Report: Exeter City 3 Plymouth Argyle 1
Exeter City earned a 3-1 Devon Derby victory at the expense of Plymouth Argyle at St James Park.
A sticky first half ended goalless, but the game sprung to life after the break.
City went a goal up through Arron Davies, but a Luke Young free-kick gave the City fans a sinking feeling.
However Alan Gow’s delightful effort put the Grecians back in the lead in the final ten minutes, and Scot Bennett sealed the victory in stoppage time.
Danny Butterfield made his first start in a City shirt, following his substitute appearance last weekend against Fleetwood, while David Wheeler – also introduced from the bench at Highbury – also stepped into the starting XI.
Following two goals last weekend, Scot Bennett started up front with Alan Gow and David Wheeler in attendance on either side.
For the visitors, Friday’s loan signing Paul Hayes – from Brentford – was thrown straight into his first start in the Devon Derby.
In typical derby fashion, all the pre-match bravado went out the window as the nerves made for a cautious start from both sides. Poor crosses that drifted behind by Jamie Reckord and Romy Boco were summing up the afternoon’s affairs in a tense environment.
City were looking most dangerous on a counter attack and a pinged diagonal ball from Craig Woodman to Wheeler allowed the former Staines man to cushion a first-time cross across the six-yard box and it was just taken off the toe of Bennett.
A similarly route-one ball forward caused problems for the Argyle rearguard – Curtis Nelson and Guy Branston got themselves in a muddle, but the centre-half eventually toed the ball out of play before the Scotsman could pounce.
Chances were at a premium and Gow looked the most likely to create them for City. A strafing ball across the face of goal was just outside the stretching-range of Bennett, shortly after his free-kick was unable to cause Luke McCormick any real problems.
Hamza Bencherif was allowed a chance to line up a shot from 25 yards out and central – Artur Krysiak saved well low to his right and held the ball to deny Argyle the opener.
And City were denied a penalty shout by referee Andre Marriner in a strange passage of play. Tommy Doherty was teed up to shoot on his left and his powerful effort left Branston in a heap after hitting him in a somewhat sensitive area. The City man followed up his initial effort on the rebound, and Bencherif this time was the man in the way – but as the ball bounced down and back up, it appeared to strike his hand. Vociferous claims were waved away.
Argyle had the final chance of the first period from a free-kick wide on the right – Paul Wotton was teed up and fired over the bar.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Plymouth Argyle 0
Matt Oakley was introduced in place of Wheeler in the interval, and within moments the former Leicester and Southampton man had threaded in Gow through on goal – the move broke down when the Scotsman’s square ball was dealt with.
But Oakley’s afternoon was brought to an early end – minutes after being introduced he was down in a heap and receiving treatment, and eventually needed replacing by Matt Grimes.
The breakthrough came just ten minutes after the restart as the Grecians broke swiftly and converted the chance. It was Gow that turned Reckord on the halfway line, drove forward with a jinking run, and fed Davies – the Welshman drilled his effort past the advancing McCormick and high into the net.
The lead only lasted a little over ten minutes though, as Plymouth-born Young lined up a free-kick after Marvin Morgan had been felled by Danny Coles. The midfielder hit a right-footed effort from 25 yards just inside Krysiak’s post, leaving the stopper with little hope of getting there.
Argyle suddenly had their tails up and could quite easily have gone from being behind to ahead within a matter of minutes – Boco latched onto the ball near the far post and drew a stop down at Krysiak’s feet.
After the early scare, the Grecians reacted well to being pegged back. Grimes was involved – twice shooting off target before teeing up Gow to cross low, only to see the eventual cross intercepted by McCormick.
But with less than ten minutes remaining, the Grecians got their rewards for a fine attacking move. A great bit of passing movement saw substitute Jimmy Keohane thread the ball outside to Gow, and the Scotsman took advantage of the space that he had been afforded to lift a delightfully weighted effort over McCormick and to nestle just inside the far post.
Bennett had the chance to kill the game off as Keohane released him down the flank and the angle was just too tight to net.
But the combination did link up in stoppage time to put the gloss on the performance. Bennett had to readjust to control Keohane’s cut-back and he rolled coolly beyond the reach of McCormick.
Full-time: Exeter City 3 Plymouth Argyle 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Sercombe, Doherty (Keohane 72), Davies, Wheeler (Oakley 46 (Grimes 52)); Bennett, Gow.
Subs (not used): Pym, Oakley, Moore-Taylor, Tillson, Grimes, Reid.
Goal: Davies (55), Gow (82), Bennett (90).
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick; Nelson, Wotton, Branston, Reckford; Alessandra (Harvey 87), Hourihane, Bencherif (Young 60), Boco; Morgan, Hayes (Reid 60).
Subs (not used): Cole, Berry, Blanchard, Trotman.
Goal: Young (68).
Attendance: 5,700 (1,289 away)
Referee: A. Marriner