EXETER CITY 3, STEVENAGE 1
Exeter City rediscovered their threat in front of goal to overcome strugglers Stevenage and propel themselves up the League 2 table.
City went into yesterday’s game hoping for better luck in front of goal after they were forced to settle for a draw at Harrogate Town on Tuesday night.
Before the lunchtime kick-off, the Grecians had won just one of their last eight in all competitions and had slumped to tenth in the table.
But strugglers Boro were only outside the relegation zone on goal difference and hadn’t won any of their last 17 games away from home.
City lined up without Joel Randall, who picked up a hamstring injury on Tuesday, joining skipper Jake Taylor and Randell Williams on the sidelines, while new signing Sam Stubbs is not yet fit for his debut.
The Grecians made a bright start and after 10 minutes Archie Collins was allowed to stride forward unguarded and blast the ball home off the bar from 25 yards.
After good work from Matt Jay, Collins was in with a chance five minutes later but his right footed shot was saved. On 26 minutes striker Ryan Bowman got in on the act but his right footed shot from the centre of the box went wide.
The visitors had their first real chance on the half-hour when Arthur Read missed with a strike from outside the City box. Jay went close on 44 minutes after good work from Nicky Law and in the last action of the first half Luther Wildin of Stevenage fired in a right footed shot from outside the box but Jonathan Maxted in the City goal was equal to it, saving well in the bottom right corner.
As the teams emerged after the tea break, Stevenage’s Matty Stevens was on for Danny Newton. Early in the second half Collins got a good effort on target from outside the Stevenage penalty box but his effort was blocked. Then Jay found some space inside the Stevenage box to threaten the visitors’ goal but struggled to get the ball out from under his feet and, having done so, shot over the bar.
Then City manager Matt Taylor mixed things up – bringing on Josh Key for Jake Caprice 19 minutes into the half. At the same time Remeao Hutton replaced Luther Wildin for Stevenage.
On 65 minutes Jay (Exeter fired in on target from outside the box but Ward in the visitors’ goal did well to make a save.
Eight minutes later Stevenage made a double substitution in an effort to change the course of the game, Elliott List and Tyrone Marsh replacing Tom Pett and Jack Smit. Then boss Taylor intervened for City, throwing on Lewis Page for defender Alex Hartridge as the Grecians switched to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.
Then, with 10 minutes to go, after good work by Nigel Atangana, the impressive Jay gave City a crucial two-goal cushion with a shot on his left foot from outside the box into the top right corner.
The value of Jay’s strike, his 12th of the season, was underlined two minutes later when Stevenage hauled themselves back into the argument, Elliott List finding the net with a shot from the centre of the box following a corner that Taylor’s men failed to clear. Law threatened to give the Grecians a third goal seconds later but his shot flew wide. He did better on 85 minutes, turning provider for Bowman, who drilled a shot from the left side of the Stevenage box into the bottom corner.
Collins threatened to put City out of sight but his shot was saved by Ward, then two late substitutions – Ben Seymour and Harry Kite for Bowman and Atangana – helped see the game out.
The win lifted City back into the play-off places ahead of the day’s 3pm kick-offs