Exeter City ran out winners in emphatic 3-0 victory over fellow promotion rivals Northampton Town, leapfrogging the Cobblers in the league table in the process.
The Grecians gave the visitors a taste of their own medicine with the opener coming from a corner, which goalkeeper Lee Nicholls could only poke into his own net.
was once again provider from a dead-ball for City’s second after the break, as he delivered a fine cross for Jamie Cureton
to head in his 20th of the campaign. And a first goal in red and white for Jake Gosling
after a jinking solo run put the sheen on a brilliant victory.
There was just a single switch for the Grecians after the midweek win at Port Vale. Mark Molesley
had to sit out the first game of his suspension, meaning a place in the starting XI for Gosling. Jimmy Keohane
returned from injury to take a place on the bench.
Former City loanee Chris Hackett had to settle with a place on the bench for the Cobblers on his return to St James Park.
The game got off to a fairly flat start – with City’s results at home not being a lot better than Northampton’s results on the road, both teams looked rather tentative.
However the Grecians began to settle into the tie by sitting deep and countered well, and won a couple of corners on the right-hand side – the first of which was caught by Nicholls, and the second of which was taken off the head of Amankwaah at the far stick.
And despite the Cobblers having a reputation as being a hurly-burly, no-nonsense kind of team, they conceded an exceptionally soft goal to City’s advantage. Woodman delivered a teasing ball under the crossbar and Nicholls, under pressure by Cureton, could only bundle over his own line.
Exeter continued to press and a lung-busting run down the right flank by Kevin Amankwaah
drew a heavy foul by Joe Widdowson – however the referee didn’t deem it worthy of a booking.
Amankwaah was involved again shortly after to deny Northampton their equaliser. Centre-back Kelvin Langmead, finding himself clear on the right byline, delivered a low ball in. Scot Bennett
inadvertently diverted the ball goalwards meaning Artur Krysiak
had to save, and Amankwaah hacked away with the Cobblers’ attack lurking.
Roy O’Donovan was the next to chance his arm for the visitors, having been released at the end of a fine passing move inside the box. The angle didn’t favour the Northampton man though, allowing Krysiak to claim comfortably.
almost got his maiden goal for the Grecians when he arrived late at the back stick. Cureton chipped a fine ball over the centre-halves and Doherty headed goalwards, but it was straight at the goalkeeper.
Cureton had the last clear chance before the interval after a superb through-ball by Jake Gosling
. The striker’s first touch was a tad heavy, meaning the stopper got his angles right to keep out his first-effort. Cureton played the ball back into the area and it appeared to strike a hand, but the claim fell on deaf ears.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Northampton Town 0
Gosling and Arron Davies
switched wings at the start of the second period and Davies – now on the right – was almost gifted a goal moments after the restart. Nicholls continued his nervous form and played a pass out from the goal into the City man’s pass, but the shot rolled inches wide of the untended net.
The Cobblers looked completely bereft of ideas at times with City cutting off all their usual direct routes to goal, with Pat Baldwin
and Danny Coles
in particular putting their head in where it hurts to prevent any cheap second-balls.
And it was bright play down the left flank that brought City a two-goal cushion, as Gosling won a free-kick deep into opposition territory. Just like the Port Vale fixture in midweek, Matt Oakley
was the man to provide the quality from the dead ball, as Cureton glanced in a near-post header which left Nicholls stranded.
It could have been three to City minutes later when Cureton – who was constantly on the shoulder of the centre-halves – finally broke clear on goal. It needed an absolute last-ditch tackle by Langmead to prevent the goal.
The visitors made a couple of changes to try and freshen things up in attack, with Clive Platt and Jake Robinson introduced in place of the departing Lewis Hornby and Widdowson.
Down at the other end, Davies made the kind of contribution which in itself was worth a goal, by making a vital goal-line clearance. A dangerous corner was met by Adebayo Akinfenwa – who until then had been silent – and the Welshman headed away off the line.
And it needed another crucial block on the line by Craig Woodman
to deny Clark Carlisle from equalising with a towering bullet header from a corner.
Straight down the other, City tied up the match through a maiden Grecians goal by youngster Gosling. Refusing to be bullied off the ball, the youngster stayed on his feet and worked an angle before rasping a left-footed strike which went through the body of Nicholls and had the Big Bank in raptures.
Akinfenwa hoped to restore some pride for the Cobblers with a late strike on the turn, but it ballooned well over the crossbar.
City introduced John O’Flynn
late on for his return to the Park in place of Cureton. Northampton had the final meaningful effort through Ben Harding, who powered a strike at goal – but Krysiak was every bit a match and kept out to maintain the clean-sheet in a 3-0 win.
Full-time: Exeter City 3 Northampton Town 0
Exeter City: Krysiak; Amankwaah, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Davies, Doherty, Bennett, Oakley (Keohane 90), Gosling; Cureton (O’Flynn 83).
Subs (not used): Evans, Tully, Bauza, Dawson, Moore-Taylor.
Goals: Nicholls (o.g. 22), Cureton (59), Gosling (82).
Northampton Town: Nicholls; Tozer, Langmead, Carlisle, Collins; O’Donovan, Harding, Hornby (Robinson 67), Widdowson (Platt 67); Guttridge; Akinfenwa.
Subs (not used): Snedker, Johnson, Demontagnac, Hackett, Dias.
Attendance: 4,666 (414 away).
Referee: T. Robinson