Exeter City opened the calendar year with a disappointing defeat at home to Accrington Stanley, who came from behind to win 2-1.
’ ninth goal of the season had Exeter in the ascendency at the interval, but Seamus McCartan had the visitors level midway through the second period.
Just minutes after Tom Aldred denied Nichols a winner with a goal-line block, the Stanley centre-half slotted in a rebound at the other end to secure the points in stoppage-time.
As in City’s previous home game against Cheltenham, Paul Tisdale named a three-man attack of Tom Nichols
, Alex Nicholls and Clinton Morrison. Arron Davies
came in to start in midfield, with Scot Bennett
taking a seat amongst the subs.
It took until the tenth minute of the game for the first real chance to come – after a tentative start to the fixture, City goalkeeper James Hamon
was forced into action as Seamus McCartan played a round-the-corner ball for Lee Molyneux to strike – the Guernseyman turned behind for a corner.
McCartan again made life difficult for Exeter as he burst down the right, held of Matt Oakley
and pulled back from the byline – Christian Ribeiro
got an important touch inside the box to deny Stanley.
Davies had City’s first effort but it was blocked out from the edge of the area from Stanley man Rob Atkinson. Craig Woodman
tried to deliver as he collected on the left but overhit his cross.
Stanley right-back Nicky Hunt was next to have a dig and struck sweetly with his laces, but was well off-target in his effort.
A glorious chance came and went for Exeter as a ball in from the right wasn’t cleared properly – Ryan Harley
’s left-footed effort missed the target, to the frustration of those gathered in the Big Bank.
Soon after Sercombe was released with a smart ball from Nichols but his cross-shot flashed across the face but no-one was there to turn in under the bar. Soon after Tom Aldred almost shanked a clearance into his own net but was relieved to see it go behind for a corner.
Molyneux again had a chance one-on-one but Hamon saved low and smothered the ball well. Harley had a great opportunity at the other end with a one-on-one of his own as he was dinked through – he tried to round goalkeeper Luke Simpson but ended up in a dead end, and the chance trickled out.
But moments later he made amends by laying on a fine delivery for Nichols to open the scoring. A great clip into the box from the left with the outside of his right boot allowed the striker to nod in his ninth of the season.
Accrington continued to look lively on the counter and Piero Mingoia’s flashed effort from the right didn’t get a touch from anyone on its way out on the far side, to City’s relief.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Accrington Stanley 0
City welcomed back Matt Grimes
at the interval, who conducted the half-time 50/50 Draw and got a great ovation from the home crowd before being wished well for his departure to Swansea City.
Aldred had a chance straight after half-time when Stanley were putting Exeter under early pressure from a corner, and Hamon was equal to it to gather low down.
But in general, chances were few and far between after the interval – City’s best opportunity came as Liam Sercombe
was released in the channel by Nichols, but the midfielder overhit his cross for Morrison, who was arriving in the centre.
It was the last involvement for Morrison, who was replaced by David Wheeler
on the hour. Scot Bennett
also came on for Harley to tighten up the defence.
City were looking good value to ride the storm, but Accrington eventually made their breakthrough. Molyneux sent a low cross in from deep on the left, and McCartan was the man arriving to stoop low and head in for the equaliser.
Stanley were applying pressure and looking for a winner, and trying to keep City penned in with high pressing. Jimmy Keohane
replaced Nicholls in City’s final change.
The Grecians looked to end the game strongly and began to exert pressure on the visitors’ goal – Sercombe and Nichols both drew blocking challenges from the Stanley defence.
And Nichols was denied a second goal on the line by Aldred – the full-back was placed perfectly to turn the striker’s shot from 12 yards round the post, after Ribeiro had cut back from the byline.
But it was late heartbreak for Exeter as Stanley found a winner in stoppage-time. Sub Kal Naismith drew a save from Nichols with a powerful drive across goal, but the ball fell into the path of Aldred who smashed in with a strong side-footed effort.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Accrington Stanley 2Exeter City:
Hamon; Ribeiro, Butterfield, Oakley, Woodman; Davies, Sercombe, Harley (Bennett 60); Nicholls (Keohane 74), Nichols, Morrison (Wheeler 60).
Unused subs: Pym, Tillson, Moore-Taylor, Cummins.
Goal: Nichols (35).
Simpson; Hunt, Atkinson, Aldred, Liddle; Joyce, Procter; Mingoia, Molyneux (Naismith 87); McCartan (Crooks 89); Maguire.
Unused subs: Dawber, Windass, Gray, Carver, Barry.
Goals: McCartan (66), Aldred (90).
Attendance: 3,626 (81 away).
Referee: Trevor Kettle