Exeter City FC vs Walsall: Match Report and Analysis
The points are shared as the Grecians remain in the top 6.
Saturday’s home match against Walsall ended 2-2, with goals from Timothee Dieng and Samuel Ndombe ensuring Exeter City maintained their position in the league.
Dieng’s early header, which went in off the post, set off what was a strong start for the home side. Early pressure high up the pitch from Exeter’s No.7 Matt Jay ensured Exeter stayed on the front foot, but Walsall did well to work themselves into the game.
A long period of possession for Walsall lead to some brave defending in the box, with both Exeter’s back line and goalkeeper Cameron Dawson doing well to keep the ball from crossing the line. Sadly, the efforts went in vain as minutes later Exeter conceded a penalty, which was powered down the middle by Walsall’s George Miller for his third goal of the season. Some Walsall fans felt this was poetic justice given their cries for a penalty in the 32nd minute were not given.
With the scores level, the game became much more even and both sides creating chances. The most notable highlight before the end of the first half though was Walsall’s away fan section singing for manager Matt Taylor to ‘give them a wave’. Given that, in a strange coincidence worthy of any football trivia quiz, both teams managers are called Matt Taylor, it was unclear who they were referring too.
The second half begun quickly for Exeter again as they won a penalty just two minutes in. Matt Jay stepped up but his effort was powered high into the bar and richoted just shy of the line. Notably, Walsall’s goalkeeper Carl Rushworth had done his homework on Matt Jay, and stayed down the middle for the penalty instead of diving to one side; this is somewhat of a rare occasion in the goalkeeping world, and evidently his bravery paid off.
After a short period of through balls not quite meeting their man for both teams, Exeter bagged their second of the game. Samuel Nombe did exceptionally well to latch onto a looping through ball before finishing low into the far corner from a tight angle.
Their lead did not last long though, as Walsall scored an eerily similar goal to Dieng’s in the first half. George Miller scored his second of the match by meeting an outswinging cross off the wing, which was placed just beyond the diving Dawson’s reach.
As the rain and wind set in, conditions worsened and the game shifted into a midfield battle. Dieng picked up a yellow card and was substituted for Nigel Atangana in the 75th minute and the fresh legs certainly helped bolster up the midfield.
Both teams enjoyed chances before the final whistle, one of which was a shot from outside the box from Exeter’s Jevani Brown. Having been urged to shoot by the crowd, Brown’s shot was blocked well and collected by Rushworth; a reminder of how much fans have been missed in live football.
The final whistle went as the ball was smashed out the stands and the points were shared.
It seemed to be a tale of ‘what could of been’ for both teams.
Our standout performance came from Exeter’s Samuel Nombe, whose runs in behind were a constant threat and whose goal helped the home side take home a point. A notable mention must also go to late-substitute Atangana, whose lung-busting runs and well-timed recovery tackles not only earnt the plaudits of the home end, but also cut out any chance of Exeter conceding a late goal.
Walsall’s centre halves Monthe and Menayese also put on a dominant display and also were able to provide a constant threat from the back with their clipped long balls. Distribution was also excellent from Carl Rushworth, with his match highlight being his ability to throw the ball from his own box perfectly to the left wing in the other half.
Walsall had a tendency to attack down the right hand side, and whether this was a tactical decision or an oversight in creativity is unclear. Exeter’s No.34 Alex Hartridge coped comfortably with the constant onslaught alongside the help of centre-half George Ray, and made Walsall’s attacks slightly repetitive and predictable. Exeter’s dominance in the air, apart from the second goal, also meant they were able to dominate the away side in their own box which lead to some panicked defending.
The Grecian’s next match is against Stevenage, who currently sit seventeenth in the league, and have failed to win their last eight games. Whilst no result is assured in football, it looks like a good oppurtunity for Exeter City FC to pick up three points and continue their strong campaign this season.