The Ant Moxey Report
So on a day when the heavens opened City stormed to arguably their biggest league win ever with a Ryan Harley brace in a pulsating 2-0 win at the Park in front of a noisy 8459 fans.
City lined up: Jones; Edwards, Taylor, Duffy; Golbourne, Harley, Russell, Cozic, Tully; Stewart, Stansfield.
Despite the gulf in league positions, it was City who came out of the blocks with all guns blazing with the best chances and the best moves during the opening exchanges. City signalled their intent in the first minute when a Ryan Harley corner was spectacularly volleyed fractionally over the bar by the rushing Matt Taylor from about ten yards out.
City continued to dominate and force the game, and although entirely with the run of the play it was still something of a surprise to go 1-0 up after only five minutes! A towering Taylor defensive header was eventually worked out to the right where Tully's superbly hanging cross was headed home by the completely unmarked Harley eight yards out. Yep, that's right, a Harley headed goal, and as Tis said post match, when you get a rarity such as that then perhaps it's going to be that sort of day for you.
Anyway, back to the game and the City pressure continued, this time Edwards flashing past the far post from distance after latching onto a loose clearance from a corner. In the tenth minute it was Stansfield's turn to try his luck, but after latching onto Cozic's superb through ball after a lung bursting pitch length run, the ball was nicked away for a corner as Stans looked to finish.
Leeds finally got themselves into the game midway through the first half, but the chance was City's doing. A ball into the box was missed completely by Taylor and caught Duffy behind him unawares. His sliced clearance looped towards goal, but thankfully Duffy had the presence of mind to hack his own slice off the line and away to safety.
With Leeds coming more and more into the game - without, it has to be said, giving Jones anything to do whatsoever - his opposite number Casper Ankergren pulled off one of the best saves I think I've ever seen. Golbourne's ball in took a wicked deflection off a defender and Ankergen showed lightning quick reactions in tipping the ball over the bar when an own goal looked the only outcome.
With ten minutes of the half to go Marcus Stewart foiled a poorly executed offside trap collecting the ball out wide on the left before whipping in the most delicious cross between defender and keeper that Stansfield's outstretched boot failed to connect to by millimetres. Remember Gazza against the Germans in Euro 96 at the far post? Stans was closer than that.
A minute later roles were reversed as Stans turned provider for Stewart crossing in from the right for Stewart to glance a good looking header a foot over the bar. In the 40th minute a Harley free kick again saw Stewart heading towards goal, but this time it was a looping header to the far post that just dropped beyond the angle of post and bar, then a minute later the final action of a terrific first half saw Stewart and Stansfield combine down the right before laying the ball off inside to Harley whose left footed drive was dragged wide of the near post.
Despite intensive early Leeds pressure at the start of the second half, it was Golbourne who looked to make the first impact charging down the left after five minutes and seeing his low cross cleared for a corner. Leeds pressure continued, but City eased their way back in, and as the rain began to fall increasingly heavily so Leeds' discipline began to drop too with a series of niggly fouls and needless bookings for petulant challenges.
Finally, fifteen minutes in, we saw Leeds' first real and genuine attempt on goal when a quick break ended with a thunderous Andy Hughes drive from the edge of the box that the outrushing Jones superbly blocked with his legs. Five minutes later Stewart, Harley and Stansfield spadework fashioned an opening for Stansfield, but instead of having a pop himself he chose the seemingly lesser option of squaring the ball to Harley who was eventually crowded out by a number of Leeds defenders.
Leeds then broke quickly down the City left flank and at last man of the moment Jermaine Beckford did something of note ghosting in to glance a header over the bar from six yards out. Leeds sensed an opportunity for an equaliser and Bradley Johnson's good run through the middle ended with a venomous shot from distance that took a nasty deflection forcing Jones into a quite brilliant save adjusting his position very late on to palm the ball clear.
Jones was on hand again to thwart Beckford in the 25th minute by superbly saving his near post flick. Somewhere in the melee Edwards hit the turf clutching his face, and after lengthy treatment left the field to be replaced by Liam Sercombe. So with Edwards making his way to hospital, Sercombe took Tully's wing back slot with Tully moving across to fill in for Edwards.
It changed little to the pattern of the game with City content to hold Leeds and Leeds intent on trying to open an equaliser from somewhere, but it was City who were carving out the best chances in the closing stages. With ten minutes to go Harley surged forward after intercepting a loose clearance but his 25 yard effort drifted narrowly wide of the far post. With five minutes to go though, the game was sealed and City had a famous victory under their belts.
There didn't seem much on when Harley received the ball on the corner of the box with his back to goal, but with a quite delicious turn Harley shaped to shoot into the far corner whilst slamming an unstoppable rocket into the roof of the net at the near post to send three sides of the ground into disbelieving delirium and the far end of the ground looking disconsolately for the exits.
But there was still five minutes to go, plus a whopping six minutes of stoppage time, but it didn't matter. Leeds offered nothing and were well beaten. City shuffled things slightly with late substitutions of Dunne and Logan for Cozic and Stansfield respectively, but with Taylor imperious and Leeds fast running out of ideas it was just a case of when would the ref put them out of their misery.
About 52 minutes in as it happens, and I'm sure the cheer - as much in relief at the prospect of a much needed three point haul as in celebration - could be heard all over Exeter. Which was no less than the players deserved, for today they were, to a man, simply magnificent. As were the crowd. We've heard often enough about our gallant defeats to the big boys in our division, well today it was our turn for a gallant win.
In goal Jones had, surprisingly, an easy first half. Nothing beyond regulation, and when Leeds finally found out where the goal was, found himself doing what the multi-millionaires of Old Trafford couldn't by keeping Jermaine Beckford at bay. He did, however, have a huge helping hand from the three centre backs in front of him. The calm collectiveness of Richard Duffy, the steely resolve of Rob Edwards and the towering dominance of Matt Taylor were more than enough to see off the Leeds attack, and it was just rewards that it was the captain Matt Taylor that was named man of the match.
He was pushed close by Ryan Halrey though, who gave a masterclass of passing and control. His second goal especially will live long in the memory and it only goes to show what a performance Taylor must have put in if Harley scores twice - one a goal of the season contender - and still doesn't get the man of the match award.
But it wasn't just Harley in midfield, Bertie Cozic showed tremendous energy surging forward at every opportunity and along with the battling Russell provided the steel in midfield that prevented their opposition counterparts having things all their own way. And then on the flanks we had the boundless energy and breakneck speed of Tully and Golbourne, who right to the end were up and down the flanks like a fiddler's elbow.
Speaking of boundless energy, not sure where the forwards get theirs from either. Marcus Stewart continues to defy the years with an intelligent probing performance up front, and his prowess in the air isn't to be underestimated. Neither is the running of Adam Stansfield. I'm sure he'll sleep well tonight, and he'll deserve to as well - it must be so energy sapping as to be untrue to constantly be sprinting all over the pitch - and a thoroughly sodden bog of a pitch at that - for the duration.
But in the end it's still just three points. Yes they were against the league leaders, but they count for no more than against anyone else so we mustn't get too carried away. Next week we travel to Yeovil, and arguably a victory there would be far more significant than today's. It would be a shame to capitulate there after such an impressive and confidence building performance today, so we must steel ourselves and continue to put the hours in on the training ground.
Because after that we've got the visit of Carlisle in midweek before a tricky run of games visiting MK Dons and Millwall with Southampton pitching up at the Park in between. We've given ourselves an excellent platform to pull ourselves up towards mid table and away from any relegation battles, so let's build on that in the next couple of games and turn our recent performances into points.
Today was a good day to be a City fan - let's see you all there again next time to see if next time is just as good a day. It might be, so can you afford to not be there to find out? Didn't think so.
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.