Exeter City were comprehensively beaten for the second time in a week, this time at Walsall.
The Saddlers opened the scoring against the run of play after half an hour of good play from the visitors, and from there on there was only going to be one winner. Steve Jones scored his second on the stroke of half time which left City a mountain to climb. And the impossible became just that when Richard Duffy got send off mid-way through the second half, before Troy Deeney rendered the last twenty minutes meaningless as a contest.
The Grecians have now lost five out of their seven matches away from St. James Park this season, and have put themselves under considerable pressure for the two upcoming home games against fellow promotion winners Wycombe and Brentford.
Paul Tisdale`s side had started well contrary to the slow burner approach employed thus far this campaign. City looked assured and composed on the ball, the home faithful not given the chance to break out of a deathly silence. The Grecian army were making all the noise, and the team backed up this optimism. Ryan Harley called Saddlers keeper Rene Gilmartin into action with a couple of speculative 30 yard efforts, and Stuart Fleetwood also found the target from just outside the box after cutting in from the left. But for all the neat triangular passes no clear cut chances inside the box were created.
City failed to take any advantage from their superior start, and they were made to pay when with their first goal bound effort of the game, Walsall scored. The Grecians were caught napping from a throw-in, and Darren Byfield delivered a low cross in from the left by-line, that was converted by Steve Jones. Jones could hardly miss from just outside the six yard box and he fired low past Andy Marriott. And as often happens, the goal changed the game. Walsall grew in confidence, and Byfield ensured the City fans knew what the score was as the two parties engaged in some (not so) friendly banter. Byfield nearly had the next laugh though, but he hooked a left foot volley just wide. The City fans thought a 1-0 deficit at the interval was bad enough, but within the three minutes of stoppage time, Jones broke from the centre of midfield, and when none of the Exeter backline felt obliged to close him down he had all the time he needed to deliver a smashing strike from 25 yards into the bottom left corner. City had conceded on the stroke of half time for the second game running to trail 2-0 at the break. The players looked shattered and there seemed no way back.
City started the second half relatively well, and their supporter`s entertained the thought that their team could get back into the game. However, Richard Duffy momentarily lost all sense of sanity when a blatant body check saw the former Welsh international scamper down the tunnel before the referee had chance to brandish him a second yellow. The fact that the foul was in the Walsall half says it all, and Duffy could easily have let the man past. If the game wasn`t over already, it was now, and Walsall quickly scored a third, when Troy Deeney broke through a high City backline despite the best efforts of Danny Seaborne, and finished expertly one on one past the helpless Marriott. And the saddlers came close to a fourth on a few other occasions as they enjoyed their lead and extra man. City could have scored a token consolation but the ball didn`t fall kindly in the box to substitutes Barry Corr and Richard Logan.
There is much to ponder on for Paul Tisdale, and he must get it right for the next two home matches, which become massively important even this early in the season. The City boss must strive to find a settled team, and the constant tinkering is not helping the team one iota. Never under Tisdale have City suffered two heavy defeats like this in succession. Until this January, he hadn`t even lost two league games on the bounce. That record is now history, and Tisdale faces two season defining games in the upcoming weeks.
Andy Marriott 6
No chance for any of the goals. Kicking was sound.
Richard Duffy 3
Suicidal sending off
Matt Taylor 5
Danny Seaborne 5
Scott Golbourne 5
Alex Russell 4
Russell was no doubt a very good player in his prime, and he is technically sound, but he simply can’t keep up with the riggers of League 1 football
Ryan Harley 5
Some superb early efforts from distance, but his delivery from corners was atrocious – virtually every ball finding Ince in the Walsall goal in the second half
Bertie Cozic 5
Failed to impose himself enough
Marcus Stewart 5
Adam Stansfield 6
Worked hard as always without being a great threat
Stuart Fleetwood 4
Needs to work alot harder to endear himself to the City faithful