Exeter City got back to winning ways on the road with a brilliant 2-0 win over promotion-hopefuls Port Vale.
A poacher’s goal early in the tie by Jamie Cureton
gave City an ideal start, and Danny Coles
pounced to extend the lead after the half-hour mark.
’s dismissal late on the game meant City had to hold out for the victory, but resolute defending meant the 135 travelling Grecians made the journey back to Devon satisfied.
Former Grecian Richard Duffy filled the right-back slot for Port Vale, lining up alongside former Plymouth Argyle centre-half Darren Purse. The division’s top scorer Tom Pope led a two-man attack alongside Calvin Andrew, with winter window signing Lee Hughes only amongst the subs on his return from illness.
After a seemingly nervous start, City began to get the better of the play and won their first corner after Arron Davies
’ saw his shot deflected wide, after cutting inside from the left flank.
It sparked a series of corner-kicks in City’s favour, which Matt Oakley
and Craig Woodman
delivered dangerously – one of Oakley’s teasers needing a vital header by Calvin Andrew to turn away.
And it wasn’t long before the Grecians’ patient play was converted into a lead, as Cureton netted his 19th of the season and took a step closer towards reeling in Pope for the Golden Boot award.
The goal came from some extremely composed play down the right channel. Mark Molesley
, after intercepting a poor John McCombe clearance, bided his time to link up with Davies and Oakley. After a few dummies and feints, Oakley was the man to deliver a curling ball into the centre and Cureton diverted in, via a heavy deflection.
The Valiants were hopeful that they would be awarded the chance to level the fixture from the penalty spot minutes later, when Ashley Vincent went down in the area under the attention of Kevin Amankwaah
. However the referee deemed the challenge to be shoulder-to-shoulder and ignored the screams of the home fans.
City appeared happy to allow Vale to have the ball for longer periods and aimed to hit the hosts on the break – and Exeter looked extremely dangerous every time they charged forward on the counter. It wasn’t long until Scot Bennett
– storming down the right – drew a free-kick which earned the Grecians a two-goal lead.
Oakley was the man to deliver the dead-ball from the right flank – and despite Chris Neal making an outstanding save from a Molesley flick, Coles followed in to double the Grecians’ lead.
The home fans were becoming increasingly restless as Exeter continued to hunt the ball down in packs and frustrate the Valiants. A coming-together between Molesley and Vale left-back Daniel Jones sparked a handbags incident, which resulted in both men having their names taken.
As the half petered away, Vale were hoping to at least claw one back and came closest through Jennison Myrie-Williams – however his fizzed cross towards the far stick evaded everyone. City defended a late rally to take their two-goal lead into the interval.
Half-time: Port Vale 0 Exeter City 2
Port Vale started the second half with a rejigged line-up, as Andrew and Vincent were withdrawn for Louis Dodds and Rob Taylor.
And they almost found themselves back in the fixture early in the half when a low ball in was controlled by Pope. He had taken the ball off a teammate’s toe to control but shot waywardly as he swivelled.
Cureton and Molesley looked to counter once again after another midfield interception. However the pair weren’t quite on the same wavelength and the pass drifted out and killed a promising attack.
Molesley had been at the hub of matters with some firm challenges and fine passing, and he showed his ability to dribble too as some fine footwork opened an opportunity for himself to shoot. His shot had plenty of venom but was straight down the throat of Neal.
Vale manager Micky Adams made his last throw of the dice on the hour-mark by withdrawing defender McCombe and replacing him with Hughes, and the striker mustered his first effort minutes later. Receiving a flick-on, Hughes shot on the turn but Krysiak was unmoved as the shot sailed harmlessly wide.
The game was becoming more open as the hosts looked to find an elusive goal, leaving more space for the Grecians to work on the break. Cureton almost capitalised on another opening when fed by Oakley, but his bending effort couldn’t quite find the far corner.
City were forced to play the closing stages a man light, when Molesley was dismissed. After a coming-together on the right-hand byline, the referee saw some infringement by the City man which earned him a second yellow and an early shower.
Despite being down to ten, City countered instantly through Cureton, who had escaped down the inside-left channel. The striker couldn’t quite find space to shoot, and his ball wide to Oakley didn’t quite give the midfielder the option to strike.
With the need for fresh legs up front to run the ball down, John O’Flynn
was introduced with Cureton being the man to make way. The Irishman soon settled into the game, offering an outlet up front and doing plenty of the dirty work in defence too.
Pope had had a frustrating evening in trying to lead the Valiants’ attack, and was denied a goal by the thickness of the post. A rasping effort from a tight angle smashed the woodwork, hit the back of Krysiak and just stayed in play – allowing the Polish stopper to collect at the second attempt.
Vale continued to pump the ball into the area in the closing stages, but the clatter of chairs being vacated filled the ground as attack after attack came to nothing as the Grecians clung on to a superb victory.
Full-time: Port Vale 0 Exeter City 2
Port Vale: Neal; Duffy, Purse, McCombe (Hughes 60), Jones; Myrie-Willliams, Burge, Loft, Vincent (Taylor h-t); Pope, Andrew (Dodds h-t).
Subs (not used): Yates, Shuker, Morsy, Birchall.
Exeter City: Krysiak; Amankwaah, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Molesley, Doherty, Bennett, Oakley, Davies; Cureton (O’Flynn 79).
Subs (not used): Evans, Tully, Bauza, Dawson, Gosling, Moore-Taylor.
Goals: Cureton (11), Coles (33).
Sent-off: Molesley (78).
Attendance: 4,480 (135 away).
Referee: G. Sutton