Tonight Eddie Howe was able to name a completely different 11 players from those who comprehensively beat Huddersfield on Saturday and, with the exception of debutant Baily Cargill, they all had Championship experience, either with us or with former clubs. It’s a far cry from the days when Jayden Stockley had to be taken out of school to make up a 4th player on the bench.
I was surprised that Darryl Flahavan was given the nod in goal when Benji Büchel had played in all of the pre-season friendlies. If Benji wasn’t thought worthy of a place tonight, when will he?
Perhaps it’s the Big Club mentality that also makes the facilities at St James’s Park seem so ramshackle but in truth I think they’d be rated awful by any standards. I am sure the toilets haven’t been cleaned since the war (and I couldn’t find a champagne bar anywhere!)
City manager Paul Tisdale is the second longest serving manager in the 92 (after Arsène Wenger) but was restricted in his own team selection by a combination of illness and an ongoing transfer embargo.
A healthy number of Cherries supporters made the relatively short trip to Devon and from the start it looked as though they would be rewarded with another hatful of goals. Although only the second string, the team were passing the ball about with the confidence and style that Eddie insists on throughout the club and for the first 15 minutes the Grecians were struggling to get a touch of the ball.
Ian Harte is without doubt the best corner taker we have and his dead ball kick led to the first real chance which Brett Pitman couldn’t keep under the bar. Gosling and Fraser then combined well to create a chance for the Wee Man only for Exeter keeper Pym to make a good save at his near post.
Shaun MacDonald blasted a long range effort over the bar and Tokelo Rantie put Stanislas in with a lovely touch but Junior’s shot was against the foot of the post.
Another Harte corner was met by Elliott Ward but his fine header was cleared off the line with the keeper beaten. It seemed only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken and the home side must have been relieved to go into the break still all‑square. H-T 0-0
Exeter came out for the second half perhaps realising that they could get something out of the game and stepped up the pace, particularly in closing down the Cherries players on the ball. This resulted in Boscombe’s passing becoming hurried and the play generally getting scrappy.
City made a couple of half-chances but the opener came 10 minutes after half-time with a Scot Bennett own goal. A cross from Stanislas reached the far post and Bennett, in his attempts to clear, just succeeded in shinning it past his own keeper.
This caused the home side to push forward for an equaliser and led to a bit more space for the visitors. Rantie had the opportunity to take advantage when his good close control led to an opportunity but he was denied by a one-handed save by Pym. This was one of the few times that TK shot when he had the opportunity, mainly preferring to try to put in a team mate. His confidence still seems shaky and it remains a doubt whether he will be the big player that all the fans desperately want him to be.
Dan Gosling had looked slightly off the pace for most of the game, perhaps an indication that he is not yet fully match fit, and he was guilty of giving the ball away far too often but his debut goal came after 73 minutes when another cross from Stanislas caused mayhem in the Exeter 6-yard box. Gosling was in the right place at the right time to slam it past Pym.
Although Exeter made a couple more half chances, with the second goal the game was effectively over and a potential banana skin had been avoided.
We are long overdue a decent run in the League Cup and with our decent squad this season perhaps it’s time to have a real go for it.
Baily Cargill – impressive debut, looking totally at home.
AFCB: Flahavan, Smith, Cargill, Ward, Harte, Fraser, MacDonald, Gosling, Sanislas, Rantie, Pitman
Subs: Buchel, Francis, Kermorgant, McCarthy, Wilson (for Rantie, 75 mins), Arter (for Fraser, 75 mins), Ritchie (for Stanislas, 89 mins)
Clive Loader, Basingstoke