Harry Smith’s finish after 54 minutes condemned Exeter City to a 1-0 defeat at home to Macclesfield.
City looked the more likely in the opening period when Jonathan Forte almost found the net, but they struggled to break down a resilient Town side.
Grecians’ boss Matt Taylor made three changes from Saturday’s draw in Colchester, with Aaron Martin suspended, while Craig Woodman and Tristan Abrahams dropped to the bench for the incoming Luke Croll, Dean Moxey and Forte respectively.
The home side had the lion’s share of possession in the opening minutes, creating the first shooting opportunity of the game as Nicky Law’s corner fell to Pierce Sweeney at the back post, but his effort from a tight angle could only rattle the side-netting. Law then saw a volley held well by Kieran O’Hara in the Macclesfield goal soon after.
The Grecians had a golden chance to go ahead in the 19th minute, as a long ball from Croll was won in the air by Stockley – the ball fell kindly for Forte, though his effort was struck off-balance and flew narrowly over the bar.
Macclesfield then had a chance for themselves for Elliot Durell, but for a superb recovery from Dean Moxey -who was on hand to block his effort.
Law was at the heart of the Grecians’ play in the first half, and created another opportunity for Sweeney – a cross deep to the back post was met by the Irishman’s head, but O’Hara just about held on to the ball. City pressed and probed the Macclesfield back line and looked like they should have had a penalty after 34 minutes when Nicky Law nipped in to take the ball away from a defender, but referee Brett Huxtable looked disinterested in the appeals from the home side.
After half-time, the visitors broke the deadlock as Harry Smith poked home a cross from the right-hand side.
City had to wait until the 75th minute before creating a chance of note – Law swung in a corner from the left-hand side, and O’Shea rose highest but his header was agonisingly wide.
Jake Taylor’s ambitious effort from 25 yards was as good as it got for the Grecians in a relatively tame second period where City couldn’t produce anything to threaten O’Hara in the way they had in the first-half.
Attendance: 3,070 (24 away)
Exeter City: Pym; Sweeney, O’Shea, Croll (Woodman 65), Moxey; Law, Tillson (Ogbene 55), Taylor, Holmes; Forte (Abrahams 55), Stockley.
Subs not used: Hamon, Jay, Collins, L Martin.
Booked: Sweeney, Croll.
Macclesfield Town: O’Hara, Fitzpatrick ©, Kelleher, Durell, Smith (Blissett 77), Lloyd (Vincenti 85), Evans (Maycock 82), Pearson, Whitaker, Roase, Cameron.
Subs not used: Grimes, Wilson, Stephens, Arthur.