Out with the old

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Rich Mills

30 December 2018

Exeter City 1 Grimsby Town 2

I really wasn’t expecting much from this game. Not because I’m overly pessimistic (although of course it’s in my DNA to be) but because the last couple of visits have been so poor. In fact until this match, Town hadn’t beaten the Grecians since May '91, when two goals from Cockers secured the points at Blundell Park as Sir Alan steered us to a second successive promotion to the old second division.

Both teams started on the back of three straight wins – but with all but one recognised centre-back injured, Town would surely struggle to contain 15-goal Jayden Stockley. Maybe he'd be rested rather than risk an injury that might jeopardise a rumoured big-money move to Preston? No such luck.

Stockley scored against us in this fixture last season, but all I can remember of that game was the quality of the ales on offer in the supporters bar, the cheapo Jaffa Cakes and unripe bananas which comprised Town’s tuck shop, and Jamille Matt’s odd leap after a ball which wasn’t there. There’s not much here to jog my memory. Of the starting XI that surrendered so lazily at St James Park last season, only Martyn and Jimmy Mac remain and that’s probably for the best. 

Town’s injury-hit 2018-19 vintage lined up in what seemed to be a 4-4-2: McKeown; Hendrie, Hall-Johnson, Whitmore, Fox; Embleton, Clifton, Hessenthaler, Woolford; Thomas, Cardwell. Welsh, Russell, Buckley Jr Jr, Pollock, Pringle and the two Roses warmed the bench.

The recently remodelled St James Park looked ace and after being seated for last season’s visit, Town’s fans were back behind the goal on the new terrace. It has a roof and everything. Oh, and the stewards are more cheerful than most.

Town were up against it almost from the first whistle; the post-match stats show that we faced 30 shots and 15 corners and that City had two thirds of the possession. City attacked and Town repelled. McKeown led by example as he frustrated the Grecians, time and again. The performance of a lifetime. If you don't believe me, then check out the highlights. If you're reading a match report that doesn't make him man of the match then the reporter clearly wasn't at the game. 

Town took the lead just inside the quarter-hour, Woolford the man to do what we've struggled to do since 1989 – to score at St James Park. The last Town player to do so was Mark Lever.

Pollock took it in his stride and played a blinder – but talk about a baptism of fire! Exeter were pretty much camped around Town's box for the rest of the game

City thought they'd equalised almost immediately as they bundled the ball into the net in front of the Town fans but McKeown and his men were quick to advise the referee that his lino's flag was up for offside. A bit of a let-off but we'll take that.

Town’s chances were few and far between for the rest of the half, while Exeter seemed to test McKeown and Town's defence every couple of minutes, but we managed to make it to half time with our lead intact.

With the second half came more Exeter attacks before Whitmore, until then having a great game, was sent off for a reckless challenge. Bollocks. The last thing we needed.

Nobody deserved to go off but we needed a centre-back and so Jolley sent on young Mattie Pollock, with Woolford making way. Only 17 and still on youth terms with the club, Pollock took it in his stride and played a blinder – but talk about a baptism of fire! Exeter were pretty much camped around Town's box for the rest of the game. 

With a quarter-hour to go Ahkeem Rose replaced Wes Thomas, just before City got the goal their pressure probably deserved, Stockley the man heading in.

Town's answer was to go straight up the other end and Ahkeem Rose was tugged back by a City player. Only a bloody penno! Embleton prepared to take it, only for Jolley to make the ultimate tactical switch – Mitch Rose (pen) coming on for Hess. Outrageous! 

Rose set the ball down on the spot and, with more a step than a run-up, sent City keeper Christy Pym the wrong way and we were 2-1 up! 

The Grecians threw everything at Town's goal but Macca and the Mariners held firm. Where did those six minutes of time added on come from? Who cares! Town have won four games on the bounce and go into the new year looking like a totally different side to one year ago.