Exeter City slipped to a 1-0 defeat at home to the hands of Cheltenham, ending the Grecians’ promotion bid for the 2012/13 campaign.
It was an early goal that ultimately undid City, as Russell Penn’s low effort on his left foot took a wild bobble beyond the reach of Artur Krysiak
and found the corner.
City pushed on, but Bradford defeated Burton leaving the Grecians four points adrift of the Bantams in seventh with just a single game remaining.
Following 15 minutes against Wimbledon, Alan Gow
made his first start on his return from injury and Jamie Reid
made a second start after his brace at Kingsmeadow.
It was a high-tempo start to the game with both sides showing plenty of ambition in attack – and it was the Robins that went ahead when the game was only a few minutes old. Penn collected the ball inside the area wide on the left and hit a shot on the swivel – and it was a huge bobble off the turf which completely deceived Artur Krysiak
and found the net.
Exeter reacted well to going a goal behind and quickly carved out a couple of opportunities. Jamie Cureton
had a chance when a free-kick from deep by Craig Woodman
wasn’t well dealt with and then D’Ath hit a shot wish he fashioned himself from 25 yards – but on both occasions the ball drifted just wide.
Reid was next to have a golden chance to hit the target, but his effort crept just wide of the near post. A ball upfield from Tommy Doherty
was picked out the air mid-stride by Cureton, who was just forced out wide – and Reid was the best option to tee up, but his effort was wayward.
The crowd were right behind the Grecians as they were creating chances thick and fast – the latest of which came when Cureton controlled a ball into him with a sublime flick, but the ball sat up too high and his lofted shot cleared the frame of the goal.
City looked to be controlling the tempo and chances, but were nearly caught out twice in quite succession. Kaid Mohamed and Byron Harrison both had chances to find the net – the former shot down the throat of Krysiak, and the latter dragging an effort tamely wide of the near post.
The game was being played at a lively tempo with tackles flying in – though the first yellow card of the match came a little before half-time when Sido Jombati had his name taken for time-wasting.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Cheltenham Town 1
The second period began at an equally high tempo and City soon had the ball in the net through Cureton – however the assistant referee had long since flagged for an offside against the City striker after a ball through by Gow.
Billy Jones had an opportunity to find the net on his return to St James Park when he had a free-kick 20 yards out, when Marlon Pack was felled by Tommy Doherty
. It was an ideal position for a left-footer to strike at goal – but it cleared the frame of the goal.
Midway through the second period the Robins almost found the net when Michael Hector powered a header at goal from an inswinging corner, but Krysiak judged the flight of the bouncing ball well to save low.
Paul Tisdale made a few changes by bringing on Scot Bennett
, Jimmy Keohane
and Guillem Bauza
to try to find a different tack to earn an all-important goal for the Grecians with the clock ticking away.
And Danny Coles
had to be alert to make a vital tackle to keep City in the game when a ball over the top was met by Harrison at full pelt – and the City captain took all the sting out of the effort for Krysiak to collect.
Bennett was offering the aerial threat from diagonal balls by Moore-Taylor and a delightful header down into the path of fellow sub – the onrushing Keohane – sat up ideally to be shot. However the midfielder got under his strike and it ballooned into the Big Bank.
City continued to press and it needed an outstanding save by Scott Brown to deny Keohane – again latching on Bennett knock-down – and the goalkeeper at full stretch turned over.
Bauza was the next to be denied – a big ball sat up for him to shoot but it smashed off a fellow City player en route to finding a place in the stands.
But the clock ticked away on the match and City’s season as it ended 1-0 to the visitors.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Cheltenham Town 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Tully (Keohane 73), Moore-Taylor, Coles, Woodman; Davies, Doherty, D’Ath; Gow (Bauza 77); Cureton, Reid (Bennett 67).
Subs (not used): Evans, Dawson, Chamberlain, Gosling.
Cheltenham Town: Brown; Jombati, Elliott, Hector, Jones; McGlashan, Taylor (Deering 62), Penn, Pack, Mohamed; Harrison (Duffy 82).
Subs: (not used): Roberts, Lowe, Carter, Duffy, Harrad, Deaman.
Goal: Penn (5).
Attendance: 5,247 (841 away).
Referee: D. Whitestone