Match report from Exeter City's first home pre-season game of the summer against Bristol Rovers
Exeter City put in an impressive pre-season performance to beat League One Bristol Rovers 2-0 at St James Park.
First-half goals from Ryan Harley and Ollie Watkins gave the home side a 2-0 lead at the break and then a more inexperience City XI in the second half showed some good defensive resolve to keep the clean sheet.
City manager Paul Tisdale named a strong starting XI for the first half, with Lloyd James and Robbie Simpson making their non-competitive debuts at St James Park and Troy Archibald-Henville appearing in front of the home crowd for the first time since his move back to Exeter this summer.
Ollie Watkins partnered Simpson up front and there was a surprise name on the bench as Ethan Ampadu, a talented 15-year-old in Exeter City’s Academy, was named as one of five substitutes.
A minute’s applause was held prior to kick-off for City’s former manager Eamonn Dolan, who died from cancer aged 48 during the summer.
Tisdale said going into the match that the game would prove a good barometer for his side and the progress they have made since they last played Bristol Rovers in April and he will have no doubt been impressed with his team’s first half showing.
Simpson went close to opening the scoring after five minutes when he latched onto an underhit backpass from Billy Bodin, but lost his footing as he went around Will Puddy and the visitors managed to clear.
City were in front moments later though as Lee Holmes fed a ball to Harley in the box and his shot took a deflection off Alfie Kilgour on its way into the back of the net.
Rovers responded as Sam Barratt hit a free-kick onto the top of the crossbar, but City continued to create the better chances after that.
Holmes went on a lung-bursting run from halfway before firing just over and then Harley hit a sweet volley, from a corner, that Puddy had to grab from underneath his crossbar.
Watkins then had two chances to add to City’s goal advantage, firing just wide on both occasions, before he showed great awareness to latch onto a reverse pass from Holmes and hook the ball past Puddy and into an unguarded net.
That gave the home side the two-goal advantage their first half performance deserved.
Holmes then continued his good display by forcing Puddy into another save as his stoppage time free kick threatened to dip under the crossbar.
City made 10 changes at the break, with only keeper Bobby Olejnik keeping his place. Jamie Reid, a scorer of a late equaliser when City played Bristol at home last season, partnered Joel Grant up front.
City’s young defence continued to thwart Bristol in the the second half, with Nick Grimes getting in a telling interception on a low cross on the hour mark before Matt Jay fired a shot into the side netting.
Tisdale made three more changes on 67 minutes, giving Ampadu his debut for the first team and bringing on James Hamon and David Wheeler as well.
Ampadu lined-up in defence, while Wheeler went on the wing as Riley-Lowe switched to right-back.
Bristol created their first real opportunity of the second half 76 minutes as Luke James crossed for Dean Gaffney to strike, but he missed the ball before Cristian Montano fired wide.
Reid then came close to repeating his goalscoring from last season, but shot narrowly wide from inside the area.
minute and City saw out the game comfortably to win 2-0.ndHamon then produced an excellent save to deny James in the 82
Exeter City first half XI:; Taylor, James, Harley, Holmes; Watkins, Simpson. Subs not used: Hamon, Down, Ampadu, Egan, ReidMoore-TaylorOlejnik; Sweeney, Brown, Archibald-Henville,
Exeter City second half XI:Olejnik (Hamon, 67); McCready, Grimes (Ampadu, 67), Storey (Wheeler, 67), Down; Jay, Tillson, Byrne, Riley-Lowe; Reid, Grant (Egan, 56)
Bristol Rovers:. Subs not used: Broom, MalpasPuddy; Leadbitter, Kilgour, McChrystal (Greenslade, 45), Evans; Bodin (Lawrence, 45), Lines, O Clarke, Barrett (Montano, 45); Harrison (Gaffney, 45), James
Attendance: 1,247 (197, away).