Grecians go four wins in a row on the roadLine-Ups
Crawley Town: Preston, Bond, Ashton (McNerney 79’), Bradley (capt), Dunne, Young, Walton (Deacon 70’), Sutherland, Tomlin (Edwards 46’), Fenelon, McAlinden.
Subs: Rose, Bawling, Della-Verde.
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman, Ribeiro, Harley, Holmes, Davies, McAllister (capt), Watkins (Grant 87’), Stockley, Taylor (Wheeler 87’), Brown.
Subs: Moore-Taylor, Morrison, Nicholls, Tillson, Pym.
Goals: Taylor 28’, Watkins 74’
Referee: Andy Haines
GOALS FROM Jake Taylor and Ollie Watkins made it four away wins on the spin and seven unbeaten for Exeter City as the Grecians battled to a 2-0 victory over Crawley Town at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
Taylor’s goal in the twenty-eighth minute was the least that City had deserved after a rampant first-half display. The hosts came stronger in the second period with Bobby Olejnik called into action several times, but the Grecians weathered the storm before Watkins sealed the points with sixteen minutes remaining.
There were three changes to the City team that made it six unbeaten against Barnet on Good Friday. Arron Davies returned to the starting eleven for the first time since the home defeat to Oxford United just over a month ago, with Jake Taylor handed a starting berth out as David Wheeler dropped to the bench. Jamie McAllister was a last-minute inclusion at right-back after Jordan Moore-Taylor sustained an injury during the warm-up. Christian Ribeiro shifted over from right-back to partner Troy Brown at centre-back in the Grecians’ reshuffled back-line. The home side were without nine-goal marksman Matt Harold, scorer of the opening goal in the Reds’ 2-2 draw with York City last time out, with the ex-Wycombe forward sidelined due to a knee injury.
It was the hosts who chalked up the game’s first shot on goal with four minutes played, though Charles Dunne dragged his effort from the left well wide of Olejnik’s near-post. The Grecians responded with a good chance of their own three minutes later as Stockley rose above his marker to head at goal following Holmes’ in-swinging corner from the right.
The away side worked a series of good chances in the tenth minute. First Holmes forced Callum Preston into a sprawling save with a well-struck free-kick from twenty yards out, before Craig Woodman fired the rebound wide. A minute later and it was Stockley’s turn to threaten again, but this time the loanee striker saw his effort from inside the area blocked by a Crawley defender.
The Grecians were unfortunate to still be on level terms after an all-action first quarter of an hour. In the fourteenth minute Ollie Watkins burst into the box to meet Jake Taylor’s low cross, but Preston did magnificently well to claw the youngster’s effort off the line.
It was all City in the Sussex sunshine as Crawley struggled to work the ball out of their own half. Chances came and went for Stockley and Holmes, before Watkins’ strike from the edge of the area didn’t quite have the curl on it to find the top-corner.
After a sustained spell of pressure, the Grecians broke the deadlock in the twenty-eighth minute. Watkins showed great composure to roll the ball to Taylor in a packed area, and the January signing did the rest, slotting past the keeper at his near-post to send the Grecians fans at the opposite end of the ground into delirium. It was another great piece of combination play between Watkins and Taylor that evoked memories of City’s second goal at Meadow Lane nine days ago.
The visitors were in no mood to rest on their laurels having opened the scoring, and they should have doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark. Taylor almost turned turn from scorer to provider as his cross from the right found Holmes’ at the back post, but the City winger lifted his volley over the crossbar and into the terrace behind the goal.
Stockley had been a menace to the Crawley back four throughout the opening period, and he came close to adding a ninth goal in City colours with two minute of regulation time remaining as he headed narrowly over from Ryan Harley’s cross from the byline. Stockley’s effort was the last of the half, as the visitors went in for the interval questioning how they were only leading by a one-goal margin.
HALF-TIME: CRAWLEY TOWN 0-1 EXETER CITY
As the rain began to pour at the Checkatrade.com stadium, City’s hard work in the first half almost unravelled within a minute of the restart. First Liam McAlinden forced Olejnik into a fantastic reflex save, before the Austrian stopper was called into action again in the forty-ninth minute as he pushed Sonny Bradley’s header over the crossbar to deny the Reds’ captain a second goal against City this campaign.
The second half began at a much slower tempo as the sides locked horns in the middle of the park. Stockley was never far from the action though, and he worked another good opening in the fifty-sixth minute as he curled one over from the edge of the D following a lay-off from Harley.
In one of few attempts for either side in the third quarter of the game, Ollie Watkins headed straight at Preston in the sixty-fifth minute from six yards out after Lee Holmes had once again delivered a peach of a cross from the left flank. The Reds responded two minutes later as Olejnik had to get down quickly to deny Shamir Fenelon from levelling the scoring.
The hosts were beginning to find their rhythm as they looked to find a way back into the game. Olejnik proved his worth yet again with two big saves in quick succession, first diving low to deny Gwion Edwards in the seventy-first minute, before tipping over a header from Bradley seconds later following a corner from the left.
Just as it looked like their opponents were beginning to take the initiative, City doubled their lead in the seventy-fourth minute. Reversing their roles for the opening goal, Taylor’s looping ball into the box found its way to Watkins, and this time the academy product made no mistake as he nodded home from close-range for his fifth goal of the season. The youngster looked delighted as he celebrated his goal with the contingent of loyal away fans who had made the trip from Devon - the Grecians had rolled with the punches before Watkins delivered the knockout blow.
Stockley came close with a deflected effort in the dying stages, but his shot from the edge of the area spun just wide of Preston’s left-hand post. Referee Andy Haines whistled shortly after to bring to an end another vintage away performance from City as they extended their rich vein of form, and pushed themselves closer to the Sky Bet League 2 play-off positions.
FULL-TIME: CRAWLEY TOWN 0-2 EXETER CITY
Attendance: 2,416 (462 away)
Man of the Match: Jake Taylor