E xeter City eased to victory against a dire Grimsby Town, with goals from Jayden Stockley and a scintillating effort from Liam McAlinden ensuring the Grecians resumed winning ways, having not been victorious in the league since the 7th October.
Paul Tisdale’s side started the brighter of the two teams, with energetic running from McAlinden – in for Ruben Reid following a barren run of 10 goalless games – and clever movement from Lee Holmes threatening to give the home side a dream start.
Indeed, it was Holmes’ beguiling footwork three minutes in that saw him escape the clutches of Grimsby Town’s Paul Dixon, with the struggling left-back hacking Holmes down as he looked to surge into the area.
Nothing came of the free-kick, but it signalled an early intent to strike first. Jordan Moore-Taylor soon came close with a looping header from a teasing Holmes’ corner, but for all their early dominance it remained goalless with twenty minutes gone.
“Holmes’ inviting cross was duly met by stockley”
Yet just as the game had begun to fade, Holmes picked up the ball on the edge of the area and whipped in a deliciously inviting cross; evading a back-pedalling Town defence, the ball fell to an on-rushing Stockley who volleyed in for his seventh goal of the season.
Sluggish in the first thirty minutes, Stockley’s goal appeared to spark some urgency into the visitor’s play – a lack of invention was evident, though, and it is no surprise considering Town had fought to consecutive 0-0 draws in the league before today.
A five-minute spell that did little to make life difficult for the home side was followed by Exeter reinstating control. Sharp interplay from Harem Boateng and Holmes set McAlinden free, only to be stopped by a last-ditch challenge. A hurried clearance presented Pierce Sweeney with a tantisiling chance, only for the right-back to balloon his volley over the bar.
Despite the visitors finishing the half strongly, with Christopher Pym forced into an arching save to deny a glancing header from James Berrett, City headed into the break content with a first-half display that had stifled the visitors and demonstrated an ambition to take the game to Grimsby.
“Sort it out Slade” cried a disgruntled away support as a languid Town hurried into the dressing room.
“a moment of magic”
Though City found it hard to settle into a rhythm as they emerged from the interval, a moment of magic gifted the Grecians a two-goal lead on the 54th minute. Boateng brought the ball down with the composure the City fans have come to expect from the Cyrstal Palace man, swivelling and sending a defence-splitting pass to McAlinden, who had acres of space to run into. Guiding the ball onto his left foot, the striker curled an exquisitely elusive shot into the far corner. Dynamic running, quick feet and a goal befitting the Premier League, McAliden had more than justified his inclusion over Reid.
It took a two-goal deficit for Grimsby to play with punch and purpose, with Sikiri Dembele – a product of the Nike Academy – presenting himself as a vibrant and dangerous outlet. Fortunately for City, it was the same story for Russel Slade’s men, with his side struggled to carve out any clear chances.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, Exeter could’ve added a third, and Stockley his second, as tenacious work from McAlinden saw him recover possession and tee up his striking partner, who headed over.
Stockley’s miss was to be the last moment of note as the game fizzled out, with City comfortable in possession and solid in defence. The win sees the Grecians remain in the top three automatic spots as Tisdale’s side continue their promotion pursuit.
MOTM: Lee Holmes
A dynamic and enterprising display from Holmes who laid on the first assist for Stockley and looked threatening all afternoon.
Exeter City: Pym; Sweeney; Moore-Taylor; Brown; Woodman; Moxey; Taylor; Boateng; Holmes; McAlinden; Stockley
Grimsby Town: McKeown; Davies; Dixon; Clarke; Collins; Berrett; Jones; Summerfield; Vernon; Woolford; Dembele
Attendance: 3,854 including 254 away fans.