Exeter City 3
Stockley (59, 63), McAlinden (86)
Heybridge Swifts 1
FA Cup – First Round
KO: 14:00, Sat 5 Nov.
Exeter City avoided a first-round FA Cup upset as they overcame a determined Heybridge Swifts side at St. James’s Park.
City began the game brightly. A long ball forward from the kick-off found Rueben Reid and the frontman’s cross was met by Jayden Stockley in space, but the forward sent his header narrowly over the bar. Stockley and Reid were involved again as Exeter came close in the fifth minute, another long ball from the back being met by Stockley. It fell to Reid in the area but the striker miscontrolled the flick on as the ball rolled narrowly wide of the post.
The Grecians dominated the opening exchanges without finding the target as Heybridge were content to sit back and soak up the pressure. Two more good chances feel to Exeter as Stockley and then Hiram Boateng went close without securing the breakthrough.
Having weathered the early threat from City, the Swifts managed to settle after the first fifteen minutes and they enjoyed their own period of possession without really threatening Christy Pym in the Exeter goal. Their best chance came in the 17th minute, when Juan Luque found space down the left before cutting back across the area to Harrison Chatting, whose right-footed effort drifted narrowly over the bar.
“The grecians struggled to get a foothold on the game”
With the conditions worsening, Heybridge grew in confidence. Winger Luque was a repeated threat, coming close with a right-footed effort moments before feeding Ben Sampayo on the overlap, the left-back’s shot deflected behind by the Exeter defence.
Around the half-hour mark the Grecians were struggling to get a foothold until a loose ball fell to Jake Taylor. The midfielder’s shot from edge of area flashed narrowly wide of the visitors’ goal, and it seemed to lift the home side, as moments later Moxey came close moments later with his own effort.
Despite this, Heybridge finished the first-half looking the more threatening side, with Harrison Chatting and Samuel Bantick causing problems for the Grecians’s defence. Chatting had the Swifts’s best chance of the half when he picked up a loose pass by Pierce Sweeney but his effort was comfortably saved by Pym, and the teams entered the dressing rooms with the game goalless.
City started the second-half with greater intensity, moving the ball with purpose. That pressure nearly told in the 52nd minute when a corner fell to Stockley whose shot on the turn was cleared off the line.
Stockley finally made the breakthrough just before the hour. Lloyd James’s corner was met by the forward at the near post and he made no mistake with his header, powering it past goalkeeper Danny Sambridge into the goal.
“CITY DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT LONG FOR THEIR SECOND”
City didn’t have to wait long for their second. Four minutes later, Stockley netted home again from a corner. James’s low cross rolled through the legs of Taylor and Stockley reacted quickest, lashing the ball into the bottom corner to double Exeter’s lead.
Having failed to match their first-half intensity, Heybridge were looking out of it, however the Essex side gave themselves hope in the 70th minute. Luque found Lewis Godbold at the far post with a teasing cross, and the substitute’s header back across the goal-mouth was met by Bantick who was rewarded for his excellent display by driving the ball into the next from six yards to give the away side a glimmer of hope.
With both sides making changes, Exeter’s quality was beginning to tell against a side four divisions lower than the Grecians. Stockley nearly added a third when some great footwork by substitute Kyle Edwards down the left created space in the middle, but his strike failed to beat the cluster of bodies on the six-yard line.
“mCalinden wrapped up the game”
Instead it was substitute Liam McAlinden who wrapped up the game with four minutes to play. A fantastic ball in behind the visitors’s defence by Boateng found McAlinden, and the striker’s left-footed shot on the angle squeezed through Sambridge’s legs and across the line to make it 3-1.
Stockey had another glorious chance to grab his hattrick with a double effort just before the death. His header from Holmes’s curling cross was parried back into the striker’s path at close range by Sambridge, but the follow up was similarly stopped by the Swifts’s keeper. With that the 251 visiting fans began the 255 mile journey home, and despite an admirable performance by the Essex club, City’s quality proved the difference to send them through to the next round.
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Woodman (Holmes 61), Taylor, James (Edwards 71), Boateng, Moxey, Reid (McAlinden 75), Stockley
Substites: Holmes, Hamon, MAlinden, Jay, Byrne, Collins, Edwards
Booked: Woodman, James
Heybridge Swifts: Sambridge, Ramón Carreño, Sampayo, Dark, Henshaw, Cawley, Chatting, Griffiths, Callander, Bantick, Luque
Substitutes: Andrews, Gardner, Fagbohun, Godbold, Conway, Sillgato, Brown
Booked: Chatting, Bantick