Crawley vs Exeter Match Report

City made it four straight away wins and seven unbeaten with what was eventually a routine win at Crawley on Easter Monday. Those who had studied the line-up before the match and entered the ground late will have been surprised to see Jamie McAllister lining up, but an injury to Jordan Moore-Taylor forced the change. This meant Christian Ribeiro crawley_exeter_pic0moved into the centre and McAllister played in an unfamiliar right back role. There were starts too for Arron Davies and Jake Taylor, so the line-up in full was: Olejnik in goal, full-backs Woodman and McAllister, Ribeiro and Brown in the middle; a midfield trio of Harley, Davies and Holmes, with Taylor, Watkins and Stockley up front. Moore-Taylor’s late knock meant City had six players on the bench: Pym, Tillson, Wheeler, Nicholls, Morrison and Grant.

City were quick out of the blocks, showing attacking intent from the first whistle, although it was the hosts’ left back, Dunne, who had the first shot, firing harmlessly wide. City were playing some enterprising stuff befitting an attacking line-up with Holmes and Taylor effective down the flanks and Ollie Watkins getting busy with Stockley in the middle. It was Holmes who had the best early effort from a free kick, Preston in the Crawley goal doing well to get to the kick bent bobby_olejnikround the wall, and it was Preston again who earned the plaudits – Taylor’s pull back saw Watkins hit the ball for the corner only for Preston to somehow reach it at full stretch. At the other end an error let in McAlinden, but Olejnik was on hand to save a somewhat feeble effort, while McAlinden again burst clear only to freeze and turn back on himself when well placed.

City eventually made their pressure tell – Watkins went on a mazy dribble on the edge of the box, turned and played Taylor in and, in very similar style to his goal at Notts County last weekend, Taylor slotted home coolly. City stayed on the front foot, Holmes blazing over when well placed while Stockley got on the end of a Holmes cross only to nod over under pressure from the defender, and at half time City went in with a performance that was better than the 1-0 scoreline perhaps reflected.

Crawley, no doubt with a rocket up the backside from Mark Yates and having made a substitution, the lively Edwards replacing the anonymous Tomlin, burst out of the traps in the second half, Olejnik pulling off a fine flying save to deflect McAlinden’s shot over the bar. Olejnik was again called into action to save a fizzing drive from Edwarryan_harleyds as Crawley gave it their all in the hope of rescuing something from the match. City were reduced to soaking up play and hitting the Red Devils on the counter – Watkins found himself in a good position but wanted an extra touch instead of either shooting or releasing Holmes, which showed too much of the ball to Walton – both went in full-blooded, the referee seemed to let things go until he spotted Walton writhing around so he stopped play with Watkins urging the ex-Plymouth player to get up. Mr Haines called Watkins over, which caused Walton to miraculously recover and plead Watkins’ innocence, which might just have reduced the punishment to a yellow card – still quite strange given he appeared not to be about to give a free kick at all until he saw Walton stay down.

Crawley made a second substitution, the behemoth Walton being withdrawn for Deacon as they continued to press, forcing a series of corner via some determined blocks by the City rearguard. Somewhat out of the blue, City got the goal that effectively killed off the match. After City had wasted the opportunity to slow down play from a free kick by taking it quickly, the ball drifting out for a goal kick, Preston fluffed his lines and sliced the ball out of play. From the throw in, City built an attack, Stockley doing wonderfully to retain possession and release Taylor, who got the better of Dunne for the umpteenth time before his cross, partially blocked, found the head of Watkins to nod home for his fourth goal in six games.crawley_exeter_pic1

Crawley made their final substitution, while City freshened things up late on with Wheeler and Grant replacing the two goalscorers (both had also been booked). Crawley then found themselves reduced to ten men as McAlinden pulled up lame with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, and while they continued to press it was City who almost scored again, Stockley denied by a fine save from Preston, and the four minutes of added time passed by without much incident.

When City play like this away from home it’s difficult to see why home wins are so hard to come by, as Tisdale’s side played with verve throughout, whether it was pressing Crawley back in the first half or absorbing the pressure from the hosts in the second. Everyone in the side did their bit, whether it was Olejnik looking solid throughout and pulling off several fine saves, or the much-maligned Woodman, whose only indiscretion was slicing thmark_yates_paul_tisdalee ball out of play when returning the ball to Crawley following an injury break. Arron Davies is perhaps the most underrated player in the City squad and as usual he slotted into the side and barely put a foot wrong, while the attacking quartet of Stockley, Watkins, Holmes and Taylor gave Crawley a torrid time throughout. Watkins caught the eye again, with an assist and a goal to his credit – he looks like he is just a bit of decisive decision-making away from being the real deal.

With City now unbeaten in seven matches, all attention now turns to the Devon Derby and the chance to both further enhance City’s slight promotion chances as well as denting those of that lot down the A38. What price another Devon Derby (or two) in the playoffs?

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