Gow responds with a brilliant brace to maintain City's good home form
NO sooner had Alan Gow's contribution to Exeter City's cause been questioned than the Scot came up with a performance that showed just why he is so important to the Grecians.
This past week, and in the wake of an indifferent start to the season, supporters have been wondering if the time was right for Exeter to cash in on their most gifted player.
Manager Paul Tisdale insisted that he remains integral to City's cause and, after coming on as a substitute for hamstring victim John O'Flynn, Gow took less than 30 seconds to make his mark with Exeter's equalising goal.
And then, with time ticking and on an afternoon when City struggled to play with the kind of verve they showed against AFC Wimbledon in their last home outing, Gow settled the contest with a brilliant individual goal to maintain City's 100 per-cent home record.
It was the perfect answer from Gow, who is such a talent. Unfortunately for City, they have not seen much of it in 2013, and this season in particular. As Gow pointed out post-match, though, he has had a long spell out with a nasty Achilles tendon injury – and even a player as naturally as gifted as him needs time to get back to full match-fitness.
Until his premature introduction on 21 minutes – Exeter had laboured. They struggled to break through a well-drilled York side.
The Minstermen pressed City all over the park and cut out the supply to strike target Sam Parkin and wide men Arron Davies and David Wheeler. That meant chances were few and far between and, with York looking dangerous on the counter, it was no great surprise when they went in front on 19 minutes.
It all came from an Exeter free-kick. Two missed 50-50 contests later and the Yorkshiremen were breaking down their left. Ashley Chambers was too quick for Jordan Moore-Taylor and, although Artur Krysiak stopped Craig Clay's initial shot, he could do nothing as the ball fell kindly for former Torquay United striker Ryan Jarvis to tap in.
Last season, Exeter may have struggled to turn the game around but, this season, they seem made of sterner stuff.
Gow's leveller came after Parkin and Davies had headed the ball into his path and sent him racing clear, after Gow had beaten the offside trap. With Michael Ingham charging from his goal, Gow hooked the ball beyond the goalkeeper with his first touch and into the corner of the net.
York ended the half the stronger and continued to threaten on the counter. Moore-Taylor was given a tough afternoon by the impressive Chambers and it was no great surprise when he did not emerge for the second half.
To be fair, Moore-Taylor did not do much wrong and battled gamely. But his limitations in being so left-footed and playing at right-back are clearly evident. The decision to bring on Scot Bennett and switch Pat Baldwin to right-back proved to be one of a few tactical masterstrokes by Tisdale, with Chambers far less effective after the break and eventually being substituted.
However, that was only after York had made a superb start to the second half and pinned Exeter inside their own half. But, for all their possession, they too found clear-cut chances hard to come by.
With Exeter struggling, Tisdale decided to replace David Wheeler with Liam Sercombe. Sercombe and Gow alternated between right-wing and a deep-lying centre-forward role, but there was no doubt Sercombe's introduction gave Exeter a new dimension.
He made a really intelligent overlapping run to create space for Davies to run into, but the Welshman instead tried to play in his team-mate, who could not do much with a poor pass and a chance went begging.
Sercombe then failed to control after a lovely team move that included a cheeky nutmeg by Matt Oakley. By then, though, the tide had turned and Exeter were on top.
However, when the winning goal came, it was something of a bolt from the blue. Gow received the ball with his back to goal some 30 yards out, touched it on to his left foot and lashed a thunderous curling shot that flew inside of Ingham's upright and into the net. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.
City had chances to wrap up the win – Gow sent Parkin through on goal, but he slipped his shot wide of a post – while Krysiak preserved a point for Exeter with a fine instinctive save late in the game.
It was by no means vintage City, but a welcome and hard-fought win inspired by the talismanic Gow. Mention should also go to Tisdale for some astute tactical decisions, which changed the course and outcome of the game.