Cureton the hero as City bounce back
A goal in each half from Jamie Cureton helped City get back to winning ways at Underhill this evening.
The 37-year-old composed himself before pulling the trigger on 37 minutes to fire the Grecians into the lead before nodding home Tommy Doherty’s perfect cross to finish off a great move.
City, with the patched-up midfield duo Doherty and Matt Oakley excelling, controlled large parts of the second half but had to fight for the victory after Jake Hyde nodded home but held on for a very satisfying three points.
City boss Paul Tisdale pulled a selection surprise by handing a first City start to Rhys Evans in goal instead of Artur Krysiak. Elsewhere Steve Tully started on the right of the Grecian midfield in place of Scot Bennett with John O’Flynn replacing injured Alan Gow.
Oakley and Doherty were big doubts but thanks to the fantastic work of the City physio team they were patched up and able to line up. City lined-up with one of the most experienced sides in recent history with a combined age of 343, meaning the average age was 31 and Arron Davies was the youngest at 28.
The Grecians, playing up the famous Underhill slope in the first half and wearing the light blue away shirt once more, looked lively in the opening exchanges and earned an early corner but the first chance of the match fell to Olly Lee who fizzed a long range effort just over Evans’ crossbar.
At the other end Tully, on the right of midfield in a 4-4-2, was found thereby a lovely through ball from Oakley but his floated cross/shot was meat and drink for 19-year-old Sam Cowler, in the side after Graham Stack’s red card on the weekend. The game reached the half-way mark of the first half without any real chances.
The closest either side came was Arron Davies’ low-right footed shot which was held by Cowler at the foot of his post with the onrushing Cureton ready to pounce if the young keeper couldn’t hold on in wet conditions. At the other end Evans wasn’t troubled by Barry Fuller’s low drive after the right back cut inside Craig Woodman.
On 32 minutes it was City’s turn to threaten, Cureton pulling the ball back from the right byline to Davies who fired high over the bar into the sparse end behind the goal.
Four minutes later Cureton showed the winger exactly how it’s done from an almost identical position. O’Flynn knocked the ball on to his strike partner in the centre of the pitch inside the box and he composed himself for a second before firing a right-footed shot into the keeper’s bottom left corner. His celebrations saw him run and slide onto his knees infront of the City faithful at the far end of the stand as he basked in the joy caused by his eighth goal in 11 starts this season.
At the half-time interval the 333 away fans could reflect on a solid if unspectacular opening 45 minutes.
The home side made a change at the break but whatever their attack could muster Danny Coles and Pat Baldwin could cope with; the duo pulling off a string of big blocks and headers at the start of the second half.
After scoring the opener, Cureton came very close to turning provider when City broke at pace. He stood up a lovely cross for Tully at the back post but his header dropped just wide of the post.
Barnet centre-back Krystian Pearce then came close to finding the back of the net…for the Grecians. Doherty and Oakley swapped passes and found Tully rampaging down the right and when he whipped a ball in Pearce’s leg nicked it away from O’Flynn but almost into his own goal.
On 67 minutes the lead was doubled and Doherty had a huge part to play in one of his best games for the club to date especially when you consider he was carrying an injury. Barnet’s attack broke down and the ball found its way to Doherty on the half-way line after some slick passing and a flick from O'Flynn. Bombing forward, as the Bees tried to swarm back at pace, Doherty took the ball to the left side of the box and clipped a lovely inviting cross for Cureton to nod into the top corner past the diving keeper.
Just one minute later the home side were a lick of paint away from an instant response, Andrew Yiadom curling an effort towards the back stick that crashed off the inside of the post before rolling along the line. Many of the home support were mid-cheer when they realised the ball had stayed out.
Cureton and O’Flynn’s strike partnership showed some really promising signs this evening and the duo linked up on 70 minutes but the latter’s low shot was fairly comfortable for the diving Cowler. On 81 minutes however the game was back in the balance when Barnet netted just their fifth goal of the campaign and debutant Evans could do nothing about it.
A corner was cleared as far as Ricky Holmes on the left wing and his cross left Hyde with the simplest of headers from inside the six yard box to reduce the deficit. From then on in things became very nervy and Barnet enjoyed their first real spell of dominance as they pinned City back.
Tisdale responded by adding another body to the midfield, Jimmy Keohane replacing fellow Irishman O’Flynn.
And just when it looked like City were going to head back to Devon with the points Barnet had the ball in the back of the net. An almighty penalty area scramble saw the ball hit the post before Holmes forced the ball home on the line – only to see the linesman’s flag signalling an offside in there somewhere.
It was certainly a let off for City who introduced Guillem Bauza for Cureton deep into added time. The final whistle was sweet relief to the players, management and the supporters who could celebrate a hard-earned victory after back to back defeats.