Now those guys know what it’s like to literally watch a game slip away from you. We weren’t as bad as them yesterday but still, watching Cundy slip and concede possession in a dangerous area like he did, you knew it wasn’t going to be our day.
Bonner again chose an unchanged starting eleven, despite the unconvincing performance against Tranmere last week. As per usual for United this season, we started somewhat brightly, pressuring Exeter and coming close through Knoyle and Ironside. Hoolahan was controlling the midfield for that initial period, but Exeter looked equal to our challenge.
The game turned somewhat on 16 minutes, Harrison Dunk clumsily challenging in the box, and whilst contact was minimal, there isn’t a striker in the world who wouldn’t go down in that position. Penalty despatched, and the U’s clean sheet gone. Twenty minutes later and things went from bad to worse for United, Robbie Cundy slipping on the ball and releasing Joel Randall with only Mitov to beat.
Nothing really happened for us yesterday. On another day we could have had a couple of goals, but equally Exeter could have battered us. Bonner eventually made a couple of changes, putting Knibbs on the wing instead of his favoured centre forward position, and bringing El Mizouni on with seven minutes to change the game, but really they were both too late, and slightly odd. You can call it rash to change things at half time, but to us at least, it was clear before then that the system wasn’t working, with Ironside utterly ineffective, Mullin appearing off the pace, May anonymous and Taylor not commanding in any way.
It’s hard to change an unbeaten team, so in a way, perhaps we needed this defeat. The problems from Carlisle and Tranmere were still there, but this time our mistakes undid us. This is a real test for Bonner now, having not has this kind of pressure on him before. The trophy game against Burton tomorrow gives our second choices a chance to impress and stake their claims for a League start next Saturday. We’d be surprised if Bonner keeps faith with this eleven again next weekend.
Still we’ve played worse and overall we’re still in the mix. Exeter were never going to be a walkover, lest we forget they were Playoff finalists last season, and despite being outplayed in three of our league games this year no-one’s given us a real hiding (yet). There’s quality in this side, we just need a bit more of it in a couple of key spots and we’re not that far away from challenging.
And, at least we’re not waking up this morning as Liverpool (or Man United) fans.
United: Mitov, Knoyle, Cundy, Taylor, Dunk, Hoolahan (Iredale), Digby, May (El Mizouni), Hannant (Knibbs), Ironside, Mullin