A sensational display from Alan Gow inspired the Grecians to an emphatic 3-0 win at Accrington this afternoon, the first time they've won back to back away matches for 18 months.
Not since Notts County and Charlton were put to the sword in successive Saturdays back in February 2011 have City chalked up two victories in a row on the road and they certainly deserved to be three goal winners against the previously unbeaten home side.
Gow opened the scoring on 14 minutes when he bent the ball into the corner before doubling the lead with a technically brilliant individual goal on 54 minutes.
Guillem Bauza replaced Gow and had a penalty saved shortly after but made up for it by netting City’s third with the last kick of the game.
Paul Tisdale made one change from the team that beat Aldershot 2-1 in midweek, Matt Oakley replacing Tommy Doherty in the centre of midfield and the former Wycombe man replaced Oakley on the bench.
City, decked out in their light blue away kit for the second time this week, enjoyed a solid opening to the match and carved out the first chance on eight minutes when Gow earned and then swung in a corner which found its way to Liam Sercombe. City’s number seven shuffled from side to side and drilled a low left footed shot which was held by the diving Ian Dunbavin.
Jamie Cureton was looking to carry on where he left off having scored twice at the EBB Stadium and he had two early sighters either side of the ten minute mark but both were well blocked by an Accrington defence who were yet to concede a league goal in 2012/13.
On 14 minutes the Grecians’ bright start was rewarded with the opening goal from the left foot of Gow. Picking up a pass from Kevin Amankwaah on the right flank, the Scot opened up his body and sent a lovely curling effort across goal and into the bottom corner. It was the sort of finish we’ve come to expect from the former Blackpool man and his first of the season was a fantastic start to what looked like a tricky away tie on paper.
Two minute later Sercombe, the only survivor from City’s last match here, a 2-1 defeat in March 2009, took down a cross from Gow and stepped inside in his marker but his drilled effort was blocked by a diving Accrington body.
The Accrington defenders struggled with Gow’s movement and quick feet throughout and the perfect example came on 26 minutes when he bewitched his marker down the left hand flank and turned him inside and out before keeping a cool head to tee up Arron Davies but he miscued his shot.
Sercombe was involved yet again shortly after but once again centre-back Aristote Nsiala, who was a real star for Accrington, was up to the challenge and made another quick block.
It took 36 minutes for the home side to carve out their first real half-chance, despite a string of corners, and it came in the form of a fierce drive from Karl Sheppard that was straight at Artur Krysiak. Three minutes later Will Hatfield managed to whip a free-kick around the blue wall but it couldn’t arch back in towards goal and flew harmlessly wide.
Only the quick reactions of keeper Dunbavin denied Cureton what would surely have been the second goal, Accrington’s number 25 racing off his line to dive at the feet of the striker, 37 next week, after Sercombe showed lovely vision to send him through.
The final minutes of the first half saw Accrington enjoy a good spell going forward with Hatfield shooting right at Krysiak and Sheppard heading over from close range after Hatfield headed it back into his path.
At the other end Davies tried his luck with a first time right-footed shot, just like the one that opened the scoring against Torquay in pre-season, but, unlike Martin Rice, Dunbavin realised the Welshman’s intentions and comfortably saved the effort.
The final move of the first half came after a long spell of City possession which saw them exchange passes all across the pitch at will before finding Cureton in the box. He span but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
At half-time the 143 City fans in the 1149 crowd could reflect on a positive half as the rain continued to fall at The Crown Ground. And City, shooting towards those fans brave enough to stand on the open terrace in the second half, had an early scare when Danny Coles had to clear captain Luke Joyce’s effort off the line after Hatfield had pulled it back to him.
City soon got back into their attacking groove and Cureton had two chances in quick succession. The first game after a swift counter from the Grecians, Amakwaah found Sercombe and the ball found its way via Davies to Cureton but he delayed a second too long before pulling the trigger and the covering defender was able to get a touch as the shot looped over the bar.
He then spotted the opportunity for a lovely chip from the left touchline after the referee played advantage for a foul on Gow but the ball dropped just inches wide of the back post.
At the other end the home side thought they’d drawn level but the linesman’s flag was up for offside to deny Pardraig Amond.
It was then time for Gow, labelled as The Magician in one tweet to us this afternoon, to sprinkle some stardust over this wet afternoon in Lancashire. This wonderful individual strike had those City fans in line with it purring and proclaiming that they’ve seen our goal of the season already. Worth staying up for this evening that’s for sure.
Sercombe did very well to block down a clearance in the left-hand corner and it was all Gow from then on in. He danced through bodies on the touchline, shuffling into the box before pulling off a rabana (head to youtube…) to put the ball across goal and into the far corner past a bewildered keeper with his kicking leg coming around the back of his standing leg. He’d already pulled off that skill to tee up Cureton for a chance on Tuesday night and admitted after the game that he often tries it in training. It was a moment of pure inspiration which put City on course to match last season’s total of away fans.
On 61 minutes his strike-partner Cureton was replaced by O’Flynn before Gow was replaced by Bauza and treated to a standing ovation from the away support and pats on the back and handshakes from the bench.
On 71 minutes Krysiak, who will be delighted with this clean sheet away from home, was called into action again to keep out a fizzing effort from Hatfield before a lovely flowing move saw City earn a penalty.
The midfield were so fluid all afternoon, swapping positions at will and that was perfectly summed up by the move that led to this 73rd minute spot kick. Sercombe pinged a lovely long ball from the left wing over the back four to Scot Bennett who’d bombed forward from midfield and it was no surprise to see referee Richard Clark point to the spot after he was hacked out by substitute Aidan Chippendale as he went to make it 3-0.
Up stepped Bauza to send a penalty to Dunbavin’s left-hand corner but the keeper guessed right and pushed the ball around the post. City kept attacking despite this set-back and a stunning ball from Sercombe with the outside of his foot saw O’Flynn race clear but Dunbavin beat him to it. Two minutes later the Irishman latched onto Bauza’s ball and hit a strong right-footed drive across goal which Dunbavin dived to save and when the ball fell to Davies at the back post defender Dean Winnard denied the winger.
Sercombe shot straight at Dunbavin before the icing on the cake in the third minute of added time. Sercs sent in a lovely right-footed cross which O’Flynn headed down for Bauza to tap in on the line.
It rounded off a very strong performance from all 11 players. Gow was simply unplayable at times, comfortably the man of the match, but the rest of the side more than played their part.
If this is what watching City is going to be like this season then you won’t want to miss a minute.