Exeter City suffered a 1-0 defeat against promotion rivals Mansfield Town which ended a run of seven games unbeaten at St James Park.
Mansfield striker Danny Rose scored the game’s only goal on the brink of half-time and City failed to provide a response on what was a disappointing afternoon for the Grecians.
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Paul Tisdale made four changes to the side that were held to a draw against Wycombe Wanderers last weekend with Craig Woodman and Kane Wilson re-entering the starting line-up alongside debutant Ryan Loft and Troy Brown, who made his comeback from a knee injury.
Within the first minute, City had a penalty appeal waved away as Jake Taylor went to ground, but it was the visitors who had the game’s first major chance. The ball was bundled into City’s six-yard box and into the path of Rose who took a touch before cannoning his effort against the near post.
The Stags quickly went on to have the better of the opening period but struggled to break the deadlock early on as CJ Hamilton and Kane Hemmings both had speculative efforts cleared away by the City defence.
The Grecians eventually created their first opening when Taylor found himself unmarked on the edge of the box and fizzed the ball across the face of goal. Loft was arriving at the back post but Taylor’s cross narrowly evaded the on-loan striker.
The visitors then capitalised on their first-half dominance as Alfie Potter’s wicked cross caused problems in the City penalty area.
Hemmings met the ball in the six-yard box but the midfielder’s volley was spectacularly pushed on to the bar by Christy Pym. However, Rose was first to the rebound and made up for his earlier miss by finding the net on the brink of half-time.
City hoped a change of system would prove more fruitful after the break, with Hiram Boateng and Ryan Harley replacing Loft and Lloyd James at half-time, as Tis looked to shake things up.
The visitors claimed the half’s first chance when Hemmings’ neat hold-up play allowed Rose to receive the ball in the six-yard box but nobody could get a touch on his teasing ball across goal.
City enjoyed more possession after the interval, but failed to create many openings with Harley’s lofted free-kick that evaded Brown in the six-yard box proving to be City’s most notable moment of the half’s opening exchanges.
The hosts continued to press over the course of the second-half and had a strong penalty shout turned down as Dean Moxey was nudged to ground in the dying embers of the game.
The equaliser eventually proved to be elusive for the Grecians as they struggled to find their way past a resolute Mansfield defence on the day.
Exeter City: Pym, Woodman (Edwards, 69), James (Harley, 45), Tillson, Stockley, Moore-Taylor, Moxey, Wilson, Taylor, Loft (Boateng, 45), Brown.
Subs not used: Jones, Archibald-Henville, Simpson, Holmes
Booked: Wilson, Moxey.
Mansfield Town: Logan, Bennett, Benning, Pearce, MacDonald, Anderson, Potter, Hamilton, Hemmings (Atkinson, 62), King, Rose (Spencer, 76).
Subs not used: Olejnik, Diamond, Mellis, Penney, Miller.
Attendance: 3,680 (inc. 224 away)