A Scott Malone inspired twenty minute blitz gained Bournemouth another vital three points in their push for the play-offs.
After the original match was postponed due to the big freeze, Bournemouth fans were still eagerly awaiting the debuts of new signings Matt Tubbs and Donal McDermott, and both the recent arrivals were thrown into the starting line-up with Wes Fogden ruled out through injury and Scott Malone short of match fitness.
The lack of chemistry in the team was evident from the start; long balls were going astray, breakdowns in communication were worrying the defence and nothing constructive was really occurring.
Both sides had early efforts in the opening ten minutes; Exeter’s Daniel Nardiello drilling the ball low into Daryl Flahavan’s chest and Shaun MacDonald flashing over after a Tubbs lay-off. Exeter’s 5-3-2 formation frustrated Bournemouth, Steven Gregory and MacDonald struggled to supply the new partnership of Tubbs and Wesley Thomas who were on different wavelengths at times.
As the game stumbled on Gregory began finding his range and managed to supply Marc Pugh, McDermott and their supporting full-backs with some searching long balls, but the normally efficient wasted a number of good opportunities to deliver for the two ex-Crawley strikers.
Tubbs almost nipped in to score after a clever flick by Charlie Daniels but Artur Krysiak smothered well. Minutes later the other new boy Donal McDermott had another effort but his speculative strike flew over. The home side became increasingly frustrated (especially when they had four consecutive blocked efforts at the Exeter goal) and the visitors and their 299 supporters were sensing a possible scalp on the cards.
The home side started the second half the brighter of the two teams. Firstly Wes Thomas slid the ball across the goal after promising inter-play with Tubbs, only for the ball to be swept behind by a covering defender. Thomas rose unchallenged from the resulting corner and will have been disappointed to see his effort rebound off the crossbar.
The visitors thought they had taken the lead when big defender Troy Archibald-Henville bundled the ball, and goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan into the net, but the Spurs academy graduate was rightly penalised for a push on the keeper.
Twenty minutes of the second half dragged on without event and it was obvious that changes were necessary. Donal McDermott’s impact on the game was fading and he was withdrawn in favour of Scott Malone who made his long-awaited return, and boy was it a stylish one.
Five minutes after his introduction Malone collected the ball from Wes Thomas and darted through a few Grecian defenders before drilling a low cross across the box where Matt Tubbs was lurking to take a touch and stab home.
The goal lifted the home side and they started producing the sort of attacking football every fan enjoys to see. After an Exeter corner was cleared, Malone ran fifty yards up the pitch and released Tubbs on the right, who in turn provided a delightful low cross which just evade Thomas. However, Malone was on hand to wrap up the win as he pounced on the ball to sweep home and give his side the points.
Darryl Flahavan – 7. Didn’t have a busy night, deserves good rating for a great diving save
Simon Francis – 6. Defensively sound, looked to start attacks too directly.
Steve Cook – 7. Mainly untroubled but clean sheet is all you can ask for
Stephane Zubar – 7. See Steve Cook
Charlie Daniels – 6. One of his quieter matches, left flank didn’t offer as much as normal
Steven Gregory – 7. Tried to spray the ball around, wasn’t helped by lack of movement
Shaun MacDonald – 7. Tried to link midfield with attack, but struggled to penetrate defence
Donal McDermott – 6. Showed some quality in first half but lack of fitness pegged him back
Marc Pugh – 5. Completely out shone by Malone, needs to learn to cross early and accurately
Wes Thomas – 7. Held up ball well in second half, partnership with Tubbs looks on the cards
Matt Tubbs – 8. What Bournemouth need, just a player to score a goal, nothing more required
Scott Malone (on 68) – 10. Single-handedly won the match in a 20 minute spell. Showed up rest of the team