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Exeter City finally win at home against Fleetwood

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Online Sport Editor Matt Bugler had the pleasure of seeing a rare home win for Exeter City on Saturday:

Elliot Richards and Tom Nicholls celebrate
Elliot Richards and Tom Nicholls celebrate. Photo: Steve Ayers

Exeter City finally put to bed their dreadful run of 13 home games without a win by thrashing Fleetwood Town 3-0 at St James’ Park. A brace from Elliot Richards added to Jon Parkin’s own goal in the first half.

Having been third in the league early in the season, City had slipped down to just one place above the relegation zone, in no small part due to not winning at home since beating Plymouth 3-1 on the 5th October.

City’s last home game had been arguably the most dismal performance of the lot, a 1-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Northampton. This Saturday they welcomed promotion chasing Fleetwood Town, who lay fourth in the table going into the fixture.

Paul Tisdale had warned that Fleetwood were one of the best footballing teams in the league, however in the opening stages it was Exeter who took the initiative. The first chance came in the fifth minute as lone striker Tom Nicholls slid in a low cross from the right which just evaded a teammate.

Liam Sercombe looked the most inspired of the promising Exeter midfield, and he twice cut inside from the right to make driving runs down the centre of the park. The right-midfielder was also linking up well with right-back Danny Butterfield, who saw plenty of the ball high up the pitch.

On the 23rd minute Exeter won a free kick on the right, which Butterfield whipped in with real menace. It eluded all Exeter players but the unfortunate Jon Parkin saw the ball deflect off him into his own net.

Despite the unlikely source, the goal was much deserved for Exeter, and they continued to push on in the first half. Nicholls was making a nuisance of himself against the Fleetwood centre-backs, and like the rest of his teammates was winning most of the 50/50 balls.

Richards scores his first goal. Photo: Steve Ayers
Richards scores his first goal. Photo: Steve Ayers

Exeter were both superior in their commitment and their technical play, and shortly before half time staged a brilliant move involving Sercombe, Butterfield and Nicholls. The ball was laid off to Matt Oakley to drive home but Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell produced a wonder save to quell premature celebrations from the home fans.

The teams went off at half time as the heavens opened, with Fleetwood having failed to create anything of worth. After the interval Exeter remained the dominant team, and Nicholls showed both pace and strength to beat his defender down the right, before his pullback to Richards was cleared.

Fleetwood had their first real chance when a mistake from Exeter’s Scott Bennett allowed Jamille Matt to run through on goal, but he twisted and turned and ultimately took far too long to shoot, allowing Artur Krysiak to gather.

Fleetwood were punished shortly after as two goals in quick succession put the game to bed for Exeter. Elliot Richards scored his first by heading in a flick-on from a corner on the right. Four minutes later Tom Nicholls had a free kick 35 yards out which went straight at the keeper, but Maxwell inexplicably spilled it and Richards was first there to gleefully stab home.

Exeter were in dreamland, and even gave an ironic standing ovation to Jon Parkin, who was substituted after a torrid afternoon. Fleetwood’s passing became increasingly desperate, as Exeter made a mockery of their elevated league position.

Fleetwood should have found an unlikely consolation with five minutes remaining as Matty Blair charged down the right and produced a clever cut back to Josh Morris, who saw his shot deflected over.

Exeter saw off the remaining minutes to add a clean sheet to a richly rewarding afternoon. They were by far the better team, and now lie in the giddy heights of 17th, easing relegation fears somewhat for the last 8 games of the season.

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