Report: Exeter City 3 Fleetwood Town 0
Exeter City ended a winless run at home in emphatic style with a 3-0 win that was merited to a man against Fleetwood Town.
The Grecians were excellent throughout the 90 minutes and could have battered the Cod Army by a more telling scoreline in truth, but a standing ovation from the home faithful was well-deserved come the final whistle.
The scoring was opened when Danny Butterfield’s perfect free-kick found Jon Parkin, who turned into his own goal.
Eliot Richards struck twice in four minutes after the interval – the first as he got on the end of a corner routine, and the second as he was first to react to a ball spilled by Fleetwood stopper Chris Maxwell – as City got back to winning ways at the Park.
City named a completely unchanged matchday squad from last weekend’s trip to Newport, while Fleetwood had Thursday morning’s loan signing Iain Hume on the bench, but name an unchanged starting XI after beating Portsmouth at Highbury.
That means that Tom Nichols starts in attack, supported by Eliot Richards and Matt Oakley. Matt Grimes begins on the bench, and will make a 30th first-team appearance in his first campaign if he is called on as a sub.
Fleetwood registered the game’s first shot within the opening seconds as Jamille Matt fed Antoni Sarcevic, but goalkeeper Artur Krysiak got down to the 18-yard shot well.
But that was as close as the Cod Army came to creating an opening in the first quarter of an hour, as the Grecians created plenty of chances with a high-tempo approach.
The first golden chance came as Liam Sercombe pounced on a loose clearance and fed Nichols – the striker crossed low from the byline towards Oakley at the back stick, but Conor McLaughlin did enough to put him off six yards from goal.
Sercombe in particular was bringing the fight to midfield and everything loose was being gobbled up quickly. Craig Woodman’s outside-of-the-boot cross just evaded Oakley, and Tom Nichols was just robbed by a perfect Nathan Pond tackle after a nice low cross by Butterfield.
But Butterfield was the provider when City took the lead midway through the first period. It was his perfect delivery from a free-kick wide on the right that had Fleetwood scrambling at the far post, and it was the hapless Jon Parkin that turned into his own net.
City were maintaining the breathless tempo and Nichols was denied one of the goals of the season by a great reaction save from Chris Maxwell. A great flowing move from City saw Oakley control and tee up the striker in the box, and a screaming half-volley from six yards was somehow turned out.
Jamille Matt had a half-chance just before the interval as a free-kick from deep found the ball bobbling into his path at the edge of the area, but he hooked over.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Fleetwood Town 0
Fleetwood started the second half with a bit more zip about their play, but it was still Exeter that were creating the better of the opportunities. Nichols escaped clear down the right from an Oakley pass and almost teed up Richards from the byline, but it just escaped the attacker.
City continued to press and Scot Bennett’s nod-down for Oakley saw the midfielder hammer wide of the target, and soon after Sercombe cut in off the flank and shot wide with his left.
But soon enough Exeter had doubled the lead with a goal that was fully merited – and the way in which the goal went in just summed up the Grecians’ attitude throughout the whole match.
It was Nichols’ persistence that won a corner against all the odds, as he battled against the Cod Army’s captain Mark Roberts who was trying to see the ball behind for a goal-kick. Butterfield’s delivery again was good, and Danny Coles’ flick-on was met at the back stick by Richards who nodded past Maxwell.
And two became three soon after as Richards won a free-kick in a dangerous position when Nathan Pond bundled down the forward. Nichols smashed round the wall and Maxwell spilled his take, which allowed Richards – who was the only one to react – to rifle in from six yards.
The Cod Army had the occasional foray, and a cross from the right from McLaughlin – up from full-back – just skimmed by the head of Matt. Soon after Matty Blair, on as a sub, got free on the outside and Krysiak had to get down quickly to hold the shot from a tight angle.
John O’Flynn and Arron Davies were both introduced in the final 15 minutes, for Nichols and Richards respectively, after a couple of great shifts in attack.
The visitors’ afternoon was summed up when a ball pulled back to Josh Morris on the edge of the area saw the midfield man side-foot powerfully at goal, only for the perfectly-positioned Butterfield to divert the ball over the bar to keep the sheets clean.
The defence needed to keep digging deep to maintain a zero in the goals-conceded column, and a committed tackle from Craig Woodman in the final minute denied Blair a route to goal as City saw out a 3-0 win.
Full-time: Exeter City 3 Fleetwood Town 0
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Coles, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley (Wheeler 89), Gill, Bennett, Richards (Davies 81); Nichols (O’Flynn 75).
Subs (not used): Pym, Baldwin, Parkin, Grimes.
Goals: J.Parkin o.g. (24), Richards (62, 65).
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell; McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts (Blair 67), Taylor; Sarcevic, Schumacher, Murdoch (Hume 46), Morris; Parkin (Ball 67), Matt.
Subs (not used): Davies, Evans, Goodall, Jordan.
Attendance: 2,978 (61 away).
Referee: J. Linington