Thursday 01st September 2005

Exeter commit day light robbery on opening day

Saturday 13 
August 2005

Nationwide Conference

Stephen McCartney reports from Stonebridge Road

Gravesend & Northfleet 



Exeter City


Lee Phillips 44, 71 (pen)


Gravesend & Northfleet manager Liam Daish insists his side will bounce back on Tuesday night at Grays Athletic, after being a victim of a day light robbery at Stonebridge Road today, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Fleet feel aggrieved as two goals from Lee Phillips stole the visitors the first three points of this Nationwide Conference campaign, despite an impressive first half display from Daish's men.

Had the Kent side taken their first half chances then they would have easily won this match.  However, they found themselves scratching their heads during the interval, as they found themselves 1-0 down.

Both sides also had a man sent off, but Daish was pleased with his sides performance, and will be looking for more of the same for the remainder of the season - their first as a full-time club.

"I've come in at full-time, basically I've said to the lads you can't give me anymore than that," he said in the post-match press conference.

"The way we played first half to come in at one-nil down, disappointing, but if they play like that and give me that from now until the end of the season, I haven't got any problems.  I thought we were magnificent."

Gravesend gave debuts to seven of their players, and one of them, Danny Slatter almost gave them the lead inside three minutes.  After bursting forward, the former Welling United midfielder shot just over from 30 yards.

Moments later, at the other end, Fleet goalkeeper Craig Holloway plucked Dean Moxey's header out of the air following Paul Buckle's free kick out on the left.

Charlie MacDonald stole the ball from Scott Hiley and passed to Jimmy Jackson and his cross was headed over by Kim Grant from 12 yards.

The Fleet, however, then created two glorious chances in as many minutes to break the deadlock.

Their first chance came after Jay Saunders played in MacDonald, and although it appeared he was fouled inside the Exeter penalty area, he still managed to get in a shot, which sadly for the Kent side screwed wide of the right post.

And following Slatter's corner, Grant turned and shot at goal, and was denied by a fine save from Paul Jones, who dived to his right to claw out the opportunity.

Phillips issued Fleet an 36th minute warning with a header, which just dropped over Holloway's crossbar but Jimmy Jackson almost caught out Jones with a swinging free kick from the right touchline, that caught the wind, but Jones recovered well to pluck the ball out of the air.

But the Fleet were hit by a sucker punch on the stroke of half time as Exeter stole the lead, to the delight of around 400 of their travelling, vocal fans.

Latching onto Andrew Taylor's through ball, Phillips shrugged off last defender Scott Gooding to win the ball, and as Holloway advanced the former under-15 England RUGBY player, rolled the ball inside the far post from 16 yards.

Fleet's Justin Skinner described the atmosphere inside the home dressing room during the half-time interval.

"There were a lot of heads down as we just thought we did deserve something out of the game," he revealed.

"Exeter are meant to be one of the fancied teams for the league.  I thought we definitely out battled them and we outplayed them a lot of the game, so there was a lot of disappointment,"

However, Jimmy Jackson twice went close in as many minutes for the Kent side just past the hour mark.

After good football from Slatter, Jackson let fly from 20-yards only to see his shot fly agonisingly over the far post.

Then another shot from 20 yards, but more central than before, was pushed wide by Jones.

Exeter were then reduced to ten men after 66 minutes when their substitute, Les Afful was shown a straight red card for a crunching tackle on Slatter inside the centre circle.

Could Fleet get something out of this game? After all their impressive display deserved it!  But Brentwood referee Mr R Lee had other ideas after 71 minutes, when he reached for his second red card of the game to banish former Margate defender Ross Smith to the dressing rooms.

Okay, Smith was the last defender when he brought down Jon Challinor, but the former Aldershot Town midfielder was heading towards the corner flag rather than the goal when he was brought to the ground inside the box.

Phillips, however, rifled the resulting penalty high into the top right hand corner, leaving every man, woman and child from Kent pondering how Exeter were now 2-0 up, which was very much underserved.

Exeter City's fans, however, were now singing in the rain, and were delighted to see the Fleet fans leave Stonebridge Road in their droves with at least five minutes left to play.

There was a late rally from Fleet with Paul McCarthy rolling a shot wide from the edge of the penalty area and having a header comfortably saved by Jones, but it was just one of those days for the Kent side.

"We started on the front foot, caused them all sorts of problems, created chances," reflected a dejected Daish after the game.

"I suppose you need to score when you're on top," he admitted.

Daish, however, was pleased with his seven debutants, and added: "I've brought them to the club as I felt they were better from what I had last year and, although we haven't got the result, that's how I want us to play.

"There is a lot of spirit here, with a lot of work rate but it didn't go for us today."

Daish admits if they perform like that again, at Grays on Tuesday night (the Essex side drew 1-1 at Burton Albion today) they are more than capable of getting something from the game.

"It was always going to be a difficult start but as long as the lads go out and give me that, and play with that enthusiasm, hunger and work rate, I'll take what comes," he said.

"If we lack a little bit of ability wise then it's down to me to change that.

"But as long as the lads are giving me that, you saw the football we played, and the chances that we made, although we've came away with nothing, we've got to take it on the chin.

"We'll dust ourselves down, come in on Monday for training with a smile on our face and look forward to the following game."

Skinner added: "I think it was one of those days.  Nothing went for us and after the first half we were a little bit gutted to go down 1-0.

"We thought we battled really well, there were new players in and I thought we all gelled together.

"We were really disappointed at half time but we wanted to get something out of the game.

"Grays have been flying in pre-season.  If we start like we did today and carry on during the game, we are all positive that we can get something out of the game."

Gravesend & Northfleet: Craig Holloway (Andy Kerr 45), Scott Gooding, Justin Skinner, Ross Smith, Paul McCarthy (Capt), Jay Saunders (Manny Omoyinmi 76), Danny Slatter, Bobby Bowry, Kim Grant, Charlie MacDonald, Jimmy Jackson.  Subs: Ben Surey, Andy Drury, Danny Glozier

Sent off: Ross Smith 71

Exeter City:  Paul Jones, Scott Hiley, Santos Gaia, Chris Todd (Capt), Andrew Taylor, Jon Challinor, Lee Phillips (Craig Farrell 82), Steve Flack (Glenn Cronin 69), Paul Buckle, Dean Moxey (Lee Afful 35), Chris Vinnicombe.  Subs: Martin Rice (GK), Dan Seabourne.

Sent off: Les Afful 66

Attendance: 1578
Referee: R Lee (Brentwood)
Assistants: W Atkin (Crawley) & S Daly (London)
Fourth Official: M Links (London)

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