Mad Dog up­beat de­spite in­jury woe

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Sam Con­way By Matt Bam­sey

BAR­NET boss Martin Allen played down con­cerns about his ever-ex­pand­ing in­jury list af­ter watch­ing his side bat­tle to a draw at Steve­nage.

In a match lack­ing in qual­ity, Steve­nage had the best chances to score with Aaron O’Con­nor and Michael Tonge miss­ing good op­por­tu­ni­ties ei­ther side of half-time.

With five key play­ers al­ready miss­ing be­fore the game, Allen lost Sam Tog­well and Gavin Hoyte dur­ing the first half at the Lamex Sta­dium. But he was full of praise for his sub­sti­tutes for en­sur­ing they re­turned home with a point.

“We’ve got a lot of in­juries, but we’ve got play­ers on the bench that can go on and play,” said Allen. “They’re drilled and they’re dis­ci­plined non-stop through­out the week. They all know the dif­fer­ent po­si­tions they have to play in. The changes to the team don’t mat­ter.We’re back in on Mon­day and we’ll as­sess the in­juries [to Tog­well and Hoyte] and we’ve got a two-week break un­til we go to New­port.

“I thought we gave a great ac­count of our­selves. We played with guts, de­ter­mi­na­tion, we were well-or­gan­ised, we stuck to our task and we kept them out.We’ve got an­other point on our to­tal and an­other clean sheet de­spite hav­ing two play­ers in­jured in the first half.”

O’Con­nor took ad­van­tage of a way­ward header in the Bar­net de­fence and slipped the ball past Jamie Stephens, only for the ball to trickle past the far post. Tog­well and Hoyte were then both forced off in­jured in quick suc­ces­sion be­fore half­time.

Af­ter the restart, Tonge had a free header from ten yards out, but he planted it straight into Stephens’ hands.

It took the Bees just over an hour to reg­is­ter their first at­tempt on goal. Shaun Batt teed up Chris Hack­ett who lashed his shot wide from a tight an­gle.

Tonge had an­other chance with a free-kick from 20 yards out on 68 min­utes, but his shot flew com­fort­ably over, as Steve­nage’s win­less run stretched to seven.

“I don’t think it was a spec­ta­cle for peo­ple to come and watch for en­ter­tain­ment, but it was a full-blooded af­fair,” said Steve­nage boss Teddy Sher­ing­ham.

“There weren’t many chances. I felt we stood up to it. From my point of view, it’s a big im­prove­ment from where we’ve been in the last few weeks. If any­one was go­ing to nick it, I thought we would.

“When you lose and draw games in quick suc­ces­sion, you try and build some­thing from the team. That’s League Two foot­ball for you. The min­i­mum re­quire­ment is to com­pete. And I felt we did that all over the pitch.”

MAN­AGER Paul Tis­dale has warned Tom Ni­chols will not leave on the cheap af­ter the striker boosted his glow­ing rep­u­ta­tion with his 12th goal of the sea­son.

The striker rammed home a thun­der­ous shot on five min­utes to can­cel out Shay McCar­tan’s third-minute opener.

Chris­tian Ribeiro came off the bench to scram­ble a win­ner to send Ex­eter to their first home win since Oc­to­ber – and put a dent in Stan­ley’s play-off push.

Ex­eter have al­ready re­jected one six-fig­ure bid for Ni­chols and Tis­dale in­sists his prized as­set will not be sold un­less the right of­fer comes in.

The City chief said: “He will cer­tainly not leave on the cheap.

“He is our player and we want to keep him. He scored a crack­ing goal and he has got plenty of im­prove­ment left in him.

“There is a very good con­tract of­fer on the ta­ble for him if he wants it. He has been with us since a young boy and scored al­most 50 goals for the club. So we don’t want to lose him.

“It was a very tough game against one of the best teams in the league. It’s three re­sults in a two for us now and we are up and run­ning.”

Tis­dale made six changes from the side that lost 3-0 to Liverpool in their FA Cup third round re­play at An­field on Wed­nes­day.

But they were be­hind in the third minute thanks to an elec­tric burst and a cool fin­ish from McCar­tan.Two min­utes later Ni­chols im­pressed watch­ing scouts with an ex­plo­sive fin­ish to haul Ex­eter level. Matt Oak­ley was the ar­chi­tect, thread­ing the ball into the path of the striker and he let rip with a rasp­ing drive that beat Ja­son Mooney at his near post.

Ex­eter keeper Bobby Ole­jnik made a smart save to deny Sean McConville be­fore the mid­fielder scooped waste­fully over the bar when he should have hit the tar­get.

Stan­ley were left reel­ing four min­utes into the se­cond half when the wood­work de­nied them.

McCar­tan wrig­gled his way into the Ex­eter box and his ris­ing drive looked to have fired the vis­i­tors in front be­fore it can­noned off the in­side of the post and out to safety.

Stan­ley were shell-shocked af­ter they rat­tled the frame of the goal again on 74 min­utes, this time Troy Brown al­most putting through his own net only to see his loop­ing header come back off the bar.

But Ex­eter rode their luck and went down the other end and scored. Jay­den Stock­ley forced Mooney into a save but Ribeiro emerged through a sea of play­ers to scram­ble home the re­bound.

Stan­ley boss John Cole­man said: “Both teams tried to play but it was al­ways go­ing to be de­cided by a scrappy goal.

“They flew out of the traps and had three at­tempts be­fore we woke up. Then out of the blue we broke away and scored.

“But sui­ci­dal de­fend­ing let them back in the game.We got a bit sloppy and it has cost us. It was very hard to get go­ing again af­ter that.

“We have to dust our­selves down and go again.”

PIC­TURES: Gra­ham Hunt/Pro Sport

GO­ING NOWHERE: Ex­eter City’s Tom Ni­chols fires in the equaliser STAR MAN TROY BROWN

City Ex­eter

STAR MAN BIRA DEMBE

LE Bar­net

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