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20:53 17th March 2012

Exeter City 1 Preston North End 2

The Ant Moxey Report So on an afternoon as grey as the football, City's hopes of competing for a fourth season running in League One suffer a huge blow with an uninspiring 1-2 defeat at the hands of a big and strong Preston North End side in front of 4741 fine voiced supporters. City lined up: Krysiak; Fortune, Archibald-Henville, Tully; Frear, Sercombe, Dunne, Dawson; O'Flynn, Cureton, Taylor. Employing a very young side, manager Tisdale opted for a very attacking 3-4-3 formation, and from the off it was clear the plan was to work the ball wide to Frear scampering up and down the left. As early as the fourth minute such a move saw Frear racing to the byeline before whipping in a nifty cross to Cureton at the far post. He looped a good looking header back over the keeper and back across goal, but unfortunately it was just too high and dipped behind the crossbar onto the roof of the net. But Preston kept their shape and kept their discipline and eased their way into the game. However, for all their physicality, it was a soft goal that handed them the lead in the 11th minute. Danny Mayor was left unchallenged on the right corner of the box and so when no-one went to close him down and Krysiak stood and watched, Mayor dinked a cross to the far post where Ian Hume was on hand to bundle home from five yards to make it 1-0 to the visitors. Cureton had a chance midway through the half when Dunne rolled a free kick wide to Tully - Tully then floated a cross to the far post to Cureton who nodded wide of the angle of post and bar from 15 yards. The latter half of the opening half deteriorated quickly into a turgid affair with neither side capable of either finding a team mate with a pass or fashioning any sort of worthy effort on goal, except for in the final minute of three minutes stoppage time when Cureton spurned a third chance to open his account for the season. Fortune sent Frear scurring down the line where he showed great determination holding off a defender twice his size before fizzing a cross in to the near post. Cureton raced in and flicked the ball goalwards, but the keeper pulled of a great reaction save thrusting out an arm to deflect the ball round the post for a corner. By contrast in the second half City looked much more determined and almost drew level within the opening minute. Taylor was fouled on the edge of the box on the goal line, but showed great awareness to take the free kick himself quickly playing it in to a mass of bodies in the box. O'Flynn rushed forward to stab at the ball, but only succeeded in skimming it off the top of the crossbar from ten yards out. In the ninth minute more Frear trickery down the left saw the ball cut back to Cureton just inside the box, but his first time smash was straight at the keeper. A minute later Dawson made way for Logan, then a minute after that good City possession outside the box worked the ball to Taylor whose shot from the edge of the box lacked the pace to trouble the keeper unduly. Just after the quarter hour O'Flynn was replaced by Bauza, then in the 20th minute City deservedly drew level. Dunne fired the ball across the box from right to left where Frear collected out wide. He laid it off inside to Sercombe who stole into the corner of the box before unleashing a ferocious drive across the keeper low into the far corner to make it all square at one apiece and game on. Bauza fed the ball to Sercombe inside the opposite corner of the box five minutes later, and in a single movement Sercombe turned and lashed the ball inches wide of the top corner of the net. On the half hour Preston thought they'd taken a shock lead when a free kick was nodded on in the box for Doyle Middleton to beat Krysiak to the ball and nod into an empty net, but the flag was already up for offside. Preston found a second wind after that and after Cureton's exit to be replaced by Shephard with eight minutes to go, Krysiak's miserable game and week was complete when Preston took the lead a minute later. A long ball was played forward to Hume who easily beat the outrushing Krysiak to calmly roll the ball home from 15 yards despite Troy's best efforts to get back and clear making it 2-1 to the visitors and game over. All of which sends City crashing to second from bottom with games fast running out. The one hope they have is that there's still time to turn it around with the game at home to Wycombe on Tuesday the perfect opportunity to put today's game behind them and close that three point gap to Walsall who occupy the first spot above the drop zone. But they'll have to play so much better than today, and keep the ball more effectively too instead of just lumping aimless balls past the midfield to our pint sized strikers. We have shown this season - albeit sporadically - that we are capable of competing with - and beating - decent sides in this division, so now's the time to try and regain that form that's seen us lose only once at home before today since mid October . It won't be easy by any stretch, and the players will have to roll their sleeves up like never before, but its not impossible and we're by no means dead and buried so let's bring on Tuesday and start our fight back right now.  Today is done, Tuesday is time to move on and move up - we can still do this!   
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