Exeter City secured their status as a Football League team in some style, beating the league leaders Scunthorpe United 2-0 at St James Park.
When the pressure was on, City turned in one of their most complete performances of the season to dominate the game in almost its entirety – and the Grecians also ended Scunthorpe’s remarkable 28-game unbeaten run.
In the end, everyone went home happy – Fleetwood could only manage a draw in their game against Southend, meaning that Scunthorpe confirmed promotion.
It was a stunning goal from Craig Woodman
on the stroke of half-time that got City rolling, and Jimmy Keohane
poked in a second just after the interval to seal the deal and secure a fine win against the table-topping side.
Keohane was making his first start for the Grecians since the beginning of March,
starting just behind his countryman John O’Flynn
. Captain Danny Coles
also returned to the starting XI after injury ruled him out of starting against Torquay on Easter Monday.
The Grecians started in a very positive manner and were the first to register a shot of note – Craig Woodman
cut in on his right foot and tested Iron stopper Sam Slocombe with a drive from 30 yards, but the ‘keeper held well in the slippy conditions.
Exeter were playing plenty of progressive, passing football in the opposition half, but a stubborn and organised defence weren’t giving an inch. At the other end, Jordan Moore-Taylor
had to block well from a David Syers half-volley.
City continued to look the more threatening, and the party mood of the travelling support was turning into anxiety and tension as the Grecians forced passes to go awry.
Exeter were looking every bit as capable as the league-leaders and kept up the pressure throughout the first half. Liam Sercombe
hit an effort from outside the area which Niall Canavan deflected into the grateful arms of Sam Slocombe, before Eliot Richards
hit a powerful effort which was straight at the Iron stopper.
The crowd in the Big Bank were seeing plenty of the ball as Exeter continued to attack that end, and Matt Oakley
and Sercombe both went close as Slocombe looked the busier goalkeeper.
The Scunthorpe goalkeeper was almost picked the ball out of his net when Woodman cut back for Richards – Eddie Nolan’s block took the ball a matter of inches over the crossbar.
But it was Woodman that opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time with an absolute ripper. After Richards won a free-kick 25 yards out, Danny Butterfield
deceived everyone with a short free-kick to tee up his fellow full-back, who lashed in a 25-yard screamer to give Exeter the lead at the interval.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Scunthorpe United 0
Exeter came steaming out the blocks in the second half in much the same way they finished the first half – with loads of attacking intent. And that positive mindset quickly earned Exeter a second goal.
It was Oakley that collected and laid in Keohane outside the area – the ball initially bounced off the Irishman’s shins, meaning he had no option but to prod a shot goalwards with his next touch. Slocombe allowed the ball to slip through his fingers as it crept into the net for Exeter’s second.
The Grecians continued to use the initiative well and were denied a penalty shout when O’Flynn collected a speculative ball forward and shot – it appeared to strike the arm of David Mirfin but the appeals fell on deaf ears.
Richards was the latest to have Slocombe scrambling as he received inside from Butterfield and cracked a left-footed shot – it whistled just wide of the target.
Soon after Richards had another good chance as he nutmegged his marker on the turn in the left channel, but shot over as he tried to curl in with his right foot.
A rare attack from Scunthorpe saw sub Hakeeb Adelakun deliver a far-post cross which Mirfin headed wide, unchallenged.
came on to replace O’Flynn, who had led the line tirelessly, and soon set up Sercombe with a clever little backheel – Sercombe lashed it just wide of target from 20 yards.
came on for Richards in the closing stages and pinged a shot towards the near post which Slocombe got down to well.
And City played out the final few minutes competently to seal the victory at the hands of the Iron.
Full-time: Exeter City 2 Scunthorpe United 0
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield, Coles, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley, Bennett, Richards (Grimes 85); Keohane; O’Flynn (Nichols 72).
Unused subs: Krysiak, Baldwin, Parkin, Wheeler, Gill.
Goals: Woodman (45), Keohane (48).
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe; Nolan, Mirfin, Canavan, Williams; Sparrow, Syers, Collins (Adelakun 52), Hawkridge (Hayes 69); Madden, Winnall (Burton 52).
Unused subs: Severn, Ribeiro, Waterfall, Godden.
Attendance: 4,187 (664 away)
Referee: T. Kettle