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22:46 25th March 2012

Tranmere Rovers 2 Exeter City 0

Exeter City's winless run goes on after Joss Labadie's lovely effort and an injury time second from Jake Cassidy secured a 2-0 victory for Ronnie Moore's Tranmere this afternoon. The defeat, coupled with draws for Wycombe and Walsall, leaves the Grecians five points from safety with seven games to go. City, who have now lost five on the spin and haven't won since February 18th, host Colchester on Saturday. Paul Tisdale made two changes from the side beaten at home by Wycombe in midweek, John O'Flynn replacing Jake Taylor and Elliott Frear making way for captain David Noble. Taylor and Frear were joined on the bench by new recruit Rohan Ricketts but fellow signing Alan Gow's international clearance hadn't come through in time meaning he was unavailable. It meant City began with something of a 4-3-3 formation with Pat Baldwin at left-back, a midfield trio of Noble, James Dunne and Liam Sercombe with O'Flynn joining Dan Nardiello and Lauri Dalla Valle upfront. The first real talking point in the sunshine came on five minutes when the Fulham loanee was the victim of what looked like a flying arm from centre-back Ian Goodison. But the referee didn't blow, much to the fury of the City coaching staff who had a great view of the incident. City's only chance of an even opening 15 fell to Liam Sercombe who fired over the bar from 25 yards. With the exception of that opportunity it was the home side that had created the majority of the early openings with a string of dangerous back post crosses testing left-back Baldwin. On 20 minutes Andy Robinson's driven free-kick deflected into the six yard box but Steve Tully was quick to spot the danger and clear the ball to safety. At the other end Nardiello tried a very optimistic chip from 30 yards after Sercombe and Dunne swapped passes but his effort sailed over the crossbar. A rare City counter saw Dalla Valle manoeuvre himself into a great position and sensing the opportunity the loanee tried his luck with a low right-footed shot that was straight at Owain Fon Williams in the Tranmere goal. Ronnie Moore's men had enjoyed the bulk of the first half possession but just after the half hour City found themselves with four attackers against just two Tranmere defenders after a rapid counter attack. It looked extremely promising but the defender read O'Flynn's intentions down the left-hand side and easily dispossessed him. And the Grecians should have really been behind just two minutes before the interval. Tranmere got the better of City down the right-hand side and the pull back was inch perfect from John Welsh and at the back post, with the goal gaping, Ryan Brunt somehow put the ball over the bar from close range. A let off for City and easily the best chance of the first half. There was plenty for the small band of travelling fans to be positive about at half time. City had certainly held their own and certainly weren't being penned back as they had been in plenty of their recent away days. Noble was taking control in the centre of City's midfield while Lauri was being a nuisance upfront and was doing well, especially with his back to goal. It took just four minutes for the home side to take the lead in the second half though, and it came out of nothing. Substitute Labadie picked up the ball on the left-hand flank, looked up and curled a lovely shot across goal and into the corner. Lenny Pidgeley could certainly do nothing about his cracking effort which was a real set-back for the Grecians. And the home side's number four then came inches away from scoring another stunning effort minutes later. Tranmere won a free-kick outside the box and Labadie stepped up to curl a right-footed effort that crashed off Pidgeley's crossbar. City tried to respond, Sercombe firing a volley into the away end as Exeter tweaked their formation slightly with Nardiello and Sercombe moving out wide in what was almost a 4-4-2. And following Exeter's rejigging Taylor was introduced for Sercombe. It was Tranmere who continued to create chances, Andy Robinson's back post cross being headed wide by Lucas Akins on 58 minutes when very well placed inside the box. Paul Tisdale had his head in his hands minutes later when Tully got to the byline and chipped a ball to the middle of the box where Taylor rose but he couldn't make a significant connection. And a minute later after a good passing move Dunne curled a right footed shot wide of goal but it was a promising spell from the Grecians. Ricketts was then introduced for his City debut in place of O'Flynn. The Grecians continued to threaten and came so close to an equaliser on 71 minutes. First Troy's header was cleared off the line and when the ball fell outside the box it was met by Dunne who smashed a lovely volley towards the top corner but it crashed off the post with the keeper just a spectator. This was a positive spell from City who were having plenty of possession in the Tranmere half. The game was almost put to bed though on 76 when Akins pulled the ball back to Brunt who was denied by a fantastic diving block by Baldwin. Nardiello was then replaced by Bauza,  the third and final throw of the dice for the Grecians with five minutes to go. But the three points were sealed in added time when substitute Jake Cassidy bent a shot past Pidgeley and into the bottom corner with almost the final kick of the match. So another defeat away from home and as hard as City tried in the second half they just couldn't create enough clear cut chances to take any points back to Devon.
    Data provided by Press Association