On the way to Portsmouth last month, a mate joked that we only really make these trips to get tinned up in a new city, the actual football is the worst part. And if there was ever a game to validate that statement it was today’s clash with Exeter.
Suspended against the rugged backdrop of Exeter St James’ Park is a rustic ground befitting the fourth tier. Standing capacity outnumbers seated capacity and the local boozers accommodate weary travelling fans comfortably.
The trade-off is the football is also befitting of the lower leagues. The ball was lumped from keeper to keeper whilst the heavy-footed middle half competed for scraps. Neither side were able to chisel out any clear-cut opportunities and the first half passed with little in the way of memorable moments.
The second half started much the same way until Marko Marosi clumsily brought down David Wheeler to concede a penalty that Reuben Reid duly converted.
Rovers didn’t come to light until the 69th minute when Liam Mandeville replaced Niall Mason. The youngster was on the end of a looping James Coppinger cross which he managed to squeeze into the opposite corner of the net, before playing provider himself on two occasions for John Marquis, who had been largely starved of opportunities until that point.
This was three points very much akin to England’s victory the night before. We were under the cosh but held out and took our chances. Not pretty, but this ain’t a beauty contest.
by Jack Peat