Exeter City built on their dramatic mid-week extra time win against Forest Green Rovers with a 2-1 victory over Stevenage.
City cruised for the majority of the game, but the final ten minutes saw the visitors come close to equalising several times – stoic defending ensured the Grecians hung on for a vital win in their promotion push, however.
Lloyd James opened the scoring for the home side with a precise finish after incisive running from Liam McAlinden and Pierce Sweeney added the second. Stevenage pulled one back through Matt Godden to add spice to a tie that seemed to be heading in one direction, but the away side failed to capitalise on a swing in momentum, condemning themselves to eight straight league defeats.
An unyielding stream of crosses ensured that any FA Cup hangover was sorely shrugged off, with the visitors applying the early pressure. Commanding goal-keeping and robust defending saw the Grecians bat away Stevenage’s early barrage.
“CITY COULD’VE BEEN AHEAD BUT FOR THE BRILLIANCE OF FRYER”
And though City started sluggishly, they could’ve been ahead ten minutes in had Joe Fryer in the Stevenage net not pulled off a stunning double save. A deliciously inviting free-kick from Hiram Boateng saw Jayden Stockley connect from a matter of yards out, only for Fryer to palm away, before instinctively stopping Jordan Moore-Taylor’s effort, which looked a certain goal.
City perhaps should have been ahead soon after, with intricate play by Liam McAlinden creating space for Pierce Sweeney – the right back panicked, though, and lashed a shot at the visitor’s net, with Fryer comfortable in deflecting it away.
The away side reminded Exeter of the danger they can pose just before the break, with Chris Whelpdale’s pile-driver from the edge of the box a fraction wide.
“the visitors would soon be punished”
Again, the visitors started brighter in the second half but failed to carve out a discernible chance. They were soon punished.
McAlinden – who had looked lively all afternoon – broke from midfield and cut his way through the Stevenage defence, racing into the area. Lloyd James, fresh from his MOTM performance in midweek, moved into space parallel to McAlinden, with the forward teeing up James for a neat finish.
Stevenage responded with an added sense of urgency but continued to stall in the final third, failing to break down an organised and disciplined defence.
“The Grecians looked comfortable”
The Grecians looked comfortable, content with soaking up pressure and looking to spring a counter attack and take their chances when they came. It turned out to be a winning formula.
Jake Taylor looked to have been crowded out in the area, but deft movement and acute vision created space in the area for McAlinden, whose shot was parried to an onslaught of Exeter players. Pierce Sweeney tapped home to make it two goals in two appearances for the right-back.
Moments later, however, the visitors would pull a goal back through Matt Godden; a goal out of nowhere, Godden capitalised on loose play and fired in a bullet of a volley.
Joe Martin then saw a volley tipped onto the bar as the away side galvanised and threw everything at the Grecians.
Yet City could’ve won 3-1 had Matty Jay not inexplicably headed onto the bar from five yards out.
Attendance: 3,448 – inc. 119