Match report: Exeter City 0 Southend 1Exeter City fell to a 1-0 defeat in stoppage-time at the hands of Southend United at St James Park.
A well-contested game saw Exeter have a lot of the chances but Daniel Bentley was to record his sixth straight shut-out.
Exeter looked like they were going to also keep their sheets clean – only for Michael Timlin to steal it in stoppage-time.
Jimmy Keohane, Clinton Morrison and David Wheeler all come in for a start in the attacking positions, and Scot Bennett jumped in at centre-half – totally four changes.
That meant Graham Cummins took a seat amongst the subs, with Christian Ribeiro, Alex Nicholls and Lee Holmes all missing through injury.
Former Grecian Barry Corr was also on the bench, and took a seat in the dugout for the visiting team.
The Shrimpers nearly capitalised early on from a loose cross-field ball by Ryan Harley as Stephen McLaughlin gobbled up and drove goalwards – eventually City saw to the threat and forced the visitors to concede a throw.
Liam Sercombe then had Exeter’s first attempt as Wheeler played into his path, but his powerful attempt cleared the bar from 25 yards.
Harley was then at the heart of a long spell of possession in the inside-left position, as the home side attempted to pick a gap in the Shrimpers’ defence. Morrison, with back to goal, slipped a ball into the path of Keohane – the Irish midfielder took a touch and poked a left-footed strike just beyond the far post.
Wheeler, pressing high, managed to win the ball upfield from full-back Ben Coker – he played a one-two with Harley before drilling across goal and wide from a narrow angle.
On his return to the starting line-up, Keohane was making a nuisance of himself – Wheeler once again won the ball high to play inside to Keohane, and after playing wide to Arron Davies, piled forward to the edge of the area. Full-back Davies drilled a low cross but Keohane could only hit wide under pressure.
Despite Exeter having much the better of the play in the first period, Southend were certainly proving capable of causing a threat – and indeed Coker’s fizzing cross from the left byline picked out the run of Will Atkinson, who couldn’t direct his header on target.
Wheeler nearly had a chance to open the scoring in first-half stoppage-time as a ball from the back was allowed to bounce through, but Daniel Bentley was off his line quickly to gather.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Southend United 0
Within a minute of the restart, Southend had created their best chance of the game –Michael Timlin crossed a bouncing ball towards the unmarked Joe Pigott, who headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box.
Then Keohane again went close – it was a good bit of ball retention outside the area by captain Matt Oakley which allowed Harley to tee up the midfielder, who struck past the post with his left with Bentley scrambling.
Both managers played their first hand just after the hour mark – Corr came on for the Shrimpers along with Jack Payne, while Tom Nichols and Cummins were introduced for Exeter.
Before long Nichols had his first opportunity – it was a nicely-weighted pass into feet by Keohane that opened the door, but his effort from the edge of the area was saved and held by Bentley.
Myles Weston was then introduced for the visitors for more fresh legs in the forward line, and before long he had linked well with fellow sub Payne to find room on the left, and a firmly-struck shot from wide left needed touching around the post by Christy Pym.
Neither team looked happy to see the game end goalless, and after Ryan Leonard’s long throw was cleared by Bennett, Payne struck a firm volley which whistled just past the upright.
And at the other end City sub Matt Jay came close to netting his first goal as a pro – Davies, up from right-back, dinked a delivery into the middle and the 19-year-old headed just wide of the far post.
Nichols then had a chance to win it when the ball was flicked on by Cummins into his path – his bending effort was mopped up well by goalkeeper Timlin.
But there was to be a late twist – after a ball was conceded high upfield, a cross in from the right was palmed by Pym but Payne quickly latched onto it, crossed low, and Timlin scooped in a stoppage-time winner from 12 yards.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Southend United 1
Exeter City: Pym; Davies, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, McAllister; Sercombe, Oakley, Keohane (Jay 82), Harley; Wheeler (Nichols 61), Morrison (Cummins 61).
Subs: Hamon, Butterfield, Tillson, Reid.
Southend United: Bentley; Leonard, Bolger, Barrett, Coker; Atkinson, Deegan, Timlin, McLaughlin (Payne 61); Pigott (Corr 61), Cassidy (Weston 74).
Subs: T.Smith, Worrall, Hurst, Binnom-Williams.
Goal: Timlin (90).
Attendance: 4,039 (446 away).
Referee: Darren Handley