City fans can still dream

Last Saturday the visitors to St James Park, Walsall, were looking for a win, which would have been enough to keep them in League One for another season, and relegate the Grecians at the same time, writes Gareth Hughes.

Thankfully though, it all went tremendously well for Paul Tisdales' team and horribly wrong for the Saddlers. It was classic Exeter City fight back and one enjoyed by the home faithful. The game leaves Exeter needing to win their last two games, and for other results to go their way to retain their League One status.

Still a long shot and mathematically possible but it does appear that for City, the tide of misfortune and bad luck has turned- so as they say “anything is possible.” Some of the signs of a change in fortune on Saturday included the four goals scored that made it nine in three games, and the sending off of Emmanuele Smith for a second booking as he tugged back Daniel Nardiello on the edge of the area. He was the first player that has been sent off against us in the league in 115 games, whereas City have had 11 players sent off in those same games. As manager Paul Tisdale commented after the game: “It's about time something went our way."

In fairness Walsall had the better of the first half and it was not looking too good for the Grecians. As the game progressed, many will rightly point to the second half sending off as a turning point. Another key moment 15 minutes into the first half was when a deflected Walsall shot crashed against the base of the right hand post before spinning along the goal line behind the recalled City keeper Pidgeley to hit the base of the other post before eventually being hacked away! In fairness, along with the changes in fortune, lady luck must have distracted the linesman just at the right moment, as I believe the ball was clearly over the line!

As it was, Alex Nichols for the Saddlers capitalised on a mistake by Exeter defender Troy Archibald-Henville to open the scoring for the visitors. Exeter equalised four minutes after half-time when Daniel Nardiello headed home after Alan Gow had forced a fine save from Walsall goalkeeper David Grof.

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A slip by Exeter's Steve Tully led to Florent Cuvelier putting Walsall back in front with a fine strike from 20 yards. As the second half progressed so did City, and the introduction of winger Elliot Frear livened up the City attack. With Nardiello moved up front as the main striker, Walsall defender Smith, who had up to that time been a defensive rock found to his cost how tricky Nardiello can be. His sending off gave City not only an extra man but real belief that the game was for the taking. Alan Gow drew Exeter level with an exquisite chip from the edge of the penalty box before the former Rangers man put Exeter in front with another fine goal, side-footing home after good work by Billy Jones and Elliot Frear. It was all Exeter from then on. Liam Sercombe wrapped up the points by finishing from close range three minutes from time.

?This weekend the penultimate game of the season involves a 700 mile round trip to Carlisle who are eighth in the league table, with ambitions of making a playoff place. A win is a must and other results must go our way too. City have found form, albeit a little late and, it's not only game on, but also dream on! The last game of the season is home to the mighty and automatic promotion hopefuls Sheffield United! "Until it's over, it's never over," says Paul Tisdale.

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