Report: Exeter City 0 Torquay United 1
Exeter City’s unbeaten record in 2013 came to an end at the hands of local rivals Torquay United at St James Park.
An early penalty by Rene Howe set the Gulls on their way, as the visitors settled early.
City pressed and pressed in the closing stages but an equaliser just wouldn’t materialise as the Gulls’ defence held out resolutely to claim the win.
Paul Tisdale made four changes to his starting line-up for the second in a double-header of Devon Derbies against Torquay United.
Jimmy Keohane, Alan Gow and Matt Oakley all returned to the XI, whilst Mark Molesley was given a debut from kick-off. Guillem Bauza, Arron Davies and Kevin Amankwaah all took a seat on the bench, while John O’Flynn missed out completely after picking up a hamstring tear in his last outing.
After serving his three-match suspension, Jamie Cureton returned to the fold by taking up one of the other seats in the dugout.
The opening sparring saw some neat football from City, and Gow escaped on the left flank to cross early for Molesley, but the debutant couldn’t quite meet the ball with his head.
Moments later, the visitors – who had settled well – had a golden opportunity of their own when Joe Oastler crossed in from deep. Lee Mansell guided his header goalwards and it needed an acrobatic save from Artur Krysiak to keep the scores level.
But it wasn’t long until Torquay were ahead, when Billy Bodin caused chaos in the left-hand channel. After escaping the attentions of Steve Tully, the midfielder was floored and won a penalty for his side. And just like at Plainmoor two weeks previous, Rene Howe stepped up and converted coolly.
The Gulls had certainly settled the better, but Exeter were occasionally showing an incisiveness that could have seen the scores levelled. Oakley sliced open the defence with a dissecting pass through to Keohane, but the ball stuck to the surface and didn’t allow the Irishman to fire before Aaron Downes put in a saving tackle.
Keohane was gifted an opportunity shortly after when a heavy touch by Downes presented the ball to his feet. He ran at goal with Gow in support, but he was wayward with his effort when he opted to shoot.
As the half drew to a close, the Grecians were getting closer to finding the breakthrough. Firstly Scot Bennett had an effort from 20 yards which cleared the crossbar, before Gow’s trickery on the right saw him pick out Keohane whose shot was blocked. Oakley followed up and his shot took a deflection on its way over.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Torquay United 1
Gulls sub Danny Stevens, who had replaced Nathan Craig towards the end of the first period, came out with intent after the interval and his drilled strike took a slight touch on the way past the post. Brian Saah won the header from the resulting corner kick but Krysiak got behind it.
With City pressing to find a goal, they were leaving themselves vulnerable to a counter. Howe turned a ball round the corner for Ryan Jarvis in the channel, and Tully had to sweep the cross clear with Stevens lurking.
Tisdale decided to change the complexion of the side on the hour mark by making a pair of changes. Molesley was withdrawn after a commendable debut for Bauza, whilst Tommy Doherty made way for Cureton – who came on for his 700th appearance in English football.
And the striker was nearly released immediately by a ball over the top by Gow, but the Scotsman’s pass had a fraction too much behind it, and the ball travelled through into the grateful arms of Michael Poke.
Davies was introduced soon after as the last of Tis’s changes were made, with Oakley the man to make way.
City were ratcheting up the pressure and came increasingly close through a succession of corners. Gow’s third in a row, inswinging from the right, was met by Bauza, but as it fell to Coles’ feet he couldn’t quite dig out and effort and it was eventually cleared.
Exeter looked much the more likely to score as the clock ran down, although Kevin Nicholson’s strike from the left-hand channel just squirmed past the near post.
But Cureton was doing his utmost to find the equaliser and had two chances in quick succession. His first, a hooked strike, was saved at the second attempt by Poke. His second – a drilled effort from the edge of the area – needed a diving save to turn it round the post.
City were crowding the box as the fourth official signalled for four added minutes, but Saah and Aaron Downes were defending imperiously.
And the Gulls saw out the victory to take all three points back down the A380 from the Devon Derby.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Torquay United 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Tully, Coles, Baldwin, Woodman; Molesley (Bauza 60), Doherty (Cureton 60), Bennett, Oakley (Davies 68); Keohane; Gow.
Subs (not used): Evans, Amankwaah, Gosling, Moore-Taylor.
Torquay United: Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Craig (Stevens 38), Lathrope, Mansell, Bodin (Macklin 76); Jarvis; Howe.
Subs (not used): Rice, MacDonald, Easton, Cruise, Yeoman.
Goal: Howe (17 pen).
Attendance: 4,824 (545 away).
Referee: J. Adcock.