Michael Rudling reports from St James Park as second-placed City hosted Forest Green Rovers, top of the table going into the game.
Second-placed Exeter City hosted league-leaders Forest Green Rovers at St James Park today, where an early goal from Ryan Bowman secured what could be a vital 3 points in the Grecians’ promotion bid.
Exeter started the better of the two sides, pressing the visiting defence into mistakes and winning five corners in the opening 10 minutes. The Grecians made this early dominance pay in the 11th minute, with Ryan Bowman guiding home Jack Sparkes’s cross, giving the striker his fifth league goal of the season.
Buoyed by excellent travelling fans, the away side came forward with more confidence after the opening 15, creating a few dangerous first-half chances. The best came in the 19th minute, with Jake Aitchison working the ball neatly into the City box. But he was denied an equaliser by an excellent Pierce Sweeney block.
The home lead looked set to double soon after when Nicky Law won the ball on the half-way line, but the resulting chip sailed over the Rovers goal.
Aaron Martin produced a sublime piece of skill for Exeter in the 42nd minute, as he tackled and slipped past a pressuring Rovers forward, before clearing the ball down the line to Lee Martin, though nothing came of the resulting chance.
The away side looked on top in the opening salvos of the second half, as Udoka Godwin-Malife shook himself free to release Ebrima Adams down the left wing, though the eventual cross was well intercepted. Adams was back in the action just minutes later, as the striker steamed down the right wing and forced a great stop from Jonny Maxted in the Exeter goal in the 60th minute.
With the clock ticking down in what was a vital game for both sides, the travelling Rovers fans really got behind their side, who surged forward down the left with 10 minutes to go, whipping in a pinpoint cross for Liam Kitching, only to be denied by a wonderful save from Maxted, propelling himself across the goal face to keep the home side ahead.
Randell Williams looked like making it 2-0 when he cut in brilliantly in the 82nd minute, but his shot was deflected, and Exeter saw out the last few minutes to secure a hard-fought but well-earned 3 points.
While the result means Exeter remain second, leapfrogged by new league leaders Crewe Alexandra, they are joint-top on points. Forest Green Rovers, meanwhile, drop out of the automatic promotion places into 4th. A place at the top of League Two, it seems, is anything but guaranteed.
Attendance: 5312 (446 away).