Last Friday saw City play out the first act in what was being dubbed the trilogy of games played between the Grecians and the Bees of Brentford FC.
This game was, of course, the second meeting of these two clubs in the league this season, and there is no doubt that City fans will recall the 4-2 Bees’ victory at St James Park and where a 6-2 defeat was prevented by City keeper Paul Jones saving two late penalties! Part two was Monday night’s offering when City again returned to Griffin Park to play out the first leg of the St Johnstone's Southern Area semi final.
Prior to the games, team selection was always going to be interesting as manager Paul Tisdale balanced the demands of playing these two back-to-back away games and of course the value and importance he placed on both games in terms of League One table position and the lure of Wembley and the financial rewards from progression and victory in the Wembley final.
Records will show he got the balance just about right in both and his team were unlucky not to come home with the full three points as Brentford grasped a 95th minute equaliser in the Friday night league encounter.
The Grecians led for the majority of the game following John O'Flynn's second minute effort. Deep into injury time, when it looked like City had survived the second half Brentford surge, substitute Nicky Forster salvaged a 1-1 draw with his first touch, stabbing a loose ball in from a equally loose and unnecessarily conceded corner. This would have been City's first win of the new year. After the game manager Paul Tisdale reflected "Obviously to have been ahead for so long and then to lose it right at the end was disappointing but I'm delighted with a point because Brentford is a very hard place to come to. I thought we passed the ball and retained it really well and in the second half we had a couple of chances to put the gloss on it but it just wasn't to be."
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It was back to Griffin Park on Monday and this time in front of the Sky TV cameras to play out part two of the "Grecians meet the Bees" blockbuster. Another lead taken by the Grecians, this time Jamie Cureton struck first just before the break when he latched on to a through ball and fired an angled drive across Bees’ keeper Richard Lee and into the far corner. A brilliantly taken goal! As in Friday’s game though the Bees had a sting in their tail, and again levelled, this time after a bit of a defensive blunder involving Steve Tully and keeper Paul Jones.
Opening the game with three recognised strikers Paul Tisdale demonstrated how important this game was to him. The area final is on a knife edge heading into the second leg at St James Park in three week's time. The managers after match thoughts were "I am very philosophical about the fact it was a draw. I am really happy with the way we played. Of course, I’d have been happy not to have conceded the equaliser but so be it, and it will make a very good second leg. I wanted to make sure we had every chance of scoring and I think we could even have had one or two before the goal.
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So a well-earned point for the league table, and home advantage in the second leg of a game that could take us to Wembley.
If we didn't know it already it's a great time to be Grecian. This Saturday it's a return to League One action with the visit to St James Park at the weekend of rock-bottom Walsall and hopefully, three points will be claimed and revenge for the defeat earlier in the season. Come on you Reds!