Parkin's absence should not detract from inconsistent City performance
IT WOULD be too easy to say that Exeter City missed the presence of Sam Parkin in going down to a 2-0 defeat to Newport County. For if the Grecians are without their talisman, they simply have to be better.
Parkin has been a stand out player for the Grecians so far this season, but missed Saturday's game with a hamstring problem. As a result, manager Paul Tisdale partnered John O'Flynn and Alan Gow together and despite a promising first half, a poor second ultimately led to the Grecians going down to their first home defeat of the season.
Yes, Parkin was missed, especially in that second half where the Grecians were poor. But there was enough quality on the field to have dealt without the former Swindon man, whose presence has been a major factor in City's change in fortunes on home soil this campaign.
That said, his absence would barely have been noticed had Exeter made the most of their first half dominance. They started with intent and created a host of chances, most of which falling to Gow and O'Flynn. But all too often, they either missed the target or failed to really test former City goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley in the Newport goal.
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When it came to a Plan B, Tisdale opted to throw Scot Bennett into attack. As he did on the final day of last season at Chesterfield, he performed well and showed a desire to challenge and win the ball that had been lacking for large parts of the afternoon. But it was too late by then with Exeter already two goals down with supporters heading for an early exit.
Football is a game of very fine margins and the match could have had a far different outcome had Exeter been awarded a clear penalty inside the opening minutes. O'Flynn tried to bring a long ball down inside the penalty area, but struggled to do so with the hands of Newport's Ismail Yakubu firmly round his neck. It was as clear as day, but referee Darren Bond inexplicably pointed for a corner when either a penalty or a goal kick was the obvious outcome.
By then, O'Flynn had already volleyed wastefully wide with time and space to measure his shot, while Gow twice fired down the throat of Pidgeley with almost identical efforts.
It was far from one-way traffic though with Newport contributing to an excellent open game. Conor Washington had seen an effort deflect behind and Chris Zebroski lobbed an effort wide after latching onto a poor back header from Scot Bennett.
However, when the deadlock was finally broken, it was really poor from Exeter's point of view. Adam Chapman's long throw was not cleared by the Exeter defence and eventually landed at the feet of Washington at the back post. He had time to steady himself and lash the ball past Krysiak from close range.
City have shown an ability to come back from such adversity this season and at first, the signs were that they would do so again. Sercombe and Gow both tried their luck from outside the box, while Wheeler was denied by a smart Pidgeley stop after great work on the right by O'Flynn. An equaliser seemed inevitable when the ball popped up to Gow to head into a gaping goal from inside the six yard box, but he incredibly headed against the outside of the post and the ball went wide.
It was encouraging stuff from Exeter though and the general feeling was they if they could maintain that kind of performance, then it was a matter of time before they did draw level. However, things didn't go to play in what was a really disappointing second half.
It took an age for the Grecians to get going and in fact, a second goal for Newport was the most likely thing to happen. And so it proved on 70 minutes when City again failed to deal with a ball to the back post. This time, it was Harry Worley who found himself in acres of space and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net to send Newport's 850-strong travelling fans into ecstasy.
City reverted to a back three in a bid to get back into the game – Jordan Moore-Taylor, Jamie Reid and Jimmy Keohane all summoned from the bench – and Bennett was thrown forward to join a lifeless attack. He came closest to a consolation when he rounded Pidgeley in stoppage time from Matt Oakley's cute pass, but his shot was cleared off the line by the retreating Worley.