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Maybe City will cast aside injury blow like in 1976/77

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: March 21, 2009

The loan signing of striker Stuart Fleetwood cheered City fans following the news of Matt Taylor's broken metatarsal, according to columnist Mike Blackstone GARETH WILLIAMS EE190309_GW05_04

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TUESDAY morning was glorious. Blue sky, bright sunshine. I decided to take myself off for a short walk along the Lancaster Canal, with a stop at an appropriate watering hole for lunch.

The start to the day was too good to be true of course, and so it proved when I heard the bad news that Exeter City defender Matt Taylor was likely to be sidelined through injury for six to eight weeks — virtually the rest of the season.

He becomes yet another modern day footballer who has broken a metatarsal, yet you have to wonder why this is happening to so many?

The injury was pretty well unheard of as far as footballers were concerned then, all of a sudden, we had massive publicity about the similar injury suffered by David Beckham a few seasons ago. That was in 2002 — now it seems to happen all the time!

The metatarsal injury has sparked off a debate as to why they are broken so often.

No one is really sure, but some experts have said that it is because football boots of today are a lot lighter and more flexible than they ever were when worn by the likes of City defenders Ken Oliver and Keith Harvey or strikers Fred Binney or Tony Kellow.

Mind, if you got whacked with a boot in those days, accidentally or not, you felt it!

But thankfully it rarely led to a broken bone and a spell on the sidelines.

However, despite the apparent gloomy prognosis of Taylor's injury and his absence from the team, we should recall the 1976-77 promotion season when Exeter City lost goalkeeper Richard Key with a broken ankle towards the end of the campaign.

City were well in the running for promotion when they visited Crewe Alexandra on March 11, 1977, when Key was carried from the field at Gresty Road.

For the first time ever as far as Exeter City were concerned, a debutant outfield player then took over in goal, namely Geoff Gay, a defender who had been signed from Bolton Wanderers on loan.

Unfortunately the Grecians went down to a 2-1 defeat and it got worse in the very next game as John Baugh, who took over between the posts, picked the ball out of his net four times in a 4-1 hammering at Scunthorpe United.

Everyone thought it was a complete disaster at the time, and although the Grecians had to call up St Luke's College goalie Baugh, the student performed wonders and played a major part in Exeter's eventual promotion to the Third Division.

After that though, City went on a fantastic run during which time they only lost once in the last 14 matches, that being a 1-0 defeat at Brentford.

With Key out for the season Baugh played in every game and more than played his part in a team that not surprisingly saw very few changes to the starting line-up during the run of games which ultimately led to promotion.

Football has a habit of changing moods and opinions of supporters very quickly. No sooner had we received the news about Taylor's injury, we were then all cheered up with the loan signing of Stuart Fleetwood from Charlton Athletic. The former Cardiff City, Hereford United, Accrington Stanley, Forest Green Rovers, Cheltenham Town and Brighton and Hove Albion player has a good goalscoring pedigree and he did partner Adam Stansfield in attack at Hereford for a while.

Ironically Fleetwood is likely to make his Grecians' debut this afternoon against one of those former clubs — Accrington — for whom he made three appearances on loan in the 2006/07 season.

Sure the loss of Taylor is a massive blow, but we have to think positively and believe that promotion, whether automatic or via the play-offs, can still be achieved.

Just maybe we can overcome the loss of an integral player like we did in 1977.

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