Exeter City got back to winning ways at the Crown Ground with an entertaining 3-2 win against Accrington Stanley.
City had to survive a fightback from their hosts, who showed resilience after going three goals behind. But Exeter also showed their mettle to ensure all three points would travel back to the south.
, on his first start of the season, had the Grecians 2-0 up within 11 minutes before Alan Gow
added another during the first half.
Goals either side of the interval by Peter Murphy and Kai Naismith for Accrington had City on the back-foot, and Gow’s missed penalty after a foul on Nichols in the area made things look precarious.
But City showed defensive solidity and quality to see out a much-needed win.
Paul Tisdale selected five homegrown players in the starting XI to face Stanley, with Nichols making his first start of the season and Jordan Moore-Taylor
and Scot Bennett
as the centre-half partnership.
was only deemed fit enough for the bench and in the absence of the injured Danny Coles
, Bennett was handed the captain’s armband.
And with an intensity about their play, it took the Grecians no time at all to race into a lead through a two-goal salvo from Nichols.
Nichols’ first came as he was released to break the offside trap by a swinging forward ball and, seeing Marcus Bettinelli advancing off his line, calmly lifted a left-footed lob over the stopper.
His second, minutes later, was slightly more intricate as Alan Gow
flicked a cute pass into the striker’s path and there was only going to be one outcome with Nichols bearing down on goal. He was typically decisive with his finish.
could have made it three when he nicked the ball on the right flank and opted to shoot when he had Gow and Nichols as options in the centre. Tom Aldred recovered to block well.
And at the other end, the hosts wasted a glorious chance to cut the deficit as Danny Webber nicked the ball away from Moore-Taylor – the former Sheffield United man should have buried his chance but Artur Krysiak
read the shot and held low.
Moments later the Grecians had opened up a three-goal margin – Nichols’ persistence won a throw-in deep in Stanley territory, and the strike came as Gow slipped clear of his marker and wrapped a strong left boot around it to beat Bettinelli, who got hands to the ball but couldn’t keep it out.
Stanley were threatening sporadically, and finally found there goal as Kai Naismith worked some space for a left-footed cross from the right flank – Murphy glanced a fine header into the corner to cut the shortfall to two.
Teenager Matt Grimes
missed the target and missed a chance to re-establish the cushion with a right-footed strike after neat interplay down the left by Nichols, Gow and Arron Davies
Half-time: Accrington Stanley 1 Exeter City 3
The Grecians were pegged back to a single goal lead within five minutes of the restart, in a similar fashion to the first Accrington goal. It was Lee Naylor’s left-wing cross this time that allowed Naismith to ghost in with a deft header to make it 3-2.
Nichols won the chance to put a two-goal buffer back between the teams as he drew a mistimed tackle from Naylor in the area and the referee awarded a penalty. Gow had the chance to score from 12 yards, but Bettinelli palmed the spot-kick around the post.
twice intervened with crucial headers to get in the way of balls crossed in towards Piero Mingoia, arriving at the back post.
And when Krysiak was called upon, he made an incredible double-save to keep the lead intact. Webber slipped in James Gray whose thundered effort was batted away, and the stopper made an incredible save on the follow-up to get a hand to Mingoia’s effort, before Moore-Taylor turned away into the stands.
Shay McCartan, just off the bench as a substitute, missed a great chance to level with his first contribution. Released down the left-hand channel, the striker hit a shot across goal that flashed a yard wide of Krysiak’s far post.
City had to defend stoutly through the four added minutes, and saw off the late surge from their hosts to take three points back to Devon.
Full-time: Accrington Stanley 2 Exeter City 3
Accrington Stanley: Bettinelli; Hunt, Aldred, Winnard, Naylor; Naismith, Murphy, Joyce, Mingoia; Webber (McCartan 85), Gray (Bowerman 78).
Subs: Liddle, Richardson, Hatfield, Wilson, Windass.
Goals: Murphy (38), Naismith (50).
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Davies, Sercombe, Gill, Grimes (Wheeler 53), Gow (Keohane 58); Nichols (Parkin 83).
Subs: Pym, Baldwin, O’Flynn, Keohane, Gosling.
Goals: Nichols (6, 11), Gow (24).
Attendance: 1,219 (120 away).
Referee: E. Ilderton