Top of the table clash as 3rd place City play 4th place Stevenage in what may prove to be a vital game in the promotion battle later this season.
Exeter start the game strong with Stockley forcing a good save from Seny Dieng down to his left in the opening minutes. This set the tone for the opening exchanges as City looked buoyed by a fantastic home support in the Thatchers big bank.
Alex Revell nearly opened the scoring in the tenth when he skilfully lifted the ball out the way of the city defenders before getting over excited and blasting the ball over Christy Pym’s the bar.
Despite a couple of scares Exeter really grew into the game with Stockley making a nuisance of himself, appealing for what would have been a soft penalty at a corner before curling one over the bar when the ball was worked back into the box on the half hour mark.
A goal felt like it was coming for Exeter with chances coming in the shape of another over the bar effort from Nicky Law. It should have come but for the linesman’s flag as Forte was slid through one on one by Hiram Boateng.
However, it was Stevenage who came closest after a well worked free kick lacked a bit of composure from Steve Seddon.
Seddon wasn’t the only one losing his head as Stockley and Kennedy both picked up bookings for a small fracas after a collision challenging an aerial ball towards the end of the first half.
Despite City’s dominance stoppage time started with Stevenage on top after a long spell of pressure ended in a disappointing long-range effort from Timlin.
After that it was all Exeter with Moxey causing problems down the left leading to a string of corners. Shaky keeping and risky defending on the Stevenage end meant that he got his reward on the stroke of half time as Stockley’s volley ricocheted off the bar to hand Moxey a half volley to smash into an empty net.
The second half started scrappily, and Stevenage’s frustration was opitomised by Wildin’s booking for kicking the ball away in the 51st. Exeter capitalised on this apparent lapse in concentration as Nicky law carved out a wonderful chance but Forte couldn’t find the target from 6 yards.
Forte and Law combined again a few minutes later but Law shot wide from Forte’s weighted through ball meaning the score remained 1-0 on the hour mark.
The next 5 minutes were all Stevenage but a couple of dragged shots by Newton from 20 yards was the best they had to show for it as Exeter’s defence proved resilient and organised as ever.
The game became stagnant as it edged towards the final 10 minutes with both sides making changes. Stevenage brought on pacey Spurs loanee Sonupe for Ferry, whereas Exeter swapped Martin and Ogbene for Holmes and Forte in a hope to catch Stevenage on the break as they come out of their shell.
It almost worked on the 77th minute as Martin caught on to a long ball before squaring the ball to Stockley who was superbly denied by Dieng. Cuthbert put his body on the line to stop Boateng converting the rebound resulting in a delay for the second time in the match as there was a long break in the first half as a fan was rushed to hospital.
The uphill battle for Stevenage became even more of a struggle as a cynical tug on Ogbene meant that a second yellow beckoned for Wildin who was soon given his marching orders. However, there was some slight relief for the travelling fans as Martins freekick sailed comfortably over the bar with 10 minutes left.
The game really felt like it was slipping away from Stevenage as pressure was mounting at the wrong end with Stockley also firing over from a freekick in another promising position with 4 minutes left on the clock.
The away end seemed buoyed by the 5 minutes added but they failed to see their side create a decent opportunity against an Exeter defence that proved resolute throughout.
The final whistle blew with Exeter looking great value for the win on what could have been a tricky midweek fixture against a solid Stevenage side. Sitting second in the table, with a solid partnership developing between centre backs Aaron Martin and Luke Croll, the omens are looking very positive for promotion at St. James’ Park this season.