Match report: Exeter 0 Bournemouth 2
An unfortunate own goal by Scot Bennett, followed by a composed Dan Gosling finish saw the Cherries progress through to the second round of the league cup.
It was a fine evening that welcomed both sets of supporters to St James Park in the opening fixture in the Capital One cup. Paul Tisdale took to the pitch just before kick-off to officially accept the FA equality and fair play trophy for the previous season, as the Grecians lined up with the Big Bank behind them.
Paul Tisdale had made three changes to the side that drew with Portsmouth in their first league outing last Saturday. David Wheeler made his first start of the season replacing Aaron Dawson, who started on the bench next to youngsters Connor Riley-Lowe and Ollie Watkins. Liam Sercombe also gave way for Welshman Arron Davies and Danny Butterfield starting in place of Matt Oakley.
For the other side, Bournemouth fielded a completely different starting 11 to the side that won 4-0 on the road at Huddersfield last Saturday. Callum Wilson, who scored a brace for the Cherries on the weekend, started on the bench alongside fellow goal scorer and club favourite, Yann Kermorgant.
It was clear that the visitors sought to dominate possession early in the half. Initial attempts to stamp their authority on the game, saw them concede two clumsy free kicks within minutes of kick-off. However, Exeter seemed keen to battle.
The first real danger saw Bournemouth left-winger, Junior Stanislas, tear into the left hand side of the box and play a neat little cross right across the face of goal. Fortunately, for City the speed of the winger ensured that there wasn’t a player there to meet it. Although, the ball looked like it was slowly heading out to give Christy Pym a goal kick, the quick reactions of a ball boy saw Exeter awarded a drop ball.
Bournemouth really wanted to press the home side. An Ian Harte corner, sent high over the box, was received and well struck by Fraser on the edge of City’s box. The midfielder struggled to control it and instead it sailed over the bar and into the Big Bank.
It was only a matter of time until the visitors had a shot on target. A powerful, right-footed shot from Ryan Fraser forced an excellent save from Pym, low and to his left.
City’s defensive lines held firm. Pat Baldwin made a number of crucial blocks and Jordan Tillson dealt exceptionally well with the visitor’s extended pressure. Although the Grecians seemed to be on the back-foot throughout the opening half, they were composed at the back. Grecians captain Scot Bennett looked formidable, as he cleared a powerful Elliott Ward header off his own line.
Despite what seemed like unrelenting pressure from the visitors, there were a few exciting attacking moments from City. A perfect cross across the park by Matt Grimes was chested down by Craig Woodman, but he couldn’t quite lay off the pass before being dispossessed by Cherries captain Elliott Ward. Tom Nichols looked to break the visitor’s back-line on two occasions but the linesman’s flag denied both.
Bournemouth left-winger, Stanislas, and striker, Rantie, seemed to work well together in the final third. Rantie played a lovely little flick across the box to Stanislas whose right-footed curler to the left of Pym came close, but hit the woodwork. This was the closest the visitors got to take the lead in the opening half.
The first half saw an unrelenting assault on the Grecian lines, but the home side weathered the storm, surviving with a composure and pragmatism that will stand them in good stead in the league this season. They will be pleased to enter the tunnel having held firm.
Half time: Exeter City 0 AFC Bournemouth 0
The sun had dipped below the horizon as the second-half began, the pitch at the park now lit by the floodlights. Exeter prepared to shoot towards the Big Bank
An excellent counter attack move by City in the 48th minute saw Nichols play a high ball over to Matt Grimes who charged towards the Big Bank, a rocket of a shot from the edge of the box went just a foot wide of the left upright. This was followed quickly by another City assault. Craig Woodman’s long, cross-field ball found David Wheeler on the right hand side of the opposition box. Wheeler took a fine touch and powered a right-footed shot across the goalmouth.
However, it was not City who found the net first. Against the run of play, a Stanislas cross into Exeter’s box caught the shins of a backtracking Bennett, rolling the ball past an outstretched Pym. An unfortunate turn of events for the hard-working Grecian defence.
Bournemouth did seem to regain their composure straight after the opening goal, albeit momentarily, forcing Baldwin to make a key block, followed by Tillson clearance past his byline, both in quick succession.
Exeter sought to address the difference, and had far more opportunities going forward between the 55th and 70th minutes. The home side made a number of excellent advances, with Nichols and Grimes both looking incredibly swift going forward. The culmination was a superb Grimes effort from 25 yards out wide, fired just over the crossbar.
An equalizer could not be found. In the 72nd minute, Pym was drawn out to intercept a rapidly advancing Rantie. The Grecian’s keeper charged off his line and safely pushed the striker’s low shot away, an excellent save.
The following minute saw the visitors extend their lead. Another excellent Stanislas cross was sent across the box, this time finding Dan Gosling on the edge of the 6-yard box, who slotted it to past Pym.
Following the second goal, it became a more even affair. As the match drew to a close, both sides had their share of attempts at goal. A brave and focused Tillson denied Callum Wilson a chance to net an open goal after Pym strayed a little too far off his line. At the other end of the pitch, Nichols turned an excellent cross from Connor Riley-Lowe just wide in the dying minutes of the match.
Exeter’s defensive display was valiant tonight. An excellent performance from Pat Baldwin, Jordon Tillson and Scot Bennett that was only undone by Eddie Howe's decision to switch the menacing Junior Stanislas to the right hand side of the pitch. He looked deadly, and it was his crossing that led to both goals. It was the pace of his cross into the box that caused the ricochet off Bennett’s shins, and the perfectly timed pass into Gosling that allowed the victors to secure a comfortable lead. Nichols and Grimes looked strong going forward, and at times looked to match the pace of the visiting championship side. Exeter may have left the capital cup, but their defensive display should provide optimism for the coming weeks.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 AFC Bournemouth 2
Exeter City: Pym; Wheeler (Dawson 74), Tillson, Bennett, Baldwin, Woodman (Riley-Lowe, 59); Davies (Oakley 45), Butterfield, Grimes; Keohane, Nichols.
Unused Subs: Hamon, Jay, Pope, Watkins.
AFC Bournemouth: Flahavan; Smith, Ward, Cargill, Harte; Fraser (Arter 76), Gosling, MacDonald, Stanislas (Ritchie 88); Rantie (Wilson 76), Pitman.
Unused Subs: Buchel, Francis, Kermorgant, McArthy.
Goal: Bennett OG (54), Gosling (73)
Attendance: 2,648 (735 away)
Referee: Andy Davies