Exeter City break record tally of away wins at Morecambe
The name of Morecambe will forever be etched into Exeter City folklore. But, until Saturday, it was for all the wrong reasons for the Grecians.
The Shrimpers were, of course, the team that beat the Grecians in the Nationwide Conference play-off final of 2007, thus denying the Grecians promotion to the Football League on their first trip to Wembley Stadium.
That day hurt like few others and, just like a scar on the human body, it serves as a painful reminder as to how football can cause pain.
That was then and, almost six years on from that loss, Exeter and Morecambe locked horns once again at the Shrimpers' modest Globe Arena headquarters, where history was again made. Only, this time, it favoured the men from Devon.
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Exeter's 3-0 victory made it an impressive ten for the season away from St James' Park this year and broke the club record of nine achieved by Paul Tisdale's League Two runners-up in 2008-09. It is a remarkable achievement and, what is more, the Grecians have plenty of opportunities to add to that tally, with eight away games remaining this campaign.
It has been said many a time before, but it is in stark contrast to Exeter's home form, where they have won only four times in 16 attempts. But, despite that Jekyll and Hyde scenario, Saturday's win keeps Exeter firmly in touch at the top of npower League Two. They lie fourth, just a point off Burton Albion in third and with a game in hand to boot.
The obvious question is why can't Exeter do it at home? There are many reasons – but the biggest factor may be that they are a team that defends well and can counter with devastating consequences. That was in evidence on Saturday, when they demonstrated that skill superbly with three goals in the last half-hour.
Jamie Cureton got the first, just seconds after the home side made a substitution. The Grecians quickly won possession and Tommy Doherty slid the ball through for Cureton, who drilled a fine low shot across goal for his 17th goal of the campaign.
Number 18 was not long in coming, but, before then, Arron Davies crowned a hard-working display with a super goal of his own. Again, the outstanding Doherty was involved with a low pass to Mark Molesley, and he fed the ball wide to Jimmy Keohane.
The young Irishman looked up and picked out Davies, lurking on the edge of the 18-yard box, and he planted a fine, controlled finish into the corner.
However, Exeter saved the best until last. Imperious captain Danny Coles led the way with a great run out of defence and he picked out Cureton, bearing down on goal, but at an angle. He checked and laid the ball off to Molesley, who deserved a goal for his terrific performance. Instead of shooting, though, Molesley returned to ball to Cureton, who drilled the ball first time into the far top corner. It was a great team goal to crown a great team performance.
All of that seemed a long way off after an attritional first half of few chances. Cureton had Exeter's only genuine attempt when he controlled Craig Woodman's long ball superbly, but his second touch left him with too much to do. Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche was off his line quickly and snuffed out the danger before Cureton could shoot.
However, chances were equally as sparse at the other end. It was not until the second half that the game really got going, and Morecambe will feel they should have been in front before Exeter struck.
A neat passing move through midfield led to Lewis Alessandra being played through on goal. He rounded goalkeeper Artur Krysiak, who did well to reduce the angle, and Alessandra's finish was wide of goal.
That miss soon came back to haunt the home side as Cureton struck. The veteran striker does not need too many chances to score a goal, but this was his first goal since a consolation penalty in the 3-1 defeat to Oxford United on Boxing Day. It was his first in open play since a brace at Gillingham on November 20.
Even then, though, you felt one goal may not be enough. Krysiak pulled off a fantastic one-handed save to push a Ryan Williams free-kick wide of goal, but Davies settled matters with his cool finish five minutes from time.
The Welshman has perhaps not set the world alight since moving to St James' Park, but this was arguably his best performance yet for the Grecians. The former Yeovil Town player is certainly neat and tidy when he has the ball and his defensive work is spot on. Hopefully this goal – and performance – will help him to win over the sceptics.
All that was left was for Exeter's top goalscorer to add the gloss to a another ruthless away display with the third in stoppage time.
Cureton's top-corner, top-drawer finish was top-notch stuff. But, while everyone marvelled in a famous, record-breaking win, it again left you wondering where the Grecians could be if they were even half good as this at home.