Exeter City fell to a 3-0 defeat away to Fleetwood Town.
All three goals came in the first half, with City, brighter but unable to find a response in the second.
Gary Caldwell named one alteration to the starting eleven. Admiral Muskwe returned to the lineup ahead of Yanick Wildschut, as Ilmari Niskanen made his long-awaited return to the squad.
It took just five minutes for Fleetwood to open the scoring. Ryan Broom exploited a gaping hole in the City defence and slotted the ball past Vil Sinisalo.
The Grecians keeper was called back into action, just seconds later. The Finnish number one made an expert double save denying first Promise Omochere, and then Jack Marriott.
The home side dominated the opening ten minutes as Josh Earl rose highest from a free kick, heading wide.
City steadied the ship and created a half-chance of their own. Vincent Harper was sent down the right channel and pulled the ball back to Pierce Sweeney. Sweens’ pop-shot led to an eventually cleared corner.
James Scott had a slight shout for a penalty mid-way through the first half. The City man nipped in front of a Fleetwood defender before going to ground. “Nothing doing” said referee Thomas Kirk.
Zak Jules was finding pockets behind the Cod Army’s defence, nodding high balls back across the face of goal. Unfortunately, for all Jules’ toil, there were scarce grey-shirted options in the centre.
Despite City’s forward efforts, the defensive frailties that have bugged City lately returned on 32 minutes. A simple corner. A simple header. And Brendan Wiredu the happy recipient of Fleetwood’s second.
James Scott drove high and wide as the Grecians sought any foothold into the game.
The home side soon found had a third just before the break. Phoenix Patterson cleverly beating Sinisalo at his near post with a free kick.
Vil, probably City’s player of the half considering, made a great stop to deny Broom from picking up his second with the last kick of the 45.
Caldwell raided the bench at half time with Cheick Diabate, Yanick Wildschut and Ilmari Niskanen thrust into the fray.
It was Wildschut who powered through for City’s first chance of the second period, driving past two Town defenders and forcing a double save out of keeper Jay Lynch.
The adjustments at the break began to spark City into life. Yannick again productive down the left, pulling the ball across the face for Niskanen who struck wide.
Vil made a few more smart stops before the hour. One to deny another free header from a corner, and the second to react to a deflected shot low to the keeper's right.
With twenty minutes to play, Marriot skied high as Fleetwood sought a fourth. Diabate found his way into the book with an ineloquent body charge on Omochere.
City pressed forward six minutes later. Kyle Taylor’s deft touch fed Yannick through. Wildschut cut onto his right and fired at goal. The stubborn Town defence stood firm. Taylor was a nuisance in the box and flicked a header over.
Ever in the game, Vil again got down well to a Ryan Broom volley to stop the home man getting his second of the afternoon.
Kyle Taylor’s saved shot with the last kick of the game was in vain as City slipped to defeat.
Fleetwood Town: Lynch, Wiredu (Simons 68’), Lawal, Mayor, Broom, Marriott (Tshimanga 84’), Heneghan, Omochere (Robertson 79’), Rooney, Earl, Patterson (Stockley 84’)
Subs: McMullen, Holgate, Graydon
Exeter City: Sinisalo, Harper (Taylor 73’), Sweeney (Diabate 46’), Aimson, Hartridge (Niskanen 46’), Jules, Trevitt, Kite, Aitchison, Muskwe, Scott (Wildschut 46’)
Subs: MacDonald, O’Connor, Cunningham,
Referee: Thomas Kirk