Exeter City continued their fine recent form with a thrilling 4-2 win over promotion rivals Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night at St James Park. Goals from David Wheeler, Troy Brown, Joel Grant and Oli Watkins led the Grecians to their eighth win in nine matches and to 4th in the table, overtaking Wycombe in the process.
On a wet and windy night in Devon, Exeter started off the brighter side, with their expansive brand of football working well on a carpet of a pitch at St James. After a distinct lack of quality in the final third in the opening 15 minutes, Exeter broke the deadlock in the 18th minute: a teasing cross from right back Jack Stacey was turned in at the near post on the volley by David Wheeler: his tenth league goal of the season.
However, despite headers from Simpson and Brown narrowly missing the target from two successive corners, Exeter couldn’t add to their one goal advantage. This proved costly, as Wycombe gained the upper hand as the first half drew to a close, and punished some sloppy Exeter defending from a corner. The ball went through a crowd of players for Wanderers captain Garry Thompson to apply the simple finish from close range, on the back of his brace at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup last weekend. A relatively even half finished one goal apiece.
The second half was a similar story, only this time Exeter made their pressure count. Following excellent chances at both ends early on, with defender Troy Brown hitting the bar when Wycombe keeper Jamal Blackman (on loan from Chelsea) was nowhere to be seen, and Grecians keeper Christy Pym saving brilliantly to deny Thompson when through one on one, Exeter went through the gears as we passed the hour mark. A quick flurry of corners, a few dubious penalty shouts and constant Exeter pressure camped Wycombe in their penalty box, and the floodgates opened soon after. Two remarkably quick fire and comparable goals put the game to bed in the 67th and 69th minute. Substitute Ollie Watkins – subject to much interest from higher division clubs throughout the January transfer window – made an immediate impact, with two direct runs down the right setting up Brown and Grant respectively to finish at the back post.
The game looked to be petering out at this point, with Wycombe showing no real signs of threatening Christy Pym’s goal. However, Wycombe striker Alex Jakubiak, on loan from Watford until the end of the season, scored a goal on his debut just before 90 minutes was up, beating 2 defenders and finishing impressively with his left foot to leave a nervy and frantic stoppage time period ahead. Nevertheless, it was Exeter and game changer Watkins who were to have the final word. A mix up in the Wycombe defence allowed Watkins to run through on goal, before he rounded Blackman and smashed the ball into the empty net to seal a vitally important win.
For Wycombe, who rested several key players including Adebayo Akinfenwa, it signalled the end to what had been a frustrating few days following their agonising 4-3 loss at the hands of Tottenham in the Cup on Saturday. For Exeter on the other hand, it was their 5th win in a row, and continued their unbeaten streak to 11 matches now. More significantly though is perhaps the fact the victory resulted in the Grecians leapfrogging Wanderers up the play-off ranks into 4th position, and a tantalising 4 points off automatic promotion. A far cry off the dark November days, when they languishing in the relegation zone – it’s been quite the turnaround by Paul Tisdale’s men.
Exeter City: Pym, Stacey, Brown, Moore-Taylor©, Woodman, Wheeler, James, Taylor, Grant, Reid, Simpson.
Subs: Watkins, Tillson, McAlinden
Wycombe Wanderers: Blackman, Jombati, Muller, De Havilland, Harriman, Bean, Gape, Saunders, Weston, Kashket, Thompson©
Subs: Pierre, Jakubiak, Freeman
Attendance: 3,656 (148 away)