Jones, Henry, Franks, Wilkinson, Ogilvie, Cox, Conlon (Marriott 80’), Tonge, Pett, Harrison (O'Connor 64’), Hedges (Kennedy 71’).
Day, Wells, Johnson, Gorman.
Olejnik, Butterfield (Brown 66’), Woodman, Noble (Holmes 58’), Ribeiro, Harley, Oakley, Nicholls, Moore-Taylor (capt), Reid (Stockley 70’) , Wheeler.
McAllister, Oyeleke, Pym, Taylor.
Stockley 84', 90+6'
SUBSTITUTE JAYDEN STOCKLEY netted twice late-on as Exeter City returned to winning ways at the Lamex Stadium.
After being under the cosh for large chunks of the game, the Grecians defended resolutely to remain on level terms going into the final ten minutes. It was Stockley who then had the final say, breaking the deadlock in the eighty-fourth minute before scoring his and City’s second goal of the afternoon with seconds remaining.
There were six changes to the Exeter City side that slipped to defeat in Paul Tisdale’s five-hundredth game in charge against Oxford United last Tuesday. David Noble
made his return to the starting eleven after a recent injury lay-off, and Jamie Reid
was selected to partner David Wheeler
at the spearhead of the Grecians’ attack to form a pacey-looking front two. Danny Butterfield
, Craig Woodman
, Christian Ribeiro
, and Matt Oakley
were the third, fourth, fifth and sixth changes to the side as City looked to return to winning ways at the Lamex Stadium. For the hosts, nineteen-year-old Ben Kennedy was a surprise inclusion on the bench having been sidelined with injury since Boro’s home draw with Leyton Orient almost two months ago.
City’s 3-3 draw with Stevenage at St James Park last October was one of the most memorable ties of the season so far, but this encounter begun in a less open fashion as both sides deployed a more considered approach. A neat one-two between David Noble
and Christian Ribeiro
almost worked the first opening of the game in the fifth minute, but the City full-back couldn’t find a teammate with his low cross from the right-hand side.
Olejnik was tested for the first time in the thirteenth minute, but was never really troubled by Tom Conlon’s driven effort from the edge of the area. The Grecians immediately broke up the other end for their first effort on goal, although David Wheeler
’s strike never had the pace to trouble Boro keeper Jamie Jones.
The hosts should have taken the lead in the twentieth minute. After the ball rebounded to Tom Pett in the City area the diminutive midfielder pulled the trigger from close range, but Ribeiro threw himself in front of the ball to prevent the shot from hitting the target. Stevenage were growing in confidence by the mid-way point of the first-half, and worked another opportunity in the twenty-sixth minute. This time Ryan Hedges took a touch on the edge of the area before firing a shot over the crossbar and into the loyal contingent of City fans in the Austin Stand behind the goal.
Despite the Boro’s sustained spell of pressure, the City defence were holding firm. On the half-hour mark Ryan Hedges flicked the ball towards the on-rushing Byron Harrison, but Olejnik anticipated the move well and dived down low to collect the ball and break up the attack. City’s counter-attacking move six minutes later was ended as Ryan Harley
blazed over from twenty-yards out.
Olejnik was called into action again with two minutes of the first-half remaining, tipping Luke Wilkinson’s effort around the post after the former Luton Town defender was allowed to carry the ball forward towards the edge of the City area. Wilkinson’s effort was the last attempt of the half, as the referee blew his whistle soon after to signal the beginning of the half-time interval.
HALF-TIME: STEVENAGE 0-0 EXETER CITY
The second-half began with controversy as after Tom Conlon went over in the City area, the referee immediately pointed to the spot. The City defenders in close proximity to the incident were furious that the penalty had been given, and after a long period of deliberation between referee and assistant, the decision was overturned and Conlon was booked for simulation.
The Grecians looked lively after this early reprieve, with Reid and Wheeler both seeing more of the ball in the final third. Reid worked the space for a shot on goal five minutes after the break, but couldn’t find the target from an acute angle.
Stevenage came close to breaking the deadlock in the sixty-fifth minute, as a cross-come-shot across the face of goal managed to allude the whole queu of Boro attackers on the edge of the six-yard box. Substitute Aaron O’Connor almost made an instant impact after his sixty-fourth minute introduction, but a back-peddling Olejnik did magnificently well to tip his effort over the crossbar.
City boss Paul Tisdale decided to introduce Jayden Stockley with twenty minutes of the game remaining, and the loanee striker’s ariel prowess was instrumental in working the Grecians an opening in the seventy-ninth minute. After Stockley nodded down for Wheeler, the City forward laid a well-weighted ball into the path of Lee Holmes
, but the winger skewed his effort wide of the left post.
Stockley continued to look a threat though, and his efforts were rewarded with six minutes remaining. Alex Nicholls
showed a great turn of pace to make it to the byline, before lifting an inch-perfect ball onto the head of the Stockley who headed down and into the net.
Wheeler almost doubled City’s lead three minutes into stoppage time, but Jones got down quickly to save at his near-post and deny the forward a first goal of 2016. There was still time for the Grecians to double their lead at the death, though. In one of their several late breaks forward the ball once again fell to Stockley, who remained composed to slot beyond Jones and send the City fans behind the goal into delirium. After six minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew his whistle to bring to an end a successful afternoon for the Grecians – an afternoon in which Paul Tisdale’s substitutions proved a decisive factor.
FULL-TIME: STEVENAGE 0-2 EXETER CITY Attendance:
Man of the Match: Bobby Olejnik