Heroic City bow out of Capital One Cup at the Stadium of LightLine-Ups
Sunderland: Pantilimon, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell, Matthews (Gooch 57'), O'Shea (capt), Defoe, Graham (Fletcher 45', (Watmore 54')), M'Vila, Coates.
Subs: Stryjek, Brown, Giaccherini, Robson.
Goals: Rodwell 12', 64' Defoe 15', 39', 87', Watmore 78'
Exeter City: Olejnik, Butterfield, Noble (Morrison 67'), McAllister (capt), Holmes (Grant 73'), McCready, Davies, Oyeleke, Wheeler (Hoskins 73'), Tillson, Brown.
Subs: Hamon, Woodman, Oakley, Nicholls.
Goals: Oyeleke 18', Wheeler 31', McCready 43'
EXETER CITY bowed out of the Capital One Cup despite an absolutely heroic first-half performance at the Stadium of Light.
David Wheeler returned from injury to start for the Grecians, while Tom McCready was handed a first appearance of the season in the starting eleven. David Noble and Danny Butterfield also came in after not playing at the weekend against York City, while new signing Joel Grant was named on the bench for the first time.
It was the Grecians who started on top, with Sebastien Coates getting his head on Manny Oyeleke's cross to stop Lee Holmes getting his head to the ball. However, it was the Black Cats who took the lead in the twelfth minute, as after Troy Brown blocked Danny Graham's effort, Jack Rodwell was on hand to convert. One became two minutes later, as Jermain Defoe collected Rodwell's ball over the top, with his first touch wrong-footing Bobby Olejnik and his second beating the City goalkeeper to hand Sunderland what looked a commanding lead.
But it was merely minutes after that that City produced a goal out of nothing. Lee Holmes provided some great control to take a through-pass in his stride, before feeding Tom McCready. He passed to Danny Butterfield, who put a ball over the top that Manny Oyeleke clearly wanted more than marker Sebastian Coates, and the midfielder converted virtually unopposed for his first competitive City goal.
Rather than rile the Premier League hosts, City began to seize control in the following minutes, and it was on the half-hour mark that they equalised, to the sound of a deafening hush other than in the away enclosure way up in the rafters. Lee Holmes produced a peach of a cross which David Wheeler, who was playing in the forward role, headed in.
But City still looked to be going in behind at the break, as Lee Cattermole's pass set-up Jermain Defoe to score Sunderland's third. But the first-half drama was not over there - after David Noble had done superbly to keep hold of the ball, he fed Lee Holmes. Holmes crossed, with Wheeler winning the header again, and Tom McCready converted for his first goal of the season on his first appearance of the campaign.
Jordan Tillson pulled off a masterful block to keep the scores level at the break from Danny Graham, bringing an end to a classic half of football.
HALF-TIME: SUNDERLAND 3-3 EXETER CITY
Sunderland replaced Danny Graham with Steven Fletcher up front at the break, but the new attacker lasted under ten minutes before going off himself with injury, young Duncan Watmore the man given the striking berth.
But after a crucial block by Troy Brown to deny Jermain Defoe his hat-trick, Sunderland retook the lead through Jack Rodwell again, the midfielder heading in a Seb Larsson corner. Four became five for Sunderland when an error by Bobby Olejnik allowed Duncan Watmore to sneak in and dispossess the City goalkeeper before finishing into an empty net.
Jermain Defoe completed his hat-trick by converting a Seb Larsson cross three minutes before the ninety, but even with nine minutes added on, Sunderland held off their valiant visitors for a place in the third round. City, though, can be nothing but proud of this memorable showing.
FULL-TIME: SUNDERLAND 6-3 EXETER CITY
Attendance: 14,360 (495 away)
Man of the Match: Lee Holmes