Cherries come from behind to win at the ParkExeter City were defeated 2-1 at the hands of Barclays Premier League opponents AFC Bournemouth in a pre-season friendly at St James Park.
The Grecians led at the interval through David Wheeler, who netted just after the half-hour mark, but second-half strikes from Dan Gosling and Junior Stanislas gave the Cherries the win.
Summer arrivals Bobby Olejnik and Troy Brown were in the starting XI for the Grecians’ home game against AFC Bournemouth. Manny Oyeleke began on the bench, while trialist Will Hoskins was also in the matchday squad.
The first chance of the afternoon went the way of the hosts – Lee Holmes nipped in to win the ball high upfield and slotted in Tom Nichols, whose shot was deflected through into the arms of Adam Federici.
Bournemouth began to see more of the ball as the game progressed and it was Chelsea loanee Christian Atsu who went close for the Cherries, firing across goal and wide after good work down the right from Adam Smith.
Midfielder Marc Pugh was within a matter of inches from putting the guests ahead when the ball broke his way on the edge of the box – however it was just high and wide from the edge of the area. Then Pugh was blocked out by a brave challenge by Christian Ribeiro, as the scores remained level.
A strong Cherries defence was holding strong and seeing to Exeter’s threats. Federici commanded the six-yard box well when Holmes whipped in an inswinger after David Wheeler’s persistence won a corner, and an important challenge from Tyrone Mings denied Holmes an opportunity to break.
A quick interchange of passes in the Exeter area and a dummy from Atsu allowed Tokelo Rantie to have a shot from close-range, but a lunging block from centre-half Brown kept the ball at bay and the scores level.
And minutes later at the other end, the Grecians led. Matt Oakley spun a ball out to the right flank for Wheeler to carry – he cut inside onto his left foot and hit a low shot, which picked a gap in the crowd and found the far corner.
City had a chance to double the advantage soon after – a raking ball into the area from Holmes looked like it was going to be dealt with by either goalkeeper Adam Federici or defender Steve Cook, but indecision allowed Nichols to nip in. Ultimately the goalkeeper got down well to save.
Andrew Surman had a chance to level before the interval when he struck a right-footed free-kick from 22 yards, but stopper Olejnik scampered across goal and turned the effort around the post.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 AFC Bournemouth 0
The Grecians made a single switch at half-time, with David Noble withdrawing for Tom McCready, whereas the Cherries named an entirely different XI.
And it was sub McCready that threaded a delightfully weighted ball inside full-back Charlie Daniels for Wheeler to run onto – the City attacker held off the challenge but just pulled the effort past Ryan Allsop’s near post.
Sub Junior Stanislas came within a whisker from equalising when he bulleted a left-footed drive from the edge of the area – it cannoned off the base of the post and into the arms of the grateful Olejnik.
But eventually Olejnik was beaten for the first time in City colours, as a neat move was finished in scrappy fashion. A low cross from Simon Francis in the right channel found Gosling – Olejnik twice saved from the midfielder at point-blank range, but couldn’t prevent him bundling in at the third time of asking.
City made ten more subs within the space of ten minutes as more players got minutes into the legs. Chances were limited for the Grecians, and a dipping half-volley from 35 yards from McCready was wide of Ryan Allsop’s upright.
Callum Wilson had a chance to open a lead for the visitors when a dissecting ball from Stanislas found him in the box – Christy Pym showed him wide, and he couldn’t convert from an acute angle.
Stanislas had the ball in the net when striker Yann Kermorgant played him in on goal, but the offside flag was promptly raised.
However no flag was ever going to be forthcoming when he next had it in the net – the winger rode through a series of challenges and eventually got a bit of good fortune to see the ball sit up nicely to hit on the half-volley as he smashed beyond Pym.
McCready, supported by sub Ollie Watkins on the right, came close to netting an equaliser for Exeter when he cut in off the flank on to deliver a left-footed cross-shot – however it didn’t get a touch and fizzed past the post.
But ultimately the Cherries were able to hold out to take a pre-season victory at the Park.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 AFC Bournemouth 2
Exeter City: Olejnik (Pym 70); Davies (Watkins 70), Ribeiro (Read 70), Brown (Tillson 60), McAllister (Riley-Lowe); Noble (McCready 46), Harley (Oyeleke 60), Oakley (Butterfield 60); Holmes (Nichols 65), Wheeler (Reid 65), Nichols (Hoskins 65).
Goal: Wheeler (32).
AFC Bournemouth (first half): Federici; Smith, Cook, Distin, Mings; Pugh, O’Kane, Surman, Atsu; King, Rantie.
AFC Bournemouth (second half): Allsop; Francis, Cargill, Elphick, Daniels; Stanislas, MacDonald, Gosling, Ritchie; Wilson, Kermorgant.
Unused sub: Ward.
Goals: Gosling (51), Stanilslas (76).
Attendance: 2,125 (360 away).
Referee: Lee Swabey