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14:57 22nd April 2012

Exeter City 4 Walsall 2

So on a day when the weather was as changeable as City's fortunes this season, 4307 die hard supporters watched fellow strugglers Walsall dragged deep into the relegation battle with a superb 4-2 win. City lined up: Pidgeley; Jones, Baldwin, Archibald-Henville, Tully; Nardiello, Noble, Dunne, Sercombe; Gow, Nichols.

Despite last weekend's calamitous ten minute collapse at Rochdale, manager Tisdale decided the only changes required were that of the keepers, with Pidgeley coming in to replace Krysiak, and up front with local lad Tom Nichols replacing Jake Taylor. It seemed to be going fine too during the opening exchanges, with City perhaps edging things slightly. The first real chance of the game then unspurprisingly fell to City, with Gow chasing an excellent Troy through ball only to be upended 20 yards out. He picked himself up to take the free kick, but unfortunately wasted it somewhat blasting straight at the wall.

A couple of minutes later City breathed a huge sigh of relief when tricky right midfielder Alex Nicholls let fly from the edge of the box. His deflected shot crashed against the base of the right hand post before spinning along the goal line behind Pidge to hit the base of the other post before eventually being hacked away. Midway through the half Gow sent Nichols scampering to the right edge of the box where he cheekily tried to chip the keeper to the far corner, however the keeper was alert and stretched to tip the ball away at the expense of a corner.

A minute later Jones and Nardiello combined well down the left cashing in on the keeper's poor clearance before setting up Nards to drift a curling shot into the box, however it lacked pace or direction and was an easy collect. Nardiello then blasted over from distance after good work from Jones and Noble before the inevitable happened in the 27th minute and Walsall took the lead. Dangerman Nicholls and striker Jonathan Macken exchanged a quick one-two in the box allowing Nicholls to drill the ball across Pidge into the far corner from eight yards out to make it 1-0 to Walsall.

The visitors very nearly doubled their lead with five minutes of the half remaining when a huge scramble saw Pidge save twice from close range, most notably from Kevan Hurst's thunderbolt which was eventually cleared to safety and gave everyone a chance for a half time breather.

But soon enough it was time for the second half to get underway and despite a couple of long range snifters from Walsall once again it was City who marginally held the upper hand. And like the first half, it was Gow involved in City's first real effort of the half storming down the right before cutting inside the full back to let fly with a fierce shot from ten yards out that the keeper could only parry. Unfortunately for the keeper, he parried it straight onto the bonce of the rushing Nardiello at the far post who simply couldn't miss an open goal to nod City level at 1-1 in the fourth minute.

Four minutes later Sercombe, Dunne and Noble did the spadework through the middle to set up Nardiello with an inch perfect cross to the far post. A defender saw the danger and managed to head the ball away before Nards could head it in, but from the resulting corner Nards once again got a header in only to see it smashed away off the line. In the tenth minute, after some pretty sustained City pressure, once again Walsall scored somewhat against the run of play. Emanuel Jorge Ledesma did superbly against Tully down the Walsall left sitting him on his backside before delivering an inch perfect cross to the edge of the box where Florent Cuvelier was on hand to expertly steer the ball just inside Pidge's right hand post to put the visitors 2-1 up.

In the 15th minute Frear replaced Nichols with Nardiello moving up front as a conventional striker with Frear taking over his wide left role, then five minutes later Nards found himself charging down on goal with only the keeper to beat. Giant centre back Emmanuele Smith had other ideas though, hauling Nards to the turf inches outside the box. Last defender too, so the ref had little option but to issue Smith with his second yellow card of the afternoon and so it was that Walsall were reduced to ten men. They didn't suffer further though as Noble's free kick was flighted fractionally too far for the angle of post and bar.

But three minutes later though City made the extra man tell. Noble played the ball through for Dunne who instantly played it out wide to Sercombe scurrying down the right. He in turn crossed to Gow on the edge of the box where with defenders closing instead of lamping it lofted the most outrageous chip over the keeper and just under the bar to make it 2-2 and game on.

Sercombe then almost gave City the lead when a corner was only cleared as far as him 25 yards out, but his searing dipping drive skimmed the top of the crossbar before flying high onto the Bank. Nardiello then chased a ball down the right channel before setting up Frear for a low drive that was deflected for a corner, and on the half hour Nardiello recieved the ball with his back to goal before turning and chipping the keeper in one glorious movement, but not before the linesman's flag had long since been up for offside against Nardiello.

The move of the match came in the 32nd minute when Jones spotted Frear in acres of space down the left and hoisted a ball forward for him to chase. He took it to the edge of the box before crossing low to Gow who picked his spot to the keeper's right with a thumping drive to put City 3-2 up and back in the fight to stay up. The game was almost made safe moments later when again Frear raced down the left before whipping in a cross to the far post, but unfortunately this time there was half an inch too much on it as it just whistled past the rushing Nardiello at the far post. In the 38th minute a mix up in the Walsall defence saw Gow steal the ball before setting Nardiello away with a clever backheel, but the keeper got his angles right and saved Nards' well hit one on one for a corner.

With three minutes remaining City finally made the points theirs with their ninth goal in three matches. Frear sent Gow away down the left where he skipped and weaved his way into the box before a gaggle of defenders made it impossible to shoot. He poked the ball to Nardiello who faced a similar dilemma so he in turn played it across the face of the six yard box to midfield goal machine Sercombe who gleefully smashed home his fourth goal in three matches just inside the post to make it 4-2 and game over. Well, not quite over, as from a scramble at the other end Ledesma found himself with only Pidgeley to beat but Pidge made himself big to block from close range and that was that.

So the fight goes on! As manager Tisdale has said on a number of occasions, it's not over until it's over as City defy the odds and simply refuse to give up their League One status lightly. Of course you could ask why it's taken until now to find some form, but we are where we are and we're fighting hard. Sadly last week's capitulation means that we're still five points from safety with two games remaining, but while it's still mathematic then it's up to us to continue to get behind the lads in numbers and vocally too.

It's a mighty tough ask to win at Carlisle next weekend and expect other results to go our way too, but if it does pan out that way then we'll be in the perfect form to tackle high flying visitors Sheffield United in a fortnight in the final game of the season. It might be too little too late, but it's better late than never as the most unlikely of escapes goes to yet another week.

    Data provided by Press Association