Goals from McCartan and Pearson see City beaten at St James Park
Exeter City fell to their first home defeat since November 2016 as goals from Seamus McCartan and Matty Pearson gave Accrington Stanley a 2-0 win at St James Park.
The visitors had the better of the opening half-hour of the match and played well on the counter-attack in the second half. However, the Grecians could take heart from a battling performance that saw them create numerous chances to get back into the match in the final half hour.
City made three changes to the starting line-up from last Saturday’s match at Hartlepool United. In came Luke Croll, Pierce Sweeney and Joel Grant, while Ryan Harley, Jack Stacey and Troy Brown dropped to the bench.
Accrington were first to go close as McCartan managed to wriggle his way past Grant and Sweeney, following a short corner routine, and sent in a low shot that Bobby Olejnik had to turn around his post.
The visitors’ bright start was then rewarded on 11 minutes as Sean McConville got the wrong side of Sweeney and was brought down by the City right back on the edge of the area. McCartan stepped up to take the free-kick and curled an effort into the top left-hand corner of the net.
City's Ollie Watkins was first to test Stanley keeper Marek Rodak with an angled drive from the right side of the area. Then Wheeler, who put in an energetic first-half performance, then had a similar effort just after the hour mark, but his shot deflected off Janoi Donacien and into the side netting.
City’s top scorer was then in the thick of the action again on 40 minutes as he connected with a wonderfully floated cross from Craig Woodman, but saw his bouncing header superbly turned over the crossbar by Rodak.
Then in the closing minutes of the half Reid had a close-range shot that fell into the path of Watkins in the six-yard box, but he couldn’t get a telling touch on the ball to divert it past Rodak who was quickly off his line to block.
City started the second half with the lion's share of possession once more, but Stanley showed the threat they posed on the counter as substitute Jordan Clark tested Olejnik with a shot from just inside the box with 50 minutes played.
The Grecians, at this stage, were struggling to create chances but did have a wayward cross from Wheeler that threatened to dip under the crossbar, forcing Rodak into another save.
Paul Tisdale then turned to his bench on the hour mark sending on Stacey and Harley for James and Croll. However, with 20 minutes to go, Olejnik was forced into another good save to stop McCartan from finding the net and from the resulting corner Matty Pearson headed Stanley into a 2-0 lead.
The City players' heads didn't drop though and, led by an impromptu team-talk from Reid, they continued to create chances in the remaining minutes. With 11 minutes to go, Watkins had a glorious chance to pull a goal back when he picked up Reid's knockdown but hit his effort a foot over the crossbar. Then, after Wheeler was caught with an arm in the face with three minutes to go, Watkins curled another effort, from a free-kick, inches past the post.
Grant was the next player to go close after a good turn from him on halfway set up another great attacking move that ended with him prodding the ball the wrong side of the post from six yards out.
Wheeler then had a header saved by Rodak as the game went into stoppage time.
Exeter City (4-4-2): Olejnik; Sweeney, Croll (Stacey, 60), Moore-Taylor, Woodman (McAlinden, 73); James (Harley, 60), Taylor; Wheeler, Watkins, Grant; Reid. Subs not used: Hamon, Tillson, Oakley, T Brown.
Accrington Stanley (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Pearson, Hughes, Rodgers, Donacien; S Brown, Conneely; Clare (Clark, 45), McCartan, McConville (Beckles, 72); Kee. Subs not used: Chapman, Davies, Gornell, Husin, Edwards.
Booked: Pearson, Rodgers
Attendance: 3,897 (67, away)