Devon derby atmosphere was subdued
THERE was a strangely subdued atmosphere at St James' Park for the Devon derby between Exeter and Argyle.
The 59th Football League meeting between the fierce county rivals was played in near silence for much of the time.
There were outbursts of noise, notably after each team scored, but there was not the 'needle' so often associated with his fixture.
Occasionally, there were renditions of 'One Team in Devon' from either set of supporters but it lacked conviction.
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The attendance was also surprisingly low, with 1,226 members of the Green Army making up a gate of 6,449.
That was nearly 1,500 less than the last league game between the two teams at St James' Park, which was in April 2011 and was won 1-0 by Exeter.
Perhaps the 12 noon kick-off on Saturday, three hours earlier than usual, accounted for the sedate atmosphere.
Perhaps the close proximity to Christmas, and the task of shopping for presents, took priority for some people.
Perhaps the fact Exeter Chiefs were in Heineken Cup rugby union later in the day at nearby Sandy Park was a counter-attraction for others.
Perhaps the traditionally heavy police presence for this fixture deterred some families from attending.
Perhaps Exeter's supporters were unaccustomed to their team being the favourites for a Devon derby against Argyle and were unsure how to react to that.
Perhaps the Green Army were anxious, at least before the game, about a heavy defeat.
Perhaps those 'fans' of either club who might have been tempted to cause unrest and trouble could not get to the game because of the all-ticket restrictions.
It was probably a combination of some, if not all, of those factors.
All I know is that the game did not have the same intensity to it, on or off the pitch, as previous ones I can recall.
Even Argyle goalscorer Joe Lennox admitted the atmosphere had not been as loud as he had expected.
Exeter clearly put a lot of time into the selection of songs played over the public address system at St James' Park.
After the April 2011 clash, when Argyle's defeat effectively relegated them from League One, the World War Two classic 'We'll Meet Again' serenaded the Green Army as they exited the ground.
On Saturday, after the final whistle, it was 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us', the 1974 hit by Sparks (no, not Gordon, The Herald columnist).
I look forward to what Argyle come up with in musical response when the teams meet in the Football League for the 60th time at Home Park on Easter Saturday, March 30.