Exeter City lost a pulsating clash 1-0 to Mansfield Town, as the wait for a win at St James Park continues.
But the scoreline does little to depict the true story of the game as City threw everything at their opponents and will feel aggrieved not to have taken anything from a game in which they greatly dominated in great swathes and hit the post three times.
After taking the lead on the stroke of half-time, through Lee Stevenson, Mansfield were subject to a second half onslaught of pressure as Exeter pressed and pressed to score. It was a fascinating encounter but ultimately disappointing for Paul Tisdale’s side who now have only picked up one point from their last six home games.
Tis made just the one change to the City starting XI that won 3-1 against Torquay United with 18-year-old Matt Grimes
coming in for the injured Matt Gill
. That change freed up a place on the bench for Jamie Reid
who continues his comeback from an early season groin injury.
The Grecians made a nervy start to the game with Mansfield having the best of the early action, and the first real chance for the visitors came with five minutes on the clock. Anthony Clements played a great ball into Ollie Palmer and he rounded Artur Krysiak
and looked set to score with the keeper stranded. But Scot Bennett
was on the line to poke the ball away to safety and deny the Stags a glorious opportunity to take the lead.
Minutes later, they were on the attack again as Stevenson dragged his shot just wide of Krysiak’s right-hand post. A third great effort, with Stevenson again involved, saw him tee up Matt Rhead who hit a sweetly struck volley but again it failed to hit the target.
After riding their luck in the opening period, City began to get more into the game. Sam Parkin
connected with Danny Butterfield
’s free-kick but his header was weak. The chances came thick and fast for Tis’s side, Jordan Moore-Taylor
’s diving header was just off-target and there was a strong shout for a penalty when Tom Nichols
was bundled over by James Jennings following a low free-kick, again from Butterfield, but referee Darren Bond waived away the pleas.
Exeter continued to clock up chances. A Mansfield clearance squirmed to Alan Gow
in the box but his half volley went just over the crossbar and David Wheeler
made a storming run down the right but as he darted into the area, his shot was blocked by the commanding Ryan Tafazolli in the Stags defence.
With half-time looming the teams looked set to go into the break honours even. However, City had struggled to deal with Lee Stevenson throughout the half as he caused problems in his role just behind the front pairing of Palmer and Rhead. And he was to have the final say. In a lovely worked move, Dempster played a long ball, which Rhead headed forward. Palmer then flicked it through for Stevenson, who was on hand to net from a tight angle. Much to the frustration of the Grecians who will have felt they had the best of the first-half play and enough chances to have the advantage themselves.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Mansfield Town 1
Mansfield continued with purpose into the opening minutes of second half as a goalwards header from Rhead was hooked away on the line by Grimes.
However, Exeter were ready to battle and bombared Marriott’s goal in a period of sustained pressure. Nichols came so close to drawing City level with a hat-trick of fantastic chances in quick succession. After some fantastic feet from Gow, he was pulled back by Westlake. Nichols curled in the resulting free-kick but his effort clipped the left-hand post and went agonisingly wide.
Minutes later, Grimes collected and sent a fizzing cross across the area that was was met at the far post by the20-year-old with the goal at his mercy, a combination of Marriott and the post intervened to keep City pegged back. Then, the offside trap foiled a move started by a lovely ball through from Bennett to Gow who again played in Nichols.
The crowd started to really come alive as Sercombe in space charged up field and shot left-footed. Cox opted for a triple substitution with 20 minutes left, taking off goalscorer Stevenson and Palmer and switching to a 4-5-1 formation to quell the constant City pressure. City continued to press, with the play entrenched in Stags half.
Wave after wave of pressure continued and Tafazolli was forced to head the ball out for a corner and there were cries for a handball as the ball bobbled around in the area without any City player able to make a real connection. Sercombe’s header towards goal then fell right into the path of Marriott, when just a slight touch from an Exeter player.
A break for a throw-in gave Mansfield a quick break and Clements launched a speculative effort well wide. Tis sensing that Mansfield would eventually have to crack, threw on Gosling, in place of Moore-Taylor. A quickly taken free-kick on the edge of the area was spun across the face of goal by Gow but the Stags got a touch to send it out for a corner.
By the time the 90 minute arrived, City were playing with just two defenders and the announcement of six minutes stoppage time roused the Grecians faithful. City continued to throw everything at the Stags goal and with seconds remaining there was to be one last agonising moment for Exeter as, somehow yet again Gow’s placed left-footed shot hit the post.
Players, manager, and supporters alike will wonder how an on earth they have managed to lose a game where they really did give their all.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Mansfield Town 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Bennett, Baldwin, Moore-Taylor (Gosling 86); Wheeler (Keohane 57), Grimes, Sercombe, Gow; Parkin (O’Flynn 69), Nichols
Subs not used: Pym, Woodman, Reid, Davies
Mansfield Town: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Tafazolli; Westlake (Murray 70), Clements, Howell, Jennings; Stevenson (Daniel 70); Palmer (Meikle 70), Rhead
Subs: Deakin; Briscoe, Dyer, Beevers,
Attendance: 3,303 (away 115)
Referee: D. Bond