Well, that was a disaster wasn’t it? A comprehensive battering by a team with play-off ambitions of their own. Four goals conceded at home for the first time in over a year. And yet, we’re not tearing our hair out…
Let’s get the result out the way first. 4-1. Four. One. Yes, it’s terrible. Yes, it probably means we won’t finish as Champions this year. But, was it all that bad? Exeter are a decent team, with some impressive players. Never mind the fact they’ve always been a bit of a bogey team for us, they were good value for their win on Saturday. They’d done their research and worked out how to nullify our threat. With an experienced striker in Ryan Bowman they were always going to be a threat in attack, especially when combined with the in-form Player of the Month Matt Jay and returning Randell Williams.
Their first goal was a result of some uncharacteristic poor defending by the U’s. Allowing them too much time on the ball in the penalty area. We should have been wise to that threat, seeing as it’s a tactic that’s worked so successfully for ourselves. Their second was unfortunate, Burton should have been wise to the bounce, but those kind of events have caught out better keepers than ours. The third? Well that was just a comedy of errors really. Everyone should have done better with it, and arguably that’s where the game was killed off. The fourth was the kind of well worked team goal we’ve scored so many of this season.
So, ultimately we were beaten by a better team, that much is clear. But United had a few bright spells in the game, we started well, with Ironside coming close with an early header. After half time it was all United until their third goal, against the run of play. Wes Hoolahan and Hiram Boateng had an off day, but still showed what magic they’re capable of on a number of occassions. Joe Ironside got himself back on the scoresheet after a lengthly drought, and for a few minutes it looked like the U’s were finding a way back in to the game. If we’d have managed to score another than it could have been a different result altogether. We didn’t, so there’s no real reason to dwell on it. You might have been expecting to read more, a player-by-player teardown of what went wrong, and who was at fault for what. There’s no point in that, it’s not going to do anyone any good. We all saw the game, we all saw who played badly, but this is our first poor performance since Bolton at the start of March so we’re not sure what the point in digging anyone out is when the entire team have been playing out of their skins this season. No one expected us to be second after Easter, but here we are.
We’ve got five games left this season. If we play like we know we can there’s no reason we can’t pick up the points we need to get promoted. Six should probably do it, nine almost definitely will. We were never going to win all of our remaining games, defeat was always going to come at some point during the run-in. Now we’ve got to trust Bonner to get the lads back on track and back to winning ways. We’ve overcome defeats already this season, there’s no reason why we can’t do it again. Carry on believing.
Man of the Match: If we’re brutally honest, no-one really shone. Burton had a game to forget as did the defenders. The midfield didn’t fare much better either. We’ll give the award to Joe Ironside, not only for his goal, but for his tireless workrate this season that hasn’t always been recognised.
Soundtrack of the Match: Grace – Not Over Yet
United: Burton, Knoyle, Okedina, Taylor, Iredale, Digby, O’Neil (Tracey), Boateng (Hannant), Hoolahan, Mullin, Ironside