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16:06 1th November 2010

Walsall 2 Exeter City 1

A suicidal 11 minute spell proved to be ten man Exeter City's downfall at The Banks's Stadium this afternoon. After a positive opening spell the Grecians shot themselves in the foot with a calamitous first goal from Reuben Reid on 32 minutes and nine minutes later Matthew Richards snuck behind Scott Golbourne at the far post to double the home side's lead. A minute later Troy Archibald-Henville saw red and although Ryan Harley's low drive sparked hopes of a memorable comeback Walsall held on for their first home win of the season. Paul Tisdale made one change from the side that beat Rochdale at The Park on Saturday, David Noble coming in for Liam Sercombe and the former Bristol City man led his team out to a rousing reception from the impressive 822 travelling supporters behind the goal. Jamie Cureton grabbed the winning goal in our last npower League One outing and he had the first chance of the match after sterling work from new Dad Steve Tully down the right flank. City's number 2 hurtled down the wing and sent in a low near post cross that was put over the bar by Cureton. City then produced a top-quality move that sticks in the memory even though it never culminated in a chance, Noble hitting a stunning first time pass over the top for Richard Logan who hit a technically-brilliant cross into the box only to see it headed away. The next genuine chance though fell to his strike partner Cureton on 16 minutes but he couldn't send an effort either side of Jon Brain from Golbourne's left-footed cross. City's other left-footed defender created the next chance shortly after, Billy Jones' free kick being glanced wide by James Dunne. Walsall had dipped into the loan market in midweek and Martin Devaney (from Barnsley) and Andrew Davies (from Stoke) were their two outstanding performers, the latter coming close on 26 with a header that was sent just wide of Paul Jones' post. Until this point it had been a solid if unspectacular start by City, creating half-chances at a decent tempo and looking reasonably assured. But what would follow before the break would leave them with a massive mountain to climb. Expect to be wincing when sitting through this match on the Football League show tonight, the first goal in particular is a face-covering moment for fans and players alike. There seemed to be little danger until Noble misplaced a backpass from midfield, Troy chose to take a touch and Jon Macken was in and racing to the touchline. The former Man City man, profiting on this gift of a chance, pulled a cross across the box to the waiting Reid who had the routine task of firing past Jones from close range. The mad 11 minutes had begun and Paul Tisdale appeared on the bench from his previous position, keen to try and turn the tide. Two minutes later though Reid cut inside Billy Jones and curled an effort into Paul Jones' grateful arms before, at the other end, Harley let rip with a stunning thunderbolt of a free-kick that was only kept out by the fingertips of Brain. The resulting corner saw a melee/handbags inside the box with Davies and, ultimately and crucially, Troy booked for their roles in the scuffle. Devaney shot wide and then Logan then almost got a proper connection to Cureton's cross as City looked to respond. But the provider then had to go off with an injury, Daniel Nardiello being introduced on 41 minutes. A minute later City were two down. Devaney was allowed time on the left wing to send a dangerous deep cross into the back post. Golbourne's failure to deal with it allowed Richards to head across goal and in from a narrow angle. The shell-shocked side then had to try and muster a comeback with ten minute when eighty seconds later Troy picked up a second yellow for a foul on David Davis. Remember our last trip to Walsall? It seemed at this point like almost déjà vue, two nil down then a man sent off. The half-time whistle gave Tisdale the chance to plot a comeback and both sets of supporters the opportunity to digest the frantic finale to the opening 45. Plymouth are a team on the lips of everyone involved with the football club at the moment after the Johnstone's Paint Trophy draw set a new date for the first Devon Derby since February 2002. And Reid, one of their former strikers, missed a big chance to net his second of the game shortly after the break after Ryan McGivern's ball into the box. Three minutes later Harley picked up Nardiello's pass fired a low shot into the far corner to spark thoughts of a revival, the home fans unhappy that the ball had hit referee Graham Salisbury and bounced to a Grecian in the build up. Harley nearly doubled his tally shortly afterwards but his deflected shot was straight at Brain. Nardiello then rose well to meet Tully's cross from the right-hand side but he knockdown was just in the wrong position. John O'Flynn, a goalscorer in midweek, was introduced for Logan before Nardiello turned provider, sending a dangerous cross in that Harley headed wide. But then the Welshman signalled an injury to the bench and his afternoon was over not long after it had begun, Liam Sercombe coming on in his place. City were now forced to field their fourth different striking combination of the afternoon up front with O'Flynn leading the line on his own. This change in personal certainly didn't help City's bid for a second and the game seemed to simmer down from this point onwards. Against the ten men Walsall did look dangerous at times on the counter with Devaney in particular continuing to shine but it was City who would have a few inviting chances in the dying minutes. A few of these fell to Tully, an unlikely figure to be popping up at the far post, the first coming on 82 minutes when he flung himself at Billy Jones' cross but he just failed to connect.
Dunne, arguably City's star man, then chipped Harley's cross into Brain's arms before Tully's header was deflected for a corner on 91 minutes during City's next meaningful attack. The final chance of the match from the resulting set-piece was probably the best of them all. Harley swung in a cross and O'Flynn's volley was just an inch or two away from the crossbar. A disappointing afternoon but especially so given the impressive performance we saw for 80 minutes of the match. A draw certainly would have been a fair result and City did well with ten men for the best part of 50 minutes. Paul Tisdale now faces a centre-back conundrum again with Matt Taylor still out and Troy having to sit out Saturday's home tie with Carlisle and he will hope the knocks to his strike duo aren't anything serious. Pete Evans The post-match views of Paul Tisdale as well as the extended highlights will appear on the Official Website within the next 24 hours.
    Data provided by Press Association