Match report: Coventry 3 Exeter City 1Exeter City’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy campaign came to an early end at the second round as the Grecians found League 1 Coventry City too strong on a bitterly cold Tuesday evening at the Ricoh Arena, as it ended 3-1 to the hosts.
A brace from winger Aaron Phillips, plus a third from Josh McQuoid, handed the home side a commanding 3-0 lead. Ollie Watkins pulled one back, but the defeat brings the Grecians’ involvement in the competition to an end.
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale, who was this week nominated for the League 2 September manager of the month award, made four changes to the starting XI which came from behind to win at Dagenham and Redbridge on Friday evening.
Connor Riley-Lowe made his first start for the Grecians, and with Christy Pym away on international duty, James Hamon made his debut in goal, with sixteen-year-old goalkeeper Kavanagh Keadell called up to the Exeter City bench for the first time.
Matt Grimes was again also on international duty. Elsewhere, with Alex Nicholls having been recalled from his loan spell by parent club Northampton and Liam Sercombe nursing an injury, Aaron Dawson and Jimmy Keohane were the other two players to come in to the starting line-up for this one.
Steven Pressley’s Coventry, who unlike Exeter City were not lucky enough to benefit from a bye in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy First Round, made it to the second stage of the competition thanks to a 1-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers, with Josh McQuoid grabbing the Sky Blues’ goal.
McQuoid was again included tonight, made four changes of their own from their weekend line-up, having drawn 2-2 with Crawley Town at the Ricoh on Saturday. Lee Burge deputised for Ryan Allsop in the Coventry goal, with Jack Finch, Ryan Haynes and Senegalese midfielder Mohamed Coulibaly coming in for Seb Hines, Jim O’Brien and Danny Pugh. Strikers Marcus Tudgay and Frank Nouble missed out with injuries.
The home side, who were without a win in their last four League 1 matches, came into this one in the polar opposite fit of form to the Grecians, who had won each of their last four games by a 2-1 scoreline. But form counted for nothing as it was the third-tier side who had the first chance; Christian Ribeiro, under pressure, rolled the ball back to Hamon, who didn’t get the connection he wanted on his attempted clearance, although thankfully as far as Exeter City were concerned, Matt Oakley blocked John Fleck’s resultant effort.
It was Coulibaly, the Senegalese, who had the first real effort for the Sky Blues, as with Aaron Dawson for company he drove the ball low and wide of the left-hand post. Coventry goalkeeper Burge was lucky to avoid a yellow card when he handled the ball outside of the area in the twelfth minute, but admittedly he was under pressure from Tom Nichols underneath him.
John Fleck tested Hamon with an effort that bounced awkwardly for the Exeter goalkeeper on the quarter-hour, but the goalkeeper did well to get enough of his hand behind the ball to clear it out of harm’s way. Arron Davies took an ambitious effort on the half-volley a minute later which sailed over the bar, with Jimmy Keohane taking the ball down well before unleashing a shot on target moments later.
A corner forced by Ryan Haynes down Coventry’s left wing was half-cleared by the Grecians before Hamon again had to deal with an awkward bounce, this time from Coulibaly. Coventry’s Aaron Phillips received the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Connor Riley-Lowe.
There was a moment of panic for Burge when Nichols refused to let the Coventry goalkeeper run the ball out of play on twenty-seven minutes, but there was nobody there for the visitors when their frontman played the ball hopefully into an empty penalty area.
Simeon Jackson blew a great opportunity for the lead just after the half-hour when he broke clear of the Exeter City defence, only to shoot wide. But Coventry did take the lead with their next attack. Fleck and Coulibaly exchanged passes before the former brought a save from Hamon, but Aaron Phillips converted the rebound on the turn.
Jordan Tillson had to replace Moore-Taylor who picked up an injury in the minutes following the goal. Aaron Phillips, the goalscorer, curled one over the bar not long afterwards, but got a second in the two minutes of injury time at the end of the first half. This was a memorable strike; Phillips scoring from distance but leaving Hamon with no chance.
Half-time: Coventry City 2 Exeter City 0
The hosts made two changes at the break, with John Fleck and skipper Andrew Webster making way for James Maddison and Jordan Clarke. It took six minutes of the second half for the Grecians to create their best chance of the game so far, as Aaron Dawson showed some trickery to set Christian Ribeiro free, before the Welshman crossed for Connor Riley-Lowe, who couldn’t beat Lee Burge with his free header.
But the hosts got a third as the game approached the hour mark. While both were bearing down on the Exeter backline, Simeon Jackson laid the ball off for strike partner Josh McQuoid, who struck on goal, and despite an intervention by Hamon the ball still found its way into the net. That was McQuoid’s last action, as he was withdrawn for George Thomas.
Paul Tisdale made a double substitution a few minutes later, with Jason Pope and Ollie Watkins coming on for Scot Bennett and Matt Oakley. Coventry, though, were thirsty for more. An exquisite through-ball from James Maddison allowed former Norwich City striker Simeon Jackson to smash across the face of goal, before Jason Pope put one over down the other end.
Following some great build-up play down the left flank between Ollie Watkins, Jason Pope and Connor Riley-Lowe, Watkins went for the top corner and went near to finding his target. Simeon Jackson almost scored a fourth from a Coulibaly cross only for an Exeter boot to say otherwise, before Jordan Willis headed wide from the resulting corner.
The Grecians pulled one back with five minutes to play, Ollie Watkins hitting his first senior goal, curling the ball beyond Burge with his right foot. That was it however as far as consolations went for the Grecians; Paul Tisdale’s men bowing out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the Second Round.
Full-time: Coventry City 3 Exeter City 1
Coventry City: Burge, Willis, Webster (Clarke 46’), C. Thomas, Fleck (Maddison 46’), McQuoid (G. Thomas 59’), Jackson, Coulibaly, Phillips, Haynes, Finch.
Subs: Allsop, Miller.
Goals: Phillips 35’, 45’, McQuoid 59’
Exeter City: Hamon, Butterfield, Bennett (Pope 64’), Ribeiro, Oakley (Watkins 65’), Keohane, Davies, Moore-Taylor (Tillson 38’), Dawson, Nichols, Riley-Lowe.
Subs: Jay, Keadell.
Goal: Watkins 86’
Attendance: 7,273 (486 away)
Referee: Andrew Madley