Jayden Stockley bagged a late winner in front of the Big Bank to set up a third round tie against West Bromwich Albion at St James Park.
After falling behind to a Christian Doidge penalty in the first half, Jordan Tillson’s dismissal reinvigorated City as Pierce Sweeney and Stockley both fired home to seal the comeback on a memorable night for the Grecians.
Match report sponsored by Speedy Exeter
Paul Tisdale made five changes to the side that suffered defeat against Colchester United over the weekend with Craig Woodman, Jordan Tillson, Liam McAlinden and Stockley entering the starting line-up. New recruit Dan Seaborne also made his first start since his return to City.
City dominated the opening minutes and nearly took an early lead when Liam McAlinden latched on to Craig Woodman’s long ball forward to send him through on goal, but the striker’s effort was well-saved by Rovers keeper Bradley Collins.
Moments later, the hosts had another opportunity when Jordan Tillson marauded his way into the visitors’ box before teeing up McAlinden at close-range but the Rovers defence did enough to prevent his attempt from heading goal bound.
Rovers then started to gain a foothold on the game as they went on to enjoy the lion’s share of possession in the opening half. Their first chance of the evening came when Daniel Wishart darted into the City box and laid the ball off to Toni Gomes at the back post before the Liverpool loanee sliced his shot narrowly wide.
The visitors eventually made their possession count when Jordan Stevens expertly weaved a through-ball into the path of Christian Doidge who won a penalty after he was tugged back by City skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor. Doidge then converted from the spot with his effort squeezing underneath Christy Pym to break the deadlock before half-time.
City were reduced to ten men after the break when Jordan Tillson, who had already been booked, received his marching orders after hacking down Gomes as he made a burst down the left wing.
Rovers immediately looked to capitalise on their man advantage by applying heavy pressure on the City backline. Doidge nearly doubled Rovers’ lead when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box, but his curling effort was parried over the bar by Pym.
Tisdale then looked to re-shuffle the City pack with a quarter of normal time remaining as Ryan Harley and Kyle Edwards entered the fray.
This double substitution proved vital for City as Edwards was fouled inside the Rovers box soon after his introduction to earn City a penalty. Pierce Sweeney stepped up and nestled the ball into the bottom corner to level the scores and set up a grand finale at SJP.
A tight period followed Sweeney’s equaliser, with neither side able to find a clear sight at goal. But with minutes remaining, Moore-Taylor made a vital block to prevent Scott Laird’s cross from meeting Doidge at the back post. The resultant corner led to a goal line scramble but the City defence stood their ground to send the game to extra time.
City nearly took the lead straight after the restart when Jake Taylor crouched low to connect with Lloyd James’ cross, but his header was pushed wide by Collins. Another chance soon followed for City, as the hosts enjoyed a spell of heavy pressure at the start of extra time, but Moore-Taylor failed to control Edwards’ low cross from point-blank range.
It was then Rovers’ turn on the ball and after City defended a succession of corners, the visitors’ pressure resulted in Charlie Cooper’s low, thumping effort drifting inches wide.
Soon after the second half of extra time got underway, the game was reduced to ten-a-side after Emmanuel Monthe fouled Taylor and was subsequently dismissed for a second bookable offence.
City then looked to turn the screw as Edwards twisted and turned through the Rovers defence, playing a one-two with Taylor, before his shot was saved by Collins. Moore-Taylor then went close from the subsequent corner, but his header evaded the far post.
Just as a penalty shoot-out looked to be imminent, City finally made their dominance count as Hiram Boateng’s fine cross was met by Stockley who stooped low to bury his header in the bottom corner and send the Big Bank into raptures.
Rovers tried to push for a late equaliser but City held firm to set up a third round tie against top flight opposition, with Stockley once again proving to be the hero for the Grecians.
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Woodman, James, Tillson, Stockley, Moore-Taylor, Seaborne (Harley, 71), McAlinden (Edwards, 71), Moxey (Boateng, 53), Taylor
Subs not used: Hamon, Jay, Wilson, Reid
Booked: Seaborne, Moore-Taylor, Stockley, Sweeney, Taylor
Sent off: Tillson
Forest Green Rovers: B. Collins, Laird, L. Collins, Monthe, Marsh-Brown, Doidge, Brown, Cooper, Wishart, Gomes (Roberts, 96), Stevens (Bugiel, 57)
Subs not used: Russell, James, Hendy, Spurrier
Booked: Cooper, Bugiel
Sent off: Monthe
Attendance: 2,923 (203 away)