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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:12 24th August 2010

Exeter City 2 Bristol Rovers 2

So on an emotional day at the Park City once again come from behind to draw 2-2 with Bristol Rovers in an entertaining encounter in front of a whopping 7401 supporters. City lined up: Paul Jones; Duffy, Edwards, Billy Jones; Golbourne, Dunne, Noble, Sercombe, Tully; Nardiello, O'Flynn.
After stadium announcer Fullsy's wonderful eulogy for sadly departed striker Adam Stansfield and a warm and heartfelt minute's applause in celebration of his life, the game got underway with City employing their usual 3-5-2 formation.
It took a while for either team to assert any authority on the game with neither keeper - or defence - having an awful lot to do, however it was rather prophetic that it was City who opened the scoring, in the ninth minute too. A defender slipped allowing Tully free reign to pick his spot with a measured cross from the right to Nardiello 12 yards out. He expertly glanced a looping header over the keeper's outstretched hands into the top corner of the net to give City a 1-0 lead with pretty much the first meaningful action of the game.
Rovers came back strongly though and a ricochet off Dunne spun into the box where a Rovers forward got there marginally in front of Jones to flick the ball onto the bar. Duffy got back to clear the rebound from under the bar, but the linesman had long since flagged for an infringement. Undeterred Rovers pressed on with Will Hoskins bursting through City's leaden offside attempt, but Jones was alert and came sprinting out to boot clear and avert any danger.
A minute later Sercombe, O'Flynn and Tully combined well to work the ball down the right where Tully sent in a peach of cross for the unmarked Golbourne stationed near the penalty spot. Despite having time and space, Golbourne unfortunately guided his smart downward header marginally wide of the far post. Rovers came back once again with Hoskins driving across the edge of the box before firing through a defender's legs that Jones did well to scoop round a post despite not seeing the ball until very late.
On the half hour an innocuous challenge in the Rovers box left Nardiello prone, and without treatment on the pitch he limped off to be replaced immediately by Jamie Cureton as City enjoyed huge dollops of possession, but without creating anything to worry the Rovers keeper. With time running out though the keeper was forced to seriously backpedal after Golbourne's lay-off to Noble was cheekily chipped over the keeper and, unfortunately, the bar by not much at all. Rovers countered and seconds later the ball was up the other end with former Torquay front runner Joe Kaffour collecting the ball inside the City box before turning and firing low past Jones through a crowd of players to sent the two teams in level at the break.
If only City could turn that possession into goals in the second half it would soon be game over, but within two minutes of the restart it was the exact opposite. With City playing a high line a Rovers forward galloped goalwards with Duffy chasing valiantly, and vainly. As Duffy looked to cross over behind the player, he clipped his heels to send him tumbling 25 yards out. It was accidental I'm sure, but with the player in on goal and Duffy the last man the ref had little option but to dismiss Duffy, a fact he knew immediately as Duffy was half way down the tunnel before the ref had chance to get the card out of his pocket. Chris Lines took the resulting free kick, but City escaped further punishment as it crashed into the wall before being cleared to safety. City then changed to a 4-3-2 formation with Tully and Golbourne reverting to more conventional full back roles and Jones and Edwards continuing at centre back.
In the tenth minute Rovers took the lead, but it was more to do with a failure to clear the ball than having a man advantage. A cross from the right was miraculously saved at point blank range at the far post by Jones before Rovers picked up the rebound and pinged the ball about in the box where Hoskins blasted home from 15 yards past a furious Jones. Sercombe looked for an immediate reply with a strong run and shot from distance that drifted wide, then ten minutes later Cureton was sent scampering after the ball before being unceremoniously hauled to the ground.
With the crowd baying for the ref to even up the numbers, he brandished a mere yellow. Rightly too - Cureton was heading towards the corner flag with two covering defenders between him and the goal. But despite being both a man and goal down, City fought back and on the half hour O'Flynn sent a ball in to Cureton who split the defence completely with the most delicious flicked through ball. Dunne raced through on goal where a tangle of Dunne, keeper and defender ended with the ref pointing to the spot for a City penalty. O'Flynn stepped up to drill the ball straight down the middle to level the scores before a tiring Noble was replaced by Cozic with ten minutes to go as City changed formation again to a 4-4-1 with Cureton playing the lone striker and O'Flynn dropping back to right midfield to support Dunne, Sercombe and Cozic.
The idea I guess would be to add strength in midfield and protect the point, but as is oft wont to happen, it doesn't always work out that way. Lines once again found himself with a free kick some 25 yards out, but after beating the wall Jones plunged down well to his left at the base of his near post to turn the ball away for a corner. Lines had a better chance just as the fourth official raised the board for four minutes' stoppage time when turned into the box and crashed a ferocious shot towards the roof of the net that Jones fingertipped over, then a minute later City had the chance to win it when Cureton chased a speculative ball down the right and played it back to Dunne sprinting into the box. Dunne scuffed his shot completely, but it squirmed across the box where a defender just beat Cozic ghosting in at the back to clear to safety.
And so for the second league game running City go ahead then have to come from behind to rescue a point. However this time it was with ten men after Duffy's sending off, so well done the team for battling hard to secure that point. In goal Jones made a number of fine saves and in front of him Edwards and Duffy looked to be coping well with that absence of Matt Taylor. Golbourne and Tully got forward whenever the opportunities allowed them to, with Tully in particular sending in some telling crosses.
In the middle Dunne and Sercombe worked tirelessly to support Noble, and up front it was good to see both O'Flynn and Nardiello score their first goals for the club. Cureton looked sharp too with clever balls and tireless running. However, despite the team scoring two for the third game running, in those three games they've also let in seven goals. Ironic really as last season it was felt in many quarters that the defence was City's strength and the problems lay up front.
But that was then and this is now and the team will know what needs to be worked on at the training ground. What won't need to be worked on is commitment, workrate, running and enthusiasm as this was shown in abundance fighting back to equalise when a man short, and in the end it was Rovers wasting time trying to hang on to what they'd got.
And for that, as it so typified what his game was all about, I think Adam would have been both pleased and proud of his team mates today.
Mercure
Match Report sponsored by The Mercure Southgate Hotel
    Data provided by Press Association