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09:35 23rd April 2011

Exeter City 2 Oldham Athletic 0

So on a bright and sunny Good Friday afternoon at the Park, City comfortably ease their way past Oldham 2-0 with their fifth win on the bounce in front of a crowd of 5458 supporters. City lined up: Hamer, Golbourne, Archibald-Henville, Duffy, Tully; Dunne, Harley, Noble, Sercombe; Cureton, O'Flynn.
The best way to describe the opening 20 minutes would be 'interesting' as both teams probed tentatively for an opening with neither managing to trouble either keeper or defence unduly. However, things livened up in the 20th minute as Harley sent Golbourne away down the left where he drilled a good looking cross into the box. It was behind the rushing O'Flynn at the near post, but with Cureton looking interested at the far post a couple of defenders beat him to it taking a couple of goes each at hacking it away. Two minutes later O'Flynn won a header to flick the ball on for Cureton to chase. With Sercombe overlapping round the outside Cureton played a deft ball into the box that Sercombe took just too heavy a touch on helping the ball over the line for a goal kick.
Ten minutes after that a raking cross field ball from Dunne had Tully searing down the right flank to chase. He whipped in a cross at full pelt that was met by the rushing Cureton full on the volley, but he had to stretch to reach it and could only smash his effort high over the bar. But in the 34th minute City took a deserved lead. A rare Oldham corner was easily dealt with, with Sercombe finding himself on the edge of his own 'D' with the ball and no-one around him. City players broke immediately as Sercombe played a peach of a pass to Golbourne sprinting down the right channel. As players pushed forward looking for a cross, Golbourne reached the corner of the box before drilling low to the near post where the ball flew in off the post to put City 1-0 up.
Three minutes later City had a great chance for a second when O'Flynn and Dunne's sterling work in the middle won them the ball and set up Cureton for a run into the box, but with the goal seemingly at his mercy he took too many touches before rather comically falling over the ball. He made amends in the 42nd minute though. Harley's pull back from the edge of the box saw O'Flynn somewhat scuff his 15 yard effort towards the far post, however with defenders tangling the ball eventually fell to Cureton who turned and fired home City's second and his 20th of the season from close range.
Seven minutes in to the second half finally saw the visitors have a shot on target when giant front man Oumare Tounkara found himself in the box with the ball at his feet. He hit a first time snapshot towards the roof of the goal, but Hamer was equal to it slapping the ball over the bar for a corner.
Midway through the half Logan came on for Cureton, then a couple of minutes later Hamer was again called into action punching a corner away through a crowd of players. The ball only went as far as Dean Furman, but he could do little beyond screwing his 18 yard shot hopelessly high and wide of the angle of post and bar. O'Flynn then made way for Thomson before Noble hung an inviting ball to the edge of the box that Logan nodded back to Harley. His radar was off somewhat as his first time effort sailed harmlessly over the bar high into the Big Bank.
With ten minutes remaining a so far rather pedestrian Oldham team stepped it up a gear with Furman again testing Hamer from distance, but he was determined to end his loan spell with a clean sheet and once again effortlessly tipped the ball over for a corner. City nearly got a third with time fast running out as a full stretch Logan failed by inches to convert a whipped in Sercombe cross, and with time virtually up Cozic had a brief run around as Noble came off.
And so, and it has to be said in a very comfortable fashion, City notched their fifth win in a row to climb to eighth in the table and a tantalisingly close two points away from Bournemouth in the final play-off spot, who visit Yeovil tomorrow. Can City do it, can they reach the League One play-offs for the first time in their history - indeed, can they even finish up close to them for the first time in their history? Who knows, but whatever happens it will have to be without on loan keeper Ben Hamer who returns to parent club Reading with three games to go, and with our thanks for a series of good performances, although today was probably one of the easier games he's had since he arrived in time for the 2-1 win over Walsall back at the end of January.
In front of him the centre back pairing of Troy and Duffy looks increasingly assured, and whether playing as wing backs or full backs, both Tully and Golbourne in particular seem to be relishing the run in.
In the middle Dunne and Sercombe never gave the opposition a second on the ball, and with Noble holding station in front of the back four, perhaps at last we've found his ideal position as he dictated both the shape and pace of the game with good, accurate passing and a willingness to tackle too. In the hole Harley worked imperiously, whilst up front both Cureton and O'Flynn constantly badgered the Oldham back line.
All of which bodes well for the visit to Tranmere on Monday, and who knows, if things go our way over this Easter weekend, we could find ourselves looking for a win next Saturday to both cement a play-off place as well as condemning visitors Plymouth Argyle to relegation to League Two - who'd have thought that at the start of the season?! So if you haven't already done so, get yourself onto the club's database and get yourself one of the hottest League One tickets of the season.
Last home game of the season and promotion and relegation still not decided? It doesn't get any bigger or better than that, and against fierce local rivals Plymouth for the first time at the Park for nearly a decade, well, there really is only once place to be. So see you next weekend, you could be witness to something truly historic.
    Data provided by Press Association