of note, this time with Golbourne racing down the left before dinking the ball inside to Harley who, with the keeper rushing out, poked the ball inches wide of the post from about 15 yards. On the half hour City once again broke quickly when Harley spotted Tully flying down the right. Despite intense pressure from a number of defenders Harley set Tully on his way where his drilled cross earned City a rare corner.
City's best move however came right on the stroke of half time. The ball broke to Cozic in the centre of the Park and with attackers outnumbering defenders Golbourne was almost away in acres of space for a free run on goal had the referee's whistle not ended the move for the half time break.
But instead of City carrying on where they left off at the start of the second half, it was all Southend, albeit without troubling Jones unduly. Indeed it was fully ten minutes before City got the ball in the opposition half, although in the end Stansfield's quick break fizzled out to nothing. With their tails well and truly up Southend finally had a chance on goal worth reporting, although as it turned out Barnard's glancing header ended up going straight into the midriff of the perfectly placed Jones.
Russell was then substituted for Dunne, but rather worryingly holding his thigh rather than as a tactical move, so lets hope it's more precautionary rather than anything serious. But back to the action and once again City's threat came from rare breaks against the run of play. This time Harley, Stansfield and Corr combined for Corr to earn City a corner.
Which was Corr's last positive contribution to the game as in the 19th minute after tangling with Shrimpers' midfielder Anthony Grant appeared to kick out at Grant sending him crashing to the turf. The referee had little choice than to brandish a straight red card, and for the second time this season Corr found himself stupidly heading for an early bath for violent conduct.
Ironically it spurred City on to take the game to Southend, instead of being content to try and soak up seemingly endless pressure as midway through the half Stansfield and Dunne worked hard down the right before Dunne was fouled ten yards in from the touchline deep inside Shrimper territory. Harley whipped over the free kick where Tully found himself completely unmarked ten yards out, but could only direct his header into the ground and into the keeper's grateful grasp.
In the 25th minute came more worries for City as Troy limped off with a calf injury to be replaced by Edwards, but this was definitely precautionary according to manager Tisdale in his post match interview, also stating Troy would be available for the Boxing Day game at Southampton.
Just before the half hour Duffy smartly intercepted a slack pass in centre circle bursting forward before playing the ball into Harley, but after shimmying past a wrong footed defender spoilt it all by blasting his 30 yard effort high and wide onto the Big Bank.
Then with 15 minutes to go Jabo Iberhe matched Corr in the idiot stakes shoving Duffy to the floor way off the ball and finding himself on the end of an equally deserving red card. So with both teams now reduced to ten men the game really opened up and the final quarter of an hour was proper end to end stuff.
First off the keeper almost gifted City a second making a complete hash of collecting a ball near the edge of his area. With Stansfield bearing down he took a couple of attempts to get the ball under control, and was lucky not spill it straight to the City striker. Then Stansfield found himself with a more conventional opportunity when chasing a lost cause towards the touchline. Robbing a flapping defender, Stans found himself striding majestically towards goal with only the keeper to beat, unfortunately he beat the far post too as his edge of the box drive slammed wastefully wide.
It wasn't all City by any stretch though, as at full time a Southend corner found its way out to Jeanyves Mvoto lurking on the edge of the box. His fierce drive was driven well through a crowd of players, but once again Jones was perfectly positioned to make it look an easy collect. Agonisingly there were five further minutes of stoppage time to endure, and three minutes into that additional time a Stansfield break gave him, Golbourne and Harley a brief three on two, but in the end City had to settle for a corner. And not a bad corner it was either, as the final action of a pulsating and nerve wracking final 20 minutes was for the ball to find its way out to Dunne stationed 20 yards out where he cannoned a dipping drive narrowly wide.
But what a final 20 minutes! City worked so hard to contain a lively Southend side, and so hard to cling on to their fragile lead. Of course their task was made that much harder by the stupid sending off Corr, which must surely raise serious questions about both his temperament and his future at the club. As to the players who contributed positively to the victory, it was good to see Jones back in goal, and one spill apart acquitted himself faultlessly.
In front of him the three centre backs kept Southend at bay, restricting them to half chances and shots from distance. Golbourne on the left had a fine game, as did Duffy, and in midfield Russell and Cozic worked tirelessly. However up front was where the real heroics lay, and those came from Adam Stansfield whose relentless running and energy never gave the Southend defence chance to draw breathe all afternoon. Where he gets it from is anyone's guess, but after a performance like that it was only fitting that it was Stans who scored the winning goal of a fiercely fought contest.
Which sets up well for a frenetic as ever Christmas period. The boys should go to Southampton in good spirits now, and if they can get anything from that game it'll be the perfect preparation for the visit of Gillingham for the final fixture of the year. Course, you'll all be Christmassed out by then and desperate for a footy fix after all that Turkey - just like me in fact, so see you, and your Christmas jumper from granny, in a little over a week's time. Merry Christmas all.
The majority of our match reports are the views of our volunteer writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Exeter City Football Club.