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20:20 26th December 2009

Southampton 3-1 Exeter City

Ten man Exeter City paid the price for a poor first half as they lost 3-1 at St Mary's, writes Pete Evans.

Lloyd James's deflected effort opened the scoring after just 14 minutes with the home sides first attack of the game and they doubled their lead when Neal Trotman headed in James' free-kick.

Troy Archibald-Henville saw red before half-time but City improved and captain Matt Taylor set up a nervy 20 minutes when he headed home at the backpost.

But City were hit on the break at the death by Ndiaye Papa Waigo who coolly finished past Paul Jones.

Paul Tisdale made two changes to the side that beat Southend 1-0, Barry Corr's red card on Saturday opened the door for Marcus Stewart to return to the side and Troy Archibald-Henville came into the midfield for Bertie Cozic.

The 3-5-2 formation looked pretty solid in the opening exchanges with Dan Seaborne, Matt Taylor and Richard Duffy all winning their 50/50s.

And infact there seemed to be little on when Lloyd James found himself at the edge of the box after 15 minutes but when the black shirts failed to close him down the midfielder got a shot away which found Jones' left-had corner via a deflection.

City's number 27 dived the other way and could only watch the deflected shot roll into the other corner. Southampton's tails were up in front of a full-house of over 30,000 and they began to really pepper the visitors goal.

The highly rated Adam Lallana created a good chance for Michail Antonio but he headed wide. The Saints won a string of corners as City really failed to get going in the final third.

Antonio's cross was then headed onto the crossbar by David Connelly with Paul Jones flatfooted and as it bounced down Duffy put the ball out for a corner but the Welshman was inches from scoring an embarrassing own goal.

The 1,829 hugely vocal travelling fans' song of choice 'The Great Escape' summed up the supporters' view, Tisdale's side were coming under a siege and rather predictably they went two goals up on the halfhour.

James whipped a right footed freekick into the box and the giant figure of Neal Trotman rose above the despairing figure of a flailing Jones to head home.

City were stung and could have replied instantly with their first clearcut chance of the game as Adam Stansfield met Steve Tully's pinpoint cross from the right-hand flank but Bartosz Bialkowski saved well. But the Saints keeper looked less than comfortable with a Ryan Harley long-shot minutes later that he just managed to save.

Exeter's Spurs loanee then seemed to have dashed any hope of a Grecian comeback when he picked up a straight red card, a worrying seventh of the season for the club, after he seemed to raise his hands following an aggressive foul on Morgan Schneiderlin.

Half time couldn't come quick enough and Exeter really seemed to need 15 minutes to regroup after a hugely disappointing first half and it looked like the ten men could be on the end of a hiding.

Tisdale left it 15 minutes before making the changes, the under performing pair of Marcus Stewart and Alex Russell being replaced by Stuart Fleetwood and Bertie Cozic and the change seemed to do the trick.

The formation was switched to 4-3-2 with a back four, Duffy in the midfield with Harley and Cozic and Fleetwood and Stansfield upfront and Duffy was doing a good job in an unfamiliar keeping play ticking over as City begun to exert some real pressure.

Having two pacey outlets upfront gave City more impetus and they won a string of corners as they seemed to move up a gear. And from one of those corners captain Matt Taylor rose highest on 68 minutes to send a looping header into the far corner. Game on.

St Mary's was getting tense and the game became even more open. Scott Golbourne's final ball was just lacking after a quick attacking move. James Dunne entered the fray with nine minutes left and despite some positive attacks the Grecians didn't really carve open any clearcut opportunities.

After pushing everyone forward in search of an equaliser Exeter were hit on the break with two minutes to go, £1m striker Lambert put Papa Waigo through and the substitute rolled a shot past Paul Jones, much to the relief of the nervous home fans.

A gloss was almost put on the scoreline in the dying seconds when Lambert let rip with a 30 yard thunderbolt that smashed off the crossbar with Jones beaten.

It was a very similar story to the away trips to Leeds and Charlton. Under-performing first halves where the Grecians give themselves a real uphill task followed by impressive final 45 minutes where they score but just cant get the result they need.

The up-tempo and determined side we saw pushing forward in that last half an hour looked a real threat and Tisdale could have some team selection issues to ponder on the trip home tonight.

Exeter City now face another huge match on Monday when Gillingham are the visitors to The Park. The Gills are currently on the same number of points as City and lost 1-0 at Brentford today.

City lined up: Jones, Tully Duffy, (Dunne 81) Taylor, Seaborne, Golbourne, Russell, (Cozic 60) Harley, Archibald-Henville, Stewart, (Fleetwood 60) Stansfield

Subs not used: Marriott, Edwards, Sercombe, Logan.

Southampton lined up: Bialkowski, James, Trotman, Perry, Harding, Antonio, Hammond, Schneiderlin, Lallana (Mills 60) (Wotton 83), Lambert, Connolly (Papa Waigo 75)

Subs not used: Davis, Thomas, Martin, Gobern.

Referee: Mr G Horwood (Bedfordshire)

Attendance: 30, 890 (1,829 away)

    Data provided by Press Association