Exeter City were 3-2 winners against Southend United at Roots Hall, as Eliot Richards’ first goal in City colours –in the 87th minute – capped a thoroughly entertaining affair in the Grecians’ favour.
City had gone ahead first through Jimmy Keohane
, but the lead was short-lived as Mark Phillips headed the Shrimpers level two minutes later. The centre-half was on hand again to give Southend the advantage in the first period.
But an absolute rocket of a shot by Liam Sercombe
earned an equaliser for the Grecians, before a smart piece of forward play by Richards in his second City appearance gave Exeter the win.
The big team news for the Grecians was a first ever Football League appearance for goalkeeper Christy Pym
, as he stood in for regular stopper Artur Krysiak
, who was only deemed fit enough for a seat on the bench.
Equally big news for the Grecians was the inclusion of Matt Oakley
in the starting XI, making his first appearance since the Devon Derby against Plymouth Argyle back in October. Meanwhile former Grecians Barry Corr and Lee Barnard comprised the front two for the Shrimpers.
After a pretty sticky opening few minutes, it was Exeter that were gifted the first chance and it was gladly gobbled up by Keohane. Darren Bentley’s loose clearance only found the head of Arron Davies
, who touched into the path of the Irishman. Keohane was cool in the one-on-one and slotted past the stopper.
However the lead was short-lived, as a free-kick to the Shrimpers got the hosts back on terms. It was a Ben Coker delivery from deep, inswinging with his left foot, that allowed Phillips to ghost in to head past Pym.
Keohane had a good chance to re-establish the lead almost immediately when O’Flynn floated a delightful ball to the back post for Keohane, but the Southend stopper pulled off an acrobatic save with his legs to keep the scores level.
Instead, the lead for City became a deficit, when it was Phillips again that put Southend in front for the first time. This time it was a delivery from the corner flag by Kevan Hurst that allowed the centre-half to head in.
The lead could have been extended when Southend won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, but Coker’s dead-ball whipped just past the post.
On the cusp of half-time, the Grecians squandered a great chance to get back on terms. Shortly after Will Atkinson and Barnard had clattered into each other at one end, City soon had the ball up the other end on the counter and Davies slipped Keohane through on goal. His initial effort was saved well by Bentley, before Coker denied O’Flynn on the follow-up. Danny Coles
headed over from the resultant corner by Matt Grimes
Half-time: Southend United 2 Exeter City 1
The Grecians looked lively from the start of the second period and it wasn’t long before Liam Sercombe
cut inside the box and hit a left-footed effort, which skimmed just wide of the far post via a heavy deflection off a team-mate.
Ex-City man Corr wasted a gift when Pym’s short pass was intercepted by the striker – he had time to set himself but still bent the effort wide.
Exeter continued to try to work the ball and some nice interplay allowed Sercombe – who battled to retain the ball – some space to shoot. His lofted effort almost caught out Bentley, who recovered well to touch over the bar.
and David Wheeler
was introduced midway through the second period for Keohane and Oakley – the latter being something of a forced change when the returning midfielder’s head was cut open.
Soon after Richards escaped through the inside-left channel and hit a powerful shot with his left, which Bentley had to shovel away from goal.
The leveller finally came in spectacular fashion through a short corner routine from the left – Grimes laid a ball into the path of Sercombe, who unleashed an absolute belter across goal into the top corner.
And five minutes later, it was Richards that grabbed City’s third to put the Grecians back ahead once again. It was smart play on the left – nutmegging Ryan Leonard in the build-up – that got him into the box, and he worked an angle to fire inside the near post.
He almost turned provider for sub David Wheeler
as he slipped a ball inside, but Bentley foiled the winger’s left-footed strike.
It mattered little though as City held firm for the four minutes of stoppage time to claim a superb win on the road.
Full-time: Southend United 2 Exeter City 3
Southend United: Bentley; White, Phillips, Thompson, Coker; Hurst, Timlin (Williams 85), Leonard, Atkinson; Barnard (Gomis 69), Corr (Eastwood 77).
Subs: Smith, Laird, Straker, Payne.
Goals: Phillips (12, 22).
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield, Bennett, Coles, Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley (Wheeler 73), Grimes, Davies; Keohane (Richards 71); O’Flynn (Nichols 84).
Subs: Krysiak, Moore-Taylor, Dawson, Parkin.
Goals: Keohane (10), Sercombe (82), Richards (87).
Attendance: 5,899 (184 away).
Referee: G. Ward