Exeter City’s match against Coventry City was one of heightened importance, over the busy Christmas period the Grecians had stuttered on their bid for promotion to league 2 and lying in 8th place, a win was sorely needed.
The visitors to St James park, Coventry Coventry, were in flying form, having just recorded one of the upsets of the season against a dejected Stoke side, the Sky Blues clearly had quality: City needed a big performance to get anything out of the game.
The typically cautious Paul Tisdale set City up accordingly, though eyebrows were raised by the omission of the excellent Hiram Boateng in the centre midfield. Yet the decision to start the relatively inexperienced Jordan Tillson alongside Lloyd James paid dividends. City have been blighted by injury, with talisman Jake Moore-Taylor and fellow centre-back Troy Brown, being the highest profile losses in recent months.
City’s defence unsurprisingly didn’t function as effectively as it has done, however, the sheer number of men behind the ball foiled many Coventry attacks. City started relatively well though, Jake Taylor had a clever burst into the Coventry box, but was undone by some poor control. In the 15th, Coventry began to resort to the typical long ball tactics that have become a staple of League 2 football, City veteran Danny Seaborne noticeably struggled to deal with this threat and looked like a rabbit caught in headlights up against the prolific Marc McNulty, who chased down effectively throughout.
“followed the baying cries”
City continued to thread the ball through nicely past the Sky Blue midfield though and a calamity at the back produced what ended up to be the game-winning goal. A lofted through ball from Lloyd James was chased up by winger Lee Holmes, who managed to pressure Lee Burge into a scuffed clearance. With the ball falling straight to Ryan Harley- a man who Paul Tisdale has labelled the most technically gifted of City’s players- the outcome was in little doubt, with Burge stranded, Harley coolly followed the baying cries of City fans to shoot and curled a strike in off the right post.
Harley’s strike on the 7th minute was a real sucker punch for a Coventry side looking for three back-to-back wins in the league and City continued the half well. Jayden Stockley flashed a powerful drive past the right-hand post in the 25th minute, while down at the other end, Maguire-Drew flicked the ball masterfully over a flailing Dean Moxey but fired straight at Pym.
The City youngster was called into action again when Max Biamou was played through, however, Pym had other ideas and came off his line quickly, extending the goal drought of the Sky Blue Striker with an impressive reaction save.
In the second half, City continued to play long-ball football through to Stockley – much to the obvious discomfort of Burge who was charged down twice in the space of 10 minutes by onrushing City attackers.
McNulty had a wonderful chance in the 55th minute, seeking to exploit Troy Archibald Henvillle’s poor touch, but failed to capitalise. Coventry looked to turn the screw in the final third of the match.
“game-management halted coventry’s momentum”
Exeter engaged in some game management to break up Coventry’s momentum, some scrappy challenges by Captain Jake Taylor earning him a yellow card, with Coventry’s Tom Bayliss looking dynamic and a constant threat.
The substitution of Lee Holmes after an uncharacteristically poor performance saw Hiram Boateng take his place on the 79th as City looked to dictate the tempo.
Incidentally, it was the substitute who had the best chance of the half with a free header from 5 yards out after great interplay between Harley and James. A questionable decision by the 4th official to add on 5 minutes led to a nervy finish for the Grecians with multiple corners for Coventry. Pym was at his athletic best to deny City a late equaliser, with a reflex save after Chris Stokes tried to find the top right corner, following Bayliss cross. The full whistle shortly blew to signal a long trip home for 350 disgruntled Coventry fans and 3 massive points for the reds. A huge step in the right direction for Exeter, if Paul Tisdale’s men can improve their away form then a top 3 finish looks likely.
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