Stylish City convincing winners at Meadow LaneLine-Ups
Notts County: Loach, Adams (Milsom 12’), Smith, Thompson, Noble, Hewitt, Boyce, Banton (Campbell 64’), Stead (capt) Audel, McLeod.
Subs: Carroll, Hollis, Murray, Burke, Atkinson.
Goals: McLeod 36’
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman, Ribeiro, Harley, Oakley, Holmes (Noble 90’), Moore-Taylor (capt), Wheeler (Taylor 66’), Watkins, Stockley (Grant 90+3’), Brown.
Subs: McAllister, Morrison, Tillson, Pym.
Goals: Stockley 8’, Taylor 68’, Ribeiro 71’, Watkins 78’
Referee: Tony Harrington
SUBSTITUTE Jake Taylor scored within seconds of his introduction to begin a second-half rout for Exeter City at Meadow Lane.
The sides began the second period on level terms after Jayden Stockley’s seventh City goal of the season was cancelled out by Izale McLeod, but the Grecians were in rampant mood after the break as three goals in a ten-minute salvo from Taylor, Christian Ribeiro and Ollie Watkins secured the away side their biggest win on their travels of the campaign so far.
Paul Tisdale named an unchanged side for the second game in succession as the Grecians looked to extend their unbeaten run to five matches. Jayden Stockley and David Wheeler featured in a front three alongside Lee Holmes having both found the net at St James Park last time out. For the home side, nine-goal joint top-scorer and captain Jon Stead was partnered to lead the line with Izale McLeod, and ex-Leeds and Manchester United favourite Alan Smith slotted into the middle of a four-man midfield.
The opening stages of the game were battled out in the middle of the park as both sides looked to get the ball down and find their rhythm. After a short interruption in play due to an injury to County full-back Blair Adams, the Grecians took the lead in the eighth minute. Just as he had done to assist Wheeler in the game against Carlisle last week, Lee Holmes burst down the left-hand side before whipping in an inch-perfect ball. This time it was Stockley on the other end of it, as the loanee striker stooped down to head home his seventh goal in the red and white.
City were looking dangerous from wide areas, with Holmes and Wheeler both seeing plenty of the ball. Ollie Watkins drifted out to the right-hand side before delivering a teasing cross from the byline in the fifteenth minute, but his ball evaded the group of attackers in the Magpies’ box.
County worked their first real chance of the game three minutes later, though Thierry Audel’s driven effort following a corner from the left-hand side flew well over the crossbar. Liam Noble came closer for the hosts in the twenty-fourth minute as his steered an effort narrowly wide having been teed up by Smith on the edge of the area.
The hosts were beginning to settle by the mid-way point of the half, and they should have been level in the twenty-sixth minute. Smith and Noble combined again to send the County left-winger through on goal, but Bobby Olejnik positioned himself brilliantly to narrow the angle and block the shot on goal.
The Magpies restored parity in the thirty-sixth minute, and in truth it had been coming. Olejnik did well to deny McLeod at the first time of asking after the thirty-one-year-old connected with Stead’s cross from the left-hand side, but there was nothing he could do about the rebound as the former Crawley Town striker prodded into an empty net.
City ended the half the livelier with two chances in quick succession. Both fell to Ryan Harley, as first his driven effort from the edge of the D forced County keeper Scott Loach into a routine stop, before the midfielder then dragged a tame effort wide three minutes later in what proved to be the final action of the first-half.
HALF-TIME: NOTTS COUNTY 1-1 EXETER CITY
The hosts could have took the lead two minutes after the restart. Stead did well to control a difficult ball on the edge of the area, before bending a well-struck effort onto the crossbar via the fingertips of Olejnik – another big save from City’s Austrian stopper.
Stockley was at the centre of the action as he tussled away with Andrew Boyce and Thierry Audel at the heart of the Magpies’ defence. Just after the hour mark he came close to adding his, and City’s second goal of the afternoon, but Loach was just about equal to his powerful shot on the turn.
Paul Tisdale’s decision to introduce Jake Taylor in the sixty-eighth minute proved a masterstroke as the midfielder made an instant impact. A well-weighted ball from Watkins sent the January signing clean through on goal, who displayed great composure to nestle his shot into the bottom-right corner.
As the boos echoed around Meadow Lane, the Grecians weren’t in a sympathetic mood as they added another in the seventy-first minute. Lee Holmes’ out-swinging corner from the left-hand side found its way to Christian Ribeiro via the head of Watkins, and the City full-back made no mistake in heading home from close-range.
Cheered on by the vocal contingent of away fans in the Jimmy Sirrel Stand, the Grecians’ confidence was visible as they strung together a number of crisp passing moves. Chances for Watkins, Moore-Taylor and Ribeiro were all spurned before Watkins deservedly got in on the act with a goal of his own in the seventy-eighth minute. After latching on to a Stockley knockdown, the City academy graduate curled past Loach in what felt like slow-motion for his third league goal of the campaign.
The rest of the game passed by without any noteworthy chances as the Grecians cruised home to a comprehensive victory against the oldest club in professional football, sending the 346 away fans back to Devon in jubilant mood.
FULL-TIME: NOTTS COUNTY 1-4 EXETER CITY
Attendance: 3,813 (346 away)
Man of the Match: Lee Holmes