BALLIOL may be relative newcomers to the upper levels of college football, but their start last week against Christ Church indicated that they had the talent to survive at this level. Their first home game, against a struggling Exeter side, provided the perfect opportunity to reinforce these credentials.
As the home side dominated the early exchanges, Exeter’s only chances came from Spencer Crawley’s terrific long throws which posed a constant threat, particularly as giant centre-back Ben Fox came forward to get on the end of a number of them. Crawley and Fox aside, the main tactic of the away side was to use striker Billy Bowring as a target man. This policy worked to a degree but Bowring, a lanky forward, had a predictably lumbering first touch and often miscontrolled the ball.
With neither side fully getting into their stride the first goal of the game was a surprise when it came, Ted Maxwell controlling a pass on his chest thirty yards out before launching a dipping volley past the keeper.  It was a rare moment of excellence in what was a scrappy first quarter.
The goal did little to change the pattern of play with the patchy football punctuated by the odd moment of excitement such as an excellent long range effort from Spencer Crawley and a dangerous foot high challenge from Joe Haley which put ‘hard man’  Paul Sagar to the ground.  Although Haley’s tackle deserved the booking he received, Sagar’s ludicrous theatrics on the ground afterwards were a gross over-reaction given no actual contact was made between the midfielder’s boot and his face.
It was with ten minutes to go in the first half that the game finally started to spark when Maxwell had his shirt tugged in the box and lightening quick wing Rory Campbell hammered home the spot kick. The goal did little to spark a disjointed Exeter side, but they found themselves a lifeline before the interval when Aamir Saifuddin’s speculative long range effort caught everyone off guard, including Balliol keeper Devine. As a scoreline, 2-1 probably was a fair reflection given Exeter had defended stoutly, even if they hadn’t offered much in attack.
Balliol started the second half the stronger and were unlucky not to score when they saw the ball get halfway across the goal line before being clawed back by the Exeter keeper and again when a Rory Campbell corner was headed off the line by Charlie Hill.
Perhaps feeling the game was turning in their favour Exeter finally made some progress up field, with Bowring, Hill and Crawley all having efforts on goal turned away by the excellent Chris Devine.
With time running out Exeter were leaving bigger and bigger holes at the back which were always likely to be exploited by the pacy Balliol attack.  Blues athlete Rory Campbell tore through a tiring defence to slot the ball past the keeper before Maxwell was bought down by a last ditch tackle to give Campbell the chance of a penalty to seal his hat trick.  He stood up to the challenge, slotting the spot kick into the bottom corner to put the result beyond doubt.