Match report: Exeter City 2 Newport 0The Grecians made it two from two over Easter with a 2-0 win against Newport County AFC at St James Park.
The game was deadlocked at the interval, with Yan Klukowski hitting the outside of the post in first-half stoppage time.
But the lead was opened by sub David Wheeler after the interval after being slipped in by Clinton Morrison, and then when Wheeler was felled in the area by Ismail Yakubu – who was sent off for the challenge – Ryan Harley doubled the lead from the penalty spot in the final minute.
Exeter City started with an unchanged starting XI after the Good Friday win at Luton Town. The only change came on the bench as Christy Pym returned in place of Kavanagh Keadell.
Newport started the game in lively fashion – and that liveliness expressed itself in a heavy tackle by Mark Byrne on Jamie McAllister, which saw the Exiles man have his name taken after just two minutes.
The City defender was clearly feeling the effects of the challenge, and had to be withdrawn injured soon after as Craig Woodman stepped into his place.
The Exiles had the best opportunity of the opening exchanges as the Adam Chapman slipped a ball through to Shaun Jeffers – his dink to the back post was clawed away by James Hamon, and Jordan Moore-Taylor did well to block a follow-up shot.
At the other end, Graham Cummins had a decent opportunity for Exeter as a corner from the left glanced off his forehead and just wide of the far post.
More industrious play from either side was seeing defenders largely on top. Lee Holmes was causing problems for the defence with his trickery and twice won free-kicks in dangerous positions.
Cummins then found side netting as a deep corner was hung up to the back stick by Liam Sercombe, but the angle was too acute.
The quick feet of Holmes allowed him to work and angle to shoot, and a drilled effort found the palms of goalkeeper Joe Day. And then soon after sub Woodman hung up a cross for Cummins to attack but he misdirected his header from ten yards.
Holmes nearly profited when Andy Sandell lost the flight of the ball in the glaring sunlight, but the defender just about recovered in time to head back to his custodian.
The Exiles had the chance of the half in stoppage time at the end of the first period, as he collected on the left and shot low – however the effort clipped the far post on its way behind.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Newport County AFC 0
Byrne was the first to try and break the deadlock after the restart – the ball founds its way to the midfielder after being hovered up by an amber shirt in the middle of the park, but he shot well over.
Some smart wing-play from Holmes saw the Preston loanee hang up a ball to the back post for Alex Nicholls, but his nod-down couldn’t quite find Cummins. Then Cummins closed down a clearance from goalkeeper Day, who breathed a sigh of relief as the ball sailed just wide.
Paul Tisdale made his final two changes midway through the second half as Morrison and Wheeler came on for Cummins and Nicholls respectively.
However Hamon had to be alert at the other end of the pitch as a quick free-kick saw Byrne released clean through, and the goalkeeper spread himself well to save low with his feet.
But City finally made the breakthrough with quarter of an hour remaining and it was the subs that combined for the goal.
Morrison was allowed space to burst into midfield before slipping a ball through for the onrushing Wheeler, and he held off the challenge of Exiles captain Darren Jones before hitting a strike that was too hot to handle for stopper Day and putting Exeter into the lead.
With Miles Storey and Chris Zebroski on from the bench, Newport were trying to use their four forwards to break Exeter down. In fact it was defender Ismail Yakubu that came close as he rose highest to meet Sandell’s corner, but couldn’t direct on target.
Holmes had a chance to double the lead as Sercombe picked deep and played a nice backheel into his path, but the winger shot wide of the target.
With Newport attacking relentlessly, the fresh legs of Wheeler again caused chaos in the Exiles’ defensive ranks and when he burst down the right and in on goal, Yakubu could only bundle down the City man and was shown a straight red for his trouble.
That gave Harley the chance to double the lead from 12 yards – and he made no mistake as he slammed past Day to put Exeter 2-0 up and see out stoppage time with some good defensive work.
Full-time: Exeter City 2 Newport County AFC 0
Exeter City: Hamon; Davies, Ribeiro, Moore-Taylor, McAllister (Woodman 8); Oakley, Sercombe, Harley; Nicholls (Wheeler 66), Holmes, Cummins (Morrison 66).
Unused subs: Pym, Butterfield, Bennett, Keohane.
Goals: Wheeler (76), Harley (90 pen).
Newport County AFC: Day; Poole, Yakubu, Jones, Sandell; Byrne (Storey 81), Porter, Chapman (Minshull 90), Klukowski; O’Connor, Jeffers (Zebroski 66).
Unused subs: Stephens, Tutonda, Flynn, Collins.
Attendance: 4,478 (599 away).
Referee: Gavin Ward