Reds’ performance was in stark contrast to their shocker on the previous Tuesday when they returned pointless after a visit to bottom of the table Grimsby Town.
This time it was back to the familiar pattern of everybody grafting and playing for one another. Each one played their part in a display that showed what a John Yems team is all about and it was more than the promotion chasing visitors could handle.
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Whilst it was very much a team performance some individuals stood out. Joe McNerney was a towering presence in defence while Jordan Maguire-Drew enjoyed his best game so far for the Reds and obviously appreciated the role of being “the man most likely to”. The Grecians’ defence struggled to cope with Ashley Nadesan’s pace and their troubles were deepened by the dismissal of Tom Parkes for a dangerous challenge.
The game took a while to warm up. The sides were so evenly matched in the first half that goalmouth action was at a premium as neither side played with much self belief or attacking intent. The early part of the second period showed exactly what we had been missing. Prompted by the dismissal of Parkes after 51 minutes the Reds turned up the wick and the change was remarkable.
They injected pace into both thought and movement; found the space that they hadn’t done previously and kept the visitors’ defence twisting and turning. Had they also shown a willingness to shoot on sight the opposition might have crumbled but improvements to their game are probably incremental.
Jake Caprice echoed his departed teammate by also fouling Nick Tsaroulla, hauling him down before he got clean away and it resulted in a penalty. Despite missing his previous two spot kicks Tom Nichols held his nerve and gave the Reds the lead they deserved after 62 minutes. Twenty minutes later he topped that contribution with a weaving run that allowed him to set up Ashley Nadesan to score the clinching goal.
Of course the Reds’ display was a long way short of perfect but it was a whole lot better and hopefully will bring them the confidence to take on high flying Morecambe and then Tranmere Rovers in their next two long trips.
That is maybe more likely than seeing an improvement in refereeing. Let’s just say that Declan Bourne’s officiating in this game might best be described as eccentric.