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13:36 26th April 2010

Exeter City 1 Charlton Athletic 1

The Ant Moxey Report
So on a gloriously sunny afternoon at the Park, Charlton steal a point in hugely controversial circumstances in front of a whopping 6835 supporters, including a handsome thousand plus good natured travelling fans. City lined up: Jones; Edwards, Taylor, Duffy; Friend, Burnell, Harley, Sercombe, Tully; Corr, Logan.
A raft of changes from recent games then, with Burnell, Logan and Corr drafted in at the expense of the injured Stewart, suspended Dunne and ineligible Fleetwood, but City kept to the same shape and came out at Charlton determined to go for a win. Indeed it took only five minutes for City to mount the first attack of the game when Harley played the ball into Corr on the edge of the box. Corr showed good strength and determination in attacking the six yard box, but as he looked to turn his control let him down momentarily and the ball spun out to safety.
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A couple of minutes later Friend surged into the box before losing the ball in a tackle. Burnell recovered it and played it back to Friend, however, exactly the same as Corr moments earlier, and in the same position, his control wasn't as sharp as it should have been and the chance was gone.
In the tenth minute good work down the left from Friend and Burnell saw the ball drilled in to Logan on the edge of the box who laid it back for strike partner Corr to guide a measured ball low to the far post where the keeper tipped it away to safety.
In the 20th minute Charlton had a great chance to go ahead, somewhat against the run of play it has to be said, when confusion reigned from a Charlton corner as Jones fingertipped the cross away where it was headed onto the crossbar before being cleared for a corner that Nicky Bailey blasted wastefully high onto the Bank when in a great position deep at the far post. Further confusion reigned a minute later as Jones and Friend got their wires crossed dealing with an innocuous free kick into the box. Jones thought Friend had it, but Friend ducked under forcing a surprised Jones into a quick reaction save palming it round the post for a corner.
On the half hour Friend showed unbelievable tekkers - I think that's the correct terminology - in nutmegging a defender before driving the ball into Logan stationed on the edge of the box. However a defender came steaming in to slide the ball off Logie's toe, but not before incurring the wrath of Flybe Standers convinced an arm was used. The players and ref were not as convinced, so play continued.
And it continued at the Charlton end when a huge Jones clearance was latched onto by Logan before swinging in a delicious cross after the bounce that was marginally in front of the rushing Corr at the far post. Then with time running out on an entertaining half, Corr and a defender challenged for a high ball with Corr landing awkwardly. It looked like a hip injury as Corr eventually left the field rather gingerly to be replaced for the final minute or two by Ryan Taylor.
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The second half started with substitution of Tully for Golbourne, and a mere two minutes in City had fashioned their first chance of the half. Edwards' long ball was nodded on by Logan to Harley scampering round the outside behind him where he flashed a good looking volley just the wrong side of the near post.
But as in the first half City weren't having it all their own way and in the fifth minute the visitors spurned a chance to take the lead when tricky Nicky Forster blasted a cross high into the away fans behind the goal after having to readjust his position to get hold of the ball properly.
In the tenth minute City enjoyed a great passage of play when Logan got on the end of a ball down the left to cross for Ryan Taylor racing in at the near post, but severe pressure from a defender meant his flick with the outside of the boot fizzed narrowly wide. Then raking free kick from a Charlton offside was flicked on by Logan to Friend who smashed a terrific drive from the edge of the box that the keeper did well to block for a corner that Matt Taylor butted just past the angle of post and bar from a towering header.
But then in the 15th minute City's fine start to the half was rewarded with a somewhat fortuitous goal. Harley's free kick from the left was deflected from within a gaggle of defenders and attackers to the unmarked Friend blistering in at the far post to blast a header home with authority from close range to send three sides of the ground into raptures as City took a huge stride towards securing League One football for a second season.
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With the Addicks rattled City looked for a second goal to seal the game, and came close two minutes later when Burnell sent Sercombe scampering down the right where his low drilled cross was met by Logan at the near post. Good defensive work ensured Logan's effort went high onto the Bank, but supporters and players alike looked on in astonishment as the lino inexplicably signalled for a goal kick when the ball clearly came off the defender.
In the 25th minute a promising position was rather wasted when Duffy squared a 30 yard free kick to Sercombe. Poor control saw the ball balloon up in the air, but Sercombe watched it all the way before firing in a dipping volley that the keeper held comfortably. Up the other end it was Charlton's turn for a free kick, but this one was a bit closer right on the edge of the 'D'. Giant substitute Miguel Llera stepped up to drive low round the wall and with Jones merely an interested spectator Llera's fine effort cannoned away off the base of the post to safety.
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Then in the 28th minute came Charlton's equaliser. Poor defending allowed Forster to cross from the left where Kyel Reid was left in acres of space inside the box to smash a low drive towards the City goal. Harley was on hand though to smash the ball off the line and into the Old Grandstand, but while the home fans breathed a huge collective sigh of relief, the linesman on the far side signalled the ball had crossed the line and so the 'goal' was allowed to stand. Charlton fans in the Old Grandstand said they thought it might have been over, City fans were convinced it wasn't - hopefully the linesman's view was unequivocal as the difference between one and three points at this crucial stage of the season is absolutely massive for both teams, but at the end of it all a goal was given making the scoreline 1-1, albeit in controversial fashion.
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But City couldn't afford to let it affect them and after withdrawing the industrious Burnell for Cozic in a straight swap in midfield it was time to get back to the business in hand. Which they did admirably with Friend crossing to Harley where his swerving shot from the corner of the box crashed back off the far post with the keeper beaten all ends up. A minute later Logan received the ball from Ryan Taylor and tried a curling shot of his own, but he couldn't quite get enough bend on it and it drifted wide of the top corner of the goal.
With ten minutes to go a ball in to Logan was miscontrolled by the marking defender allowing Logan a sharp effort straight at the keeper from the edge of the box, then immediately at the other end Jones plunged low to his right to turn a fierce Forster drive away for a corner that once again Harley was on hand to hack off the line, although this time without the lino raising his flag for a goal. Then with time fast running out the final chance of a pulsating contest came with Jones tipping away a glancing header from an outswinging 30 yard free kick.
And so we have to settle for a point when all three were surely ours. However that point has moved us one place up as Gillingham's defeat at champions Norwich meant that we swap places with both of us now on 47 points - our goal difference is one better than Gillingham's - with Tranmere two points behind - in effect three as their goal difference is 19 worse than ours - in the final relegation place. It's mighty close!
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As for the players, apart from a few iffy throws Jones was impeccable with some great shot stopping, good command of his box and faultless kicking. In front of him once again Matt Taylor produced a towering performance, and was ably assisted by Edwards and Duffy, the latter looking more comfortable on the ball with every passing game. Down the flanks it was Friend who shined with a man of the match performance with his best game yet since his return on loan from Wolves.
In the middle with Dunne suspended from last week's sending off at Tranmere Burnell stepped in with a battling performance and with Harley pulling the strings it's good to see Sercombe converting that early career promise into genuine hard working quality.
Up front you have to feel a bit sorry for Barry Corr. Often he gets into promising positions but early season rashness has curtailed his natural aggression and battling qualities. And with him working well in recent games it was a shame an injury had to end his game today. But it gave another opportunity for Ryan Taylor to shine, and he forged a good looking partnership with Logan who won an awful lot of headers and flick-ons for his team mates to try and profit from.
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So let's hope we can take these qualities to Hartlepool next weekend where a point will make safety almost mathematic should Tranmere capitulate at home to Millwall. If not, there's the final game of the season in two weeks' time at home to high flying Huddersfield, 6-0 winners at bottom club Stockport today. We play better against the decent teams - witness today's performance and the one at Swindon a fortnight ago - so we should look forward to the Huddersfield game with relish.
Bring as many people as you can and let's pack the Park for the final league game of the 2009/2010 season. We've shown we belong in this division, so let's rubber stamp it properly before looking forward to those two massive derby matches against old rivals Plymouth Argyle. If that's not enough to get you to the Park then nothing will - see you in a fortnight then!