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11:25 28th August 2011

Exeter City 2 Chesterfield 1

City's August has been dominated by the subject of strikers. We've had the injuries sustained by Logan, O'Flynn, Nardiello and Bauza, the excitement surrounding the loan signing of Rowan Vine this week after the brilliance of an opposition forward in Luis Suarez on Wednesday night. But this afternoon was all about substitute Tom Nichols who became the club's third youngest goalscorer of all time on the eve of his 18th birthday. The Grecians' win-less start to League One looked to be stretching into August after a controversial penalty from Danny Whitaker cancelled out Troy Archibald-Henville's 16th minute opener. But with just six minutes remaining the youth product, who has been with the club since the Under 11s, opened  his account with a fine left foot finish to spark wild celebrations amongst the fans, bench and his delighted team-mates. Paul Tisdale made two changes from the team beaten but certainly not embarrassed by a £75m Liverpool side on Wednesday night with Steve Tully returning from suspension while Guillem Bauza's injury meant a debut for Vine, the former QPR striker having only arrived in Devon yesterday morning! Tisdale joked afterwards that he wasn't sure his new forward knew all the names of the City squad but new team-mate Troy Archibald-Henville certainly seemed to be on his wavelength with a through ball that was just inches away from putting the 28-year-old through on goal. And while City fans placing first goalscorer bets this afternoon might have had a flutter on their new number 32 to break the deadlock they probably wouldn't' have gambled on the longest shot in the whole squad who popped up with the opening goal on 16 minutes. A deep Billy Jones corner found its way to Troy at the back post and he thumped a volley into the ground which bounced up and over Tommy Lee and into the far corner for his first goal at The Park. He was very close to celebrating again six minutes later when he found himself free at Lee's other post but he snatched at his effort which found the side-netting. The injuries to Liam Sercombe, Guillem Bauza and Nicholas Bignall, who went back to Reading for treatment, meant City were fielding players in slightly unfamiliar positions. Scott Golbourne was on the left of midfield with James Dunne on the right and Troy and Noble in the middle. Chesterfield had been busy this week snapping up three new faces including Notts County striker Craig Westcarr who joined on a two year deal and the lively number 9 had a fantastic chance to draw John Sherdan's side level on 28 minutes. Having broken the offside trap and rounded the outrushing Artur Krysiak he hit a right footed effort from the angle that bounced just wide of the open goal. The away side did drew level though six minutes later when Scott Boden's right-footed cross from infront of the Flybe hit Danny Coles' hand inside the box. The whole 'ball-to-hand' argument was once again being discussed around SJP after referee Chris Sarginson's decided to point to the spot after his linesman flagged. Up stepped Whitaker and his spot-kick found Artur's bottom right corner with City's keeper going the opposite way. It certainly wasn't a game to remember this afternoon and Vine had the only two half-chances in the final ten minutes before the interval. First Dunne flew down the right side and sent a fine ball in which Vine controlled well before firing into the away end before a minute later he sent an optimistic curling shot from outside the box straight into Lee's arms. There was little to write home about during the opening to the second half either with Westcarr having two good opportunities which he wasted and Tully's dangerous low ball across goal the only opportunities. Tisdale responded by adding his two youngsters to the fray - Jones and Vine making way for Nichols and Shephard. But two minutes later the home side had their hearts in their mouths as Boden was sent through on goal. An advantage was played after a foul and the striker ran towards the away end and fired his shot low across goal and out of play. At the other end Dunne latched on to Shephard's ball down the right hand flank, cut inside his marker with a nifty piece of footwork but his shot was straight at Lee. The next throw of the dice saw Richard Logan introduced for Coles as the Grecians looked for that vital second goal, which they found just one minute later when the two City youth products combined for a goal made at the Cat & Fiddle. Shephard took the ball forward from midfield with a great run and poked the ball into the feet of the 17-year-old striker. Nichols span and fired a low left-footed snap-shot into the corner from just outside the box. A delighted Big Bank roared their appreciation at a cracking goal from the youngster. Just as he had throughout August, Nichols looked extremely lively after entering the fray against a tiring Chesterfield defence and now finds himself in the record books as the third youngest Grecian goalscorer of all time behind Richard Pears and Cliff Bastin. 18th birthday presents don't get much better than scoring your first City goal, which turns out to be the winner, infront of the Big Bank for our first three points of the season. Well done Tom. While birthdays are all about receiving gifts, Nichols decided not to accept another one shortly after and instead handed it to Dan Nardiello. Winning the ball with a superb tackle Nichols raced towards the box and played a gorgeous one-two with Golbourne on the left hand side of the box. When City's number 11 returned the ball back to Nichols in a great position he unselfishly put it on a plate for Nardiello who somehow smashed it into the Big Bank. After consecutive league games where we played very well and didn't get the result we perhaps deserved this was three points when we certainly weren't at our best. But ahead of the Devon derby with Plymouth and the long trek to Hartlepool this victory will have given the squad a huge lift, especially the young striker who will never forget his 18th birthday weekend.
    Data provided by Press Association