Manager on defeat to WycombeExeter City manager Paul Tisdale was rightly proud of his players’ performance at Adams Park, despite the result ending 2-1 in favour of Wycombe Wanderers.
Sam Saunders had the hosts ahead early on, but Liam Sercombe’s equaliser 15 minutes from time put the teams level and set up a grandstand finish. Despite a flurry of chances in City’s favour and the occasional break from Wycombe, it looked set to end all square until Aaron Pierre was fouled in the area by Tom Nichols, allowing Paul Hayes to win it from the penalty spot in the depths stoppage time.
It felt like an injustice for those of an Exeter persuasion, as the Grecians had had the lion’s share of the ball and put unrelenting pressure on Matt Ingram’s goal in the second half in particular, forcing the stopper to make some critical saves. The occasional breakaway by Wycombe, with City committing numbers upfield, was the only response from the home side.
But Paul had only positive words for the way his players conducted themselves throughout and for coming so close to winning it themselves.
“You would have to be so pessimistic to walk away from our performance tonight and even look to try to find anything negative about it,” said Paul.
“We weren’t perfect, but my goodness we gave it a go. I’m just so proud of the way we played; it hurts when you lose but that’s football and that’s why we love it. We’ll have our good days as well.
“We do things properly and we’re so straight and disciplined with what we do, and we have to believe that we’ll get our rewards in the end.
“It was actually a really good game of football and it was terrifically exciting, and I feel for the players as much as anybody. They gave absolutely everything to that performance today.
“That’s football. You play with the freedom that we did in the second half and they played with the will to win in equal measures – it’s going to go one way or another. It came very close to being our way.
“But we wanted to go for the three points – we’ve been doing that recently. It would have been very easy to score the equaliser and shut up shop, but we did the opposite. We went for it and we went very close to getting the winner.
“It’s desperately disappointing but I loved the way the players played. I’m very proud of them and it was a terrific performance. We played with extreme vigour and determination and I’m very proud of that.”
The winner came in the 12th minute of added time – there had been six minutes signalled originally, before Nico Yennaris went down for an extended period at the start of stoppage-time.
The home side had been getting the slow-clap treatment from the City supporters from early doors after they were stifling any memento from the game and sitting on their lead. At times the ball seemed to be spending more time out of play than in.
Yet ironically the gargantuan amount of added time ended up giving the Chairboys enough time to win the spot-kick late on.
“It was an extraordinary amount of injury time, and you have to say that most of that was created by the slow and arduous build-up towards our first goal,” Paul said.
“Even at one-all, we were the team most wanting to get the ball back in play – so it seems incredibly cruel that the goal should come so far over the 90 minutes, when that time was created by the events of the last hour or so.”
While Paul had no complaints on the late decision in isolation, he felt that City had a similar penalty shout in the first period which was inexplicably turned down ahead of the opening goal.
Graham Cummins was released by Liam Sercombe and got between the ball and Aaron Pierre, only for the Wycombe defender to come through the back of him – yet the whistle wasn’t sounded.
Pierre, who was going away from goal when Nichols nicked him in the final moments, was caught in similar manner but was given the decision in favour of the Wanderers forward by the referee.
“Ours wasn’t a penalty because it wasn’t given,” he continued. “But if you ask me what I believe should have happened, then it should have been a penalty.
“That is in the same way that their penalty was a penalty at the end. No matter how minor the touch, the player got in front of Tom and Tom touched him, so it’s a penalty – in the same way that ours was.
“So I’m even about my opinions. Theirs was a penalty at the end, no matter how minor the penalty was, and so was ours.”