Exeter City 1 Harriers 0
Venue: St James Park
away fans: 215
Brave display at Exeter ends in defeat
With the situation on the M5/M42 in this area causing havoc following a major accident around 150 avid Harriers fans travelled down to Devon to see their heroes turn in a good performance but sadly coming back pointless.
Stuart Watkiss elected to choose the same fifteen players that he chose for the Woking game on Saturday and didn't as expected, and hoped, start with Taiwo Atieno partnering Iyseden Christie. Gareth Sheldon, formerly of the Devon parish, was on the bench for us but Billy Jones, formerly of the parish of Kidderminster, made his first appearance for his new side following a pre-season injury.
Both sides were hoping to build on opening day wins but it took a good twenty minutes before either side came near to registering a shot on goal. That was to come from City with a shot from twenty five yards out by Taylor that went well wide of John Danbys goal. Soon after came the first booking for us when Michael Blackwoods name went into the book following a challenge on Jon Challinor.
With the Harriers getting more of the possession it was still City that were getting more chances in front of goal and their next pop came from Paul Buckle but again Danby dealt with it easily enough. Terry Fleming then found his name being jotted down in the refs book following a foul on Billy Jones.
On thirty five minutes we had our piece of goal mouth action when Blackwood managed to get his head on a ball but it was also easily saved by the City keeper, Paul Jones.
The first half ended with a shot from Taylor again and then a header from Lee Phillips that went over from a few yards out. It had been a good first half display from the Harriers without much to show for it.
HT: 0 - 0
The second half started with a shot on goal from Christie but, although it was well struck, it was rising all the way and cleared the bar by some distance. Watkiss then made a surprising double substitution by bringing off Lee Thompson and Simon Russell, both had been having good games, and replacing them with Sheldon and Atieno.
This pairing of Atieno and Christie was what the fans wanted to see from the start but not at the expense of our two most creative players. The passing aspect of the game was about to change to one of ariel balls into the box.
This was almost instant with Atieno getting his head under a Sheldon cross but only to see it go well over the bar. Straight away after we were forced into making another change on the field when Martin O'Connor came down with cramp and was replaced with the fiery Laurie Wilson. Earlier City had exchanged Steve Flack for Craig Farrell and it was Farrell who saw his close range shot blocked on the line by Daryl Burgess.
Gareth Sheldon then stunned the home fans by scoring, what seemed to many, a good goal that was struck off by the ref for offside but then, ironically, Exeter went up the other end and scored themselves.
With the Harriers defenders looking for an offside flag Lee Phillips sent a ball across the face of the goal for Farrell to run onto and put into the back of the net. It could have been two goals soon after when Glen Cronin hit the post.
The Harriers were now looking a spent force and the loss of O'Connor had been a big blow to us and the reversion to the long ball game was not working either. We were also very lucky that the referee was poor when he turned down a penalty appeal as Danby bought down Phillips in the box as the City striker chased a ball into the area.
In the end, apart from a shot by Atieno that was going out anyway, we had little to offer and for the next game Atieno must start but this time Watkiss must make sure that he also plays a more creative midfield and not bypass them completely.