Exeter City ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at home against Carlisle United.
After a goalless first period, Exeter came to life in the second and wrapped up the result through goals by Scot Bennett
midway through the half and Matt Grimes
with a couple of minutes to spare.
The result – and a first home clean-sheet of the season – put the Grecians into seventh at the end of the afternoon, seeing Exeter occupy a play-off place for the first time in over a year.
and Bennett came back into the starting XI for the Grecians’ meeting with Carlisle United at St James Park and Tom Nichols
and Graham Cummins
, in consequence, took a seat on the bench.
also missed out injured, with Arron Davies
covering in midfield, while former Exeter City centre-half Troy Archibald-Henville started in defence for the Cumbrians.
After a measured start from both sides with little to trouble either goalkeeper, left-back Craig Woodman
found space to burst into – he strafed a ball towards Alex Nicholls but saw the delivery headed away, and when he received again he almost picked out the head of Wheeler until Danny Grainger headed behind.
Grainger was also trying to prove his usefulness in attack with his ability from the long throw, but the City defence were dealing with the aerial threat.
Wheeler came close to providing a delicate lay-off for Bennett – who was leading the line – as he knocked down from a Woodman ball, but it just evaded the front-man. Soon after Nicholls picked up in space and put in a ball which was just cut out before it reached Wheeler.
Carlisle were threatening chiefly through direct play and set-pieces, and former Grecian Archibald-Henville wasn’t far away when he rose highest to get his head to a corner.
At the other end, Wheeler got a yard ahead of Archibald-Henville to meet a cross from the left by captain Matt Oakley
, and was unfortunate to see his header directed straight into the arms of Dan Hanford.
Hamon was forced into his first read save when a ball from the right by David Amoo found the run of Derek Asamoah on the penalty spot – he lashed an effort which was kept out by the body of the Guernseyman.
came within inches of making it goals in consecutive games when he rose highest to meet a right-flank corner from Matt Grimes
, but it was a last-ditch saving header off the line by Grainger that kept the game goalless for the moment.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Carlisle United 0
The Grecians could have taken the lead in somewhat fortuitous fashion at the start of the second period – lots of neat build-up play from the hosts ended when the ball broke loose in the Carlisle box, and a clearance ricocheted off Nicholls and forced Hanford to save.
Nicholls then crossed to the back stick for Wheeler who managed to keep the ball alive – he teed up Woodman but the full-back could only drill his half-volley into the side netting.
And as Exeter kept coming and coming, finally they broke the through the Carlisle resistance as Bennett notched his name on the scoresheet. Grimes and Woodman linked up with Bennett down the left and no-one tracked Bennett’s run into the box – he was fed by Woodman and finished in accomplished fashion.
Asamoah had a decent opportunity to level just afterwards as a long throw from Grainger found his forehead, but he glanced it just wide of Hamon’s far post.
Wheeler squandered a golden opportunity to wrap up the game with a second and it was all his own making. He won a flick-on at the half-way mark and chased it himself – he burnt past Archibald-Henville but pulled his shot just past the far post with only stopper Hanford to beat.
Grimes and Davies linked up for a short corner and the former made and angle to shoot, but just pulled his effort past the near post as Carlisle kept themselves within a goal.
was given his home return with 15 minutes left to play, replacing Davies in the Grecians’ midfield.
Grimes burst forward to strike from 25 yards after receiving a deft lay-off from Wheeler, but his goal-bound strike was deflected wide of the target.
Exeter were looking firmly in the driving seat but with just one goal in it, it needed a hugely important touch from Ribeiro at the far post to put a right-wing cross behind with Carlisle players arriving.
Harley almost marked his return with a goal as persistent pressure in the box allowed Ribeiro to cut back for the midfielder but he found the hands of Hanford.
But the second goal finally came through Grimes – Wheeler raced through the ranks and unselfishly found the 19-year-old, who worked and angle and slotted across goal and in.
It could have been three when Bennett was laid in by Nicholls, only to see the offside flag raised – but it mattered little as the Grecians took all three points.
Full-time: Exeter City 2 Carlisle United 0Exeter City:
Hamon; Ribeiro, Butterfield, Oakley, Woodman; Davies (Harley 77), Grimes, Noble; Nicholls, Wheeler (Cummins 90), Bennett.
Unused subs: Pym, Keohane, Nichols, Tillson, Morrison.
Goals: Bennett (58), Grimes (88).
Hanford; Brown (Paynter 81), Archibald-Henville, Anderson, Grainger; Thirwell (Potts 67); Sweeney, Dempsey; Amoo, Beck (Robson 61), Asamoah.
Unused subs: Eccles, Meppen-Walter, Brough, Symington.
Attendance: 3,402 (162 away).
Referee: Oliver Langford