Grecians’ Tranmere draw stops bad run

With Exeter coming back to St James Park last Saturday having collected a very credible seven points from three tough away games it was always going to be a heroic welcome home.

And fans were hoping for a home win to build on the recent return to form which interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, was found at the grounds of other teams. The team facing the resurgent Grecians on Saturday were close mid-table rivals Hartlepool, who came with a record of not having won on their travels since Boxing Day. Prospects for a good Grecian result were looking as bright as the sunshine on a cold and blustery afternoon.

Clearly Hartlepool had not read the script and Andy Monkhouse struck a double in the space of eight first-half minutes to put Pools in charge. It was two defensive errors which led to Hartlepool taking a 2-0 half-time lead.

The Grecians failed to deal with a long ball forward and Monkhouse lashed the ball past Ben Hamer from the edge of the box for the first goal on 21 minutes. Monkhouse added a second when Billy Jones’ woeful attempt to play offside led to the Pools’ striker drilling the ball in off the far post to double the lead.

Despite this start, the Grecians battled and pulled a goal back after 59 minutes following some great work by Ryan Harley who crossed for Jamie Cureton to finish with a smart volley.

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Cureton came close to a late equaliser but his close-range header was well saved by Scott Flinders. The defeat condemned City to a fourth straight defeat at St James Park and despite this, in his post match review manager Paul Tisdale remained upbeat ”It was a really improved performance on the last home game. The players played with determination, spirit and there were some exceptional performances in there. Of course, I’m disappointed we lost but we created enough chances and I’m very pleased with the players’ attitude and their determination to win it”

The defeat represents the club’s worst losing run at home since they lost four successive matches at the Park at the beginning of the 2008/09 season.

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Everyone will have their view on the reasons for the dip in home form and perhaps the statistics tell the story, with City recording six wins at home and nine away this season. As ever Tisdale is open with his views and he observed that his side are finding it increasingly difficult to play their passing game on the deteriorating pitch.

”It is very difficult to play here. We are a team built for football and you can’t play football here,” he said. “We are having to change our game in every home match at the moment because we can’t play. It is a real shame. It is hugely frustrating because we want to play our normal game here and we can’t. But we are just getting on with it because there is nothing we can do to change it.”

The result on Saturday left Exeter in 15th place, 11 points above the relegation zone and just 10 points from a playoff position! ?Tuesday provided an early opportunity to put things right at home, when City faced Tranmere Rovers who were occupying 18th position in the League 1 table with 37 points, three places and four points below the Grecians.

They have played 15 matches on their travels, winning four, drawing three and losing eight. The good news from Tuesday evening as that City stopped the rot and did not lose their fifth consecutive game at home, managing a 1-1 result against Tranmere.

The away side scored first on 15 minutes, capitalising on a slip by City keeper as Tranmere defender Bakayogo got the better of two players down the left flank and curled a fine shot into a vacant net from 20 yards. The City players responded with their tight, passing game which seemed to be taking them nowhere and went in at half time still one goal down. The second half saw decisive substitutions from the off, with two strikers, Logan and Nardiello being introduced.

Ryan Harley made Exeter’s equaliser on 65 minutes as his fine run ended with a shot that was blocked before Sercombe followed up his own shot to scramble the ball into the net. The game ended with honours even, and for City it was more a point saved than two points lost. The positives were that Tranmere’s goal was a tad fortunate as Hamer slipped coming out of his goal, and that a more positive second half gave some hopes of the players becoming more confident on home soil in their own, undoubted abilities.

This Saturday, it's an away trip to Peterborough, followed by another tough match at the Park on Tuesday when Bournemouth are the visitors.

?Anyone interested in following City on their travels we have a coach leaving Sidmouth for all away games and for more details please contact Di Lee on (01395) 577567.

We are always very keen to hear from those interested in learning more about us, and, hopefully, joining the East Devon Grecians. Check out our website or phone (01395) 515552.

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