A Jayden Stockley brace and a goal from Liam McAlinden meant Exeter City got their Emirates FA Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 victory against Heybridge Swifts.
Stockley bagged two quick-fire goals early in the second half to give the Grecians the lead before Samuel Bantick pulled one back for the visitors.
Liam McAlinden’s late strike then restored City’s two goal cushion and saw them progress to the next round.
Match report sponsored by Speedy Freight
City named a strong side, making just two changes from the side that earned a point at Mansfield Town last weekend with Craig Woodman and Pierce Sweeney replacing Kyle Edwards and Kane Wilson in the starting line-up.
The Grecians started the game brightly and their first big chance came after four minutes. Craig Woodman lofted a long ball in to the penalty area which Stockley nodded in to the path of an unmarked Reuben Reid, but the City frontman struggled to control the knock-down and the ball drifted wide of the post.
The home side were much the better team in the opening stages and Stockley was once again involved as City created another opening. The striker leaped to meet Dean Moxey’s cross from the left but he couldn’t steer his header home.
After a busy start for the Swifts defence, the visitors gradually enjoyed more of the ball and this spell of possession culminated in Ben Sampayo surging forward to fire an effort at goal, but the full-back saw his curling shot deflected wide by Pierce Sweeney.
City then responded with two opportunities of their own as Jake Taylor won possession deep in the Swifts half and fired a speculative effort just wide, with an attempt from Moxey being deflected over the bar just moments later.
The second half commenced in a similar vein as the Grecians looked to pile the pressure on the visitors. Stockley had City’s first chance of the half when he managed to fire a powerful shot at goal amongst a crowded penalty area but his half-volley was eventually cleared off the line.
They then made the breakthrough just before the hour mark after a period of sustained pressure. Lloyd James whipped in a teasing corner from the left and his cross was met by the head of Stockley who fired a bullet header home.
Just three minutes later, the hosts doubled their lead when Taylor’s low cross evaded the Swifts defence and fell in to the path of Stockley. The striker then took a touch before coolly slotting home to give City a two-goal advantage.
But just as the Grecians started to look comfortable, the visitors created an opening and halved the deficit after 70 minutes. A deep cross in to the City box was knocked back towards Samuel Bantick who bundled the loose ball home at the back post to hand Swifts a lifeline.
With four minutes remaining, City regained their two-goal cushion after Hiram Boateng played in McAlinden with a delightful through ball and the substitute’s effort found the back of the net after going through the legs of Swifts goalkeeper Danny Sambridge.
City pushed hard for a fourth goal, with Stockley in particular desperate to bag his hat-trick, but the hosts were forced to settle for three on an afternoon where non-league Swifts performed admirably but City’s class ensured they progress to the second round.
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Moore-Taylor, Brown, Woodman (Holmes 60), Moxey, James (Edwards 70), Boateng, Taylor, Reid (McAlinden 75), Stockley.
Heybridge Swifts: Sambridge, Ramon, Sampayo, Dark, Henshaw, Cawley, Chatting, Griffiths, Callander (Gardner 67), Bantick, Luque.
Booked: Chatting, Bantick
Attendance: 3,004 (251 away)