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11:41 2th May 2010

Hartlepool United 1 Exeter City 1

Exeter City will need to win on the final day to secure League One football for another season after a poor second half at Victoria Park.

Matt Taylor capped a positive half with the opening goal on 37 minutes as he headed in Ryan Harley's corner.

The home side grew stronger as the game wore on and equalised through Denis Behan with ten minutes to go.

That result would have been enough had Millwall beaten Tranmere but with Les Parry's team 2-0 winners it all comes down to Huddersfield's visit to The Park next weekend. City now know they must equal or beat Tranmere's result at Stockport.

Paul Tisdale made two changes from the side that drew at home to Charlton with James Dunne and Ryan Taylor coming in for Joe Burnell and Barry Corr, who had to settle for a place on the bench after recovering from his injury.

The first chance of the game came after just three minutes, Harley's curling cross was met by Richard Logan at the front post but his shot was comfortably saved.

Harley was involved in City's next effort when he stepped up and curled a 25 yard right-footed free kick just the wrong side of the post, think Andy Taylor at Old Trafford!

Pools striker Roy O'Donovan was nominated for the League One player of the month award earlier this week and he had the beating of Matt Taylor on 15 minutes but Richard Duffy put in a great block. Harley then tried his luck from another free kick minutes later but his effort was straight at Scott Flinders.

And the ginger playmaker was involved at the other end when he played a vital role in keeping the game goal-less. Matt Taylor headed a corner clear to the feet of Ritchie Humphreys and his low shot was heading for the bottom corner with Paul Jones beaten until Harley, still on the post from the set-piece, hacked the ball clear.

Matt Taylor then grabbed his sixth goal of the season to give City's hopes of staying up a huge boost. The centre-back met Harley's corner with a header that flew past the defender on the line to spark wild celebrations amongst the 424 travelling fans.

There was little of note before the half-time whistle and as the supporters reflected on a very encouraging 45 minutes the disappointing news filtered through, there had been a 47th minute goal for Tranmere at Prenton Park.

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The only change for the second half was the referee's attire! Mr Salisbury and his linesmen came out in black kits for the last 45 after previously sporting salmon efforts!

On 52 minutes the home side carved out their best effort of the match and should have really taken the lead. Matt Taylor and Rob Edwards collided under pressure from James Brown and the ball ran through to Leon McSweeney who squeezed a shot past the advancing Jones but was denied by the post.

Hartlepool seemed to be moving up the gears while City were dropping deeper and deeper and Edwards needed all of his years of experience to stop Andy Monkhouse as he looked to finish off a mazy run.

James Dunne then set up Logan who sent a long range effort wide before City created by far the biggest chance of their second half.

George Friend's run was halted and Harley curled in the resulting free-kick to the back post where the sprawling body of Matt Taylor dived to meet it but his header went just inches wide of making it 2-1.

At the other end only a controversial decision denied Chris Turner's side an equaliser on 77 minutes. Jones saved well from Gary Liddle's effort but the ball was headed back into the box and Sunderland loanee O'Donovan had an easy finish. His celebrations were halted by Salisbury who signalled for a push.

Two minutes later Monkhouse blazed over before the Pools attack eventually made the breakthrough on 80 minutes when a cross was sent across the goal for Behan to score from close range.

They continued to threaten down the flanks and O'Donovan's shot was just wide of Jones' goal.

Tisdale showed his desire to win the game by sending on Marcus Stewart, Barry Corr and then Stuart Fleetwood and the game continued to go from end to end with both teams desperate for the points.

Harley's corner was then volleyed into the away end by Dunne at the near post before Hartlepool hit City on the break and only Duffy saved the day as their attack poured forward.

City final move of note saw Stewart shank the ball out of play as he looked to cross first time. This wasn't to be the Grecians' day.

This was our 18th draw of the season and this inability to kill off teams and hold onto one goal leads could be our downfall if Huddersfield come away with the three points on Saturday. Our away form has been woeful with only two wins in League One on our travels all season.

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Tranmere travel to already relegated Stockport where three points seems the likely outcome. Which means City would have to pick up three points to ensure they stay up. Win and survival is insured, sounds easy doesn't it?!

On the positive side we are currently out of the relegation zone on goal difference and vitally League One survival is in our own hands. And it could so easily have been worse, had O'Donavan's header not been disallowed City's situation would have been out of their hands.

Our home record has been very good this season and no team in the top ten has come away with three points from The Park this season. Book your tickets now and see if that record will still be intact come 5pm on Saturday!


Written by Pete Evans, photos by Martin Weiler

    Data provided by Press Association