Exeter City’s fantastic undefeated away record came to a disappointing end by a 4-2 scoreline at the hands of in-form Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
On a freezing afternoon in the Midlands, the travelling Grecians had had very little to cheer in the first period. City trailed 3-0 at the interval, with Michael Symes, Marcus Holness and Jacques Maghoma all finding the net.
The game looked effectively over on 60 minutes when Brewers hit a fourth through Lee Bell, smashing from outside the box. Guillem Bauza
and Scot Bennett
reduced the arrears and ignited hope of a fightback in the closing stages, but it came too late for the Grecians.
Exeter City boss Paul Tisdale made just a single enforced change compared to the side that had beaten Morecambe 3-0 on the Grecians’ last away trip – Rhys Evans
was called in to replace the injured Artur Krysiak
, meaning a seat on the bench for youngster Christy Pym.
The Brewers were without captain Zander Diamond, who served a suspension after picking up a red card in his last outing against AFC Wimbledon.
Neither team really controlled the opening exchanges, with the ball spending considerable periods in the air. Danny Coles
’ raking pass towards Mark Molesley
nearly saw the midfielder released on the flank, but the ball just drifted out for a goal-kick.
However City found themselves in the unusual position of chasing the game away from home when Burton broke the deadlock after ten minutes. Damien McCrory’s first cross was dealt with, but Jacques Maghoma’s low ball in wrong-footed the defence and allowed Michael Symes to hammer in from close range.
Exeter might have equalised minutes later when a fine passing move – which centred around Jimmy Keohane
– saw the ball sit up invitingly for Tommy Doherty
. However his ambitious volley from outside the area was sliced high and wide.
Keohane and Jamie Cureton
linked up well on the inside-right channel midway through the first half, and a flicked ball almost released the Irishman. He shaped to shoot from a tight angle, before an absolutely crucial interception by Holness prevented Keohane from pulling the trigger.
And it was the centre-half Holness that almost immediately went up the other end to double the advantage for the Brewers. Maghoma’s initial shot was turned around the post, and from the short corner that followed he put in a ball which caused chaos in the area, allowed Holness to prod in.
The game looked effectively out of sight just after the half-hour mark when Maghoma and Symes linked up to spectacular effect. Maghoma dinked a ball towards the front-man, who laid the ball off to allow Maghoma to lash a shot home on the half-volley, nestling right into the top corner.
Cureton came closest to offering a route back into the match before the break, when Scot Bennett
put a cross in towards the striker. With the ball behind him, Cureton improvised to try and over-head effort, but he didn’t catch his strike correctly.
Half-time: Burton Albion 3 Exeter City 0
Tis opted for a change of tack in the second period, with Guillem Bauza
called off the bench to replace Arron Davies
and offer a more direct route to goal.
Stuart Tomlinson, rarely troubled between the sticks in the first half for Burton, was soon forced to think in the second period as Cureton struck low from just outside the area, but the goalkeeper shepherded the ball round the post.
But the game seemed to be put beyond any reasonable doubt as the game hit the hour mark. Symes was involved once more for the Brewers, laying in captain Lee Bell to strike from 25 yards. The midfielder’s ferocious effort pinged downwards off the bar, and the referee’s assist flagged to signal that the ball had crossed the line and award Burton their fourth goal.
However City began to show signs of life and suddenly looked to be in with a chance of a fight-back when Bauza struck to cut the lead back to three. A high ball towards Cureton wasn’t dealt with effectively by the Brewers’ defence, and the Spaniard lashed a first-time effort inside the near post.
Suddenly the hosts looked rattled – and City were suddenly on the offensive. A superb move through the midfield nearly saw Cureton laid in to fire, but the ball was taken off his toe.
But moments later Exeter were back to 4-2, as a corner by left-back Craig Woodman
was met by the towering figure of Bennett. The ball was hacked clear roundabouts the goal-line, and it was the assistant at the other end this time that was called into action to award the goal.
Despite the late pressure and the introduction of Matt Oakley
and John O’Flynn
back from injury, City slipped to a first away defeat of the calendar year.
Full-time: Burton Albion 4 Exeter City 2
Burton Albion: Tomlinson; O’Connor, Sharps, Holness, McCrory; MacDonald (Drury 66), Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Kee (Zola 72), Symes.
Subs (not used): Corbett, Lyness, Phillips, Paterson, Dyer.
Goals: Symes (11), Holness (27), Maghoma (34), Bell (60).
Exeter City: Evans; Amankwaah, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Molesley (Oakley 64), Bennett, Doherty, Davies (Bauza h-t); Keohane (O’Flynn 86); Cureton.
Subs (not used): Pym, Tully, Gosling, Moore-Taylor.
Goals: Bauza (70), Bennett (74).
Referee: J. Linington