Pope preys on pale Grecians with valiant deadly double
EXETER City were uncharacteristically blunt in attack as they went down 2-0 to Port Vale on Saturday.
The Grecians have set out their stall for the campaign ahead in recent weeks by cutting through League Two defences in style, with prolific marksman Jamie Cureton helping his side rack up 20 goals in their opening 10 league fixtures.
But the hosts rarely looked like adding to that tally against a strong Valiants backline which included former St James's Park favourite Richard Duffy.
"If we had played for another hour we would have still not scored," was goalkeeper Rhys Evans' verdict after the game.
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Few would argue with that.
What perhaps summed up a toothless afternoon for Paul Tisdale's men was that their best opportunity to score came from the most unlikely of sources – with the Grecians trailing 1-0 in the second half Steve Tully crashed a header against the bar from captain Danny Coles' superb left-footed cross from the flank.
Less than a minute later City were 2-0 down when the impressive Tom Pope climbed above Craig Woodman to head home his second of the game and seal all three points for Mickey Adams' high-flying side.
Tisdale said: "Port Vale are a very good side and they will be contenders (for promotion) this season.
"But we need to do better. There are one or two things I can see that we need to work on, I am quite clear-minded on things.
"I wouldn't say I was frustrated. After the Bristol Rovers game (which City lost 2-1) I was frustrated because we deserved to win. Now I am disappointed.
"We hit the crossbar which would have made it 1-1, but if we are the side I want us to be it shouldn't matter. You don't concede the second, you create another chance and score from it."
In truth City did create other chances, but the finishing which accompanied it was mixed.
Substitute Guillem Bauza was at the centre of that, the Spaniard heading over from close range with 16 minutes left when he should have done better, before forcing Chris Neal into a fine save with a flick header from Liam Sercombe's free-kick.
Yet a goal at that late stage would have been undeserved, so little had the home team threatened their visitors prior to that.
A lack of creativity from midfield was largely to blame as Steve Tully – a right-back by trade – did his best to plug the gap on the right wing while Arron Davies endured a quiet game on the opposite flank, resulting in the hard-working John O'Flynn and Jamie Cureton being starved of service.
In contrast Vale displayed the kind of pace and trickery on the flanks that has unlocked the majority of defences they have come up against so far this term.
Ashley Vincent and Jennison Myrie-Williams were constant threats and each set up a goal for poacher Pope to grab his 10th and 11th goals of the season.
The opener came five minutes before half-time when Myrie-Williams beat a labouring Woodman on halfway, raced into the box, ghosted past Coles to reach the by-line and clipped a perfect cross on to the unmarked Pope's head for 1-0.
Just after the hour mark, and with Neal's crossbar still reverberating following Tully's booming header, it was 2-0 – Vincent the provider this time with Pope attacking at the far post to give Rhys Evans no chance.
It could have been even worse for the Grecians three minutes later as well when pope set up Sam Morsy to steam clear on goal, only for Evans to demonstrate why he has been preferred to Artur Krysiak in the last two games and save expertly with his legs.