Mad Dog upbeat despite injury woe
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.”
GOING NOWHERE: Exeter City’s Tom Nichols fires in the equaliser STAR MAN TROY BROWN
STAR MAN BIRA DEMBE