Goals from Jonathan Forte and Jayden Stockley proved the difference as Exeter City overcame Swindon Town 2-0.
The win sees the Grecians keep pace at the top of the league, remaining second on goal difference.
City boss Matt Taylor made two changes to the side that started the draw with Yeovil, with Jonathan Forte and Lee Holmes replacing Jordan Tillson and Lee Martin – both of whom dropped to the bench.
Exeter started the first-half brightly, and some good interplay within a tight area early on down the Swindon left between Hiram Boateng and Lee Holmes created an opening for the latter, but his cross was deflected inches away from the outstretched leg of the onrushing Nicky Law.
City did well to keep the ball alive though, and created another chance having recycled possession – Holmes again crossing, but this time Jayden Stockley’s header dropped agonisingly wide of the near post.
However, the Grecians were not to be denied and the opening goal was as simple as it gets. A long ball from Pym, aimed for Stockley, eluded both the striker and his marker, but fell kindly for Jonathan Forte, whose first-time effort beat the scrambling Swindon goalkeeper Luke McCormick before hitting the inside of the post, and nestling in the back of the Swindon goal.
Forte’s sixth goal in 10 games gave City the advantage in what was a very open first-half. Swindon had a great chance to equalise after 24 minutes when Marc Richards was played in down the inside-right channel, but Pym was out quickly to close the angle and made a superb save with his feet to keep out the striker’s driven effort.
Swindon played an expansive, attacking game not often seen by visiting teams at St James Park in recent seasons, with a commitment to a possession-based system with that caused City some problems at the back. Just after the half-hour mark, Kyle Knoyle crossed from the right-hand side into a very dangerous area, but the Grecians’ defence did just about enough to prevent Richards a clear sight of goal, and Dean Moxey was able to escape with the ball for City.
Swindon’s Matty Taylor then had a chance to shoot from a free-kick that forward Scott Twine had won about 25 yards from goal, but his effort flew comfortably over Pym’s goal and into the Thatchers' Big Bank.
Just before half-time, Pym was required to deal with another set-piece – another free-kick swung in from the City right-hand side flew into a dangerous area, but a commanding punch from the Grecians’ goalkeeper prevented a potentially dangerous situation. Swindon certainly ended the first half the stronger of the two sides, and Aaron Martin was called into action moments later as his slide cut out another dangerous cross from Knoyle.
Swindon certainly ended the first half the stronger of the two sides, and Aaron Martin was called into action moments later as his slide cut out another dangerous cross from Knoyle.
The second-half resumed as the first-half had finished; a dynamic, end-to-end game presented both sides with opportunities. First, Forte had a great chance to grab a second, but his left-footed drive – after great work in transition from Dean Moxey – flew wide from the edge of the box. Aaron Martin was then called into action, being forced to clear a dangerous cross from Taylor out for a corner, before Knoyle’s half-volley a couple of minutes later deflected off the upright of Pym’s goal.
Forte was lively, frequently proving the apex for City’s attacking moves, and was unlucky to see his effort – attempting to direct a powerful cross from Nicky Law – go wide in the 55th minute. Though the momentum of the game was shifting with alarming frequency, it was City who were creating the better chances, and Stockley’s header from close range would have doubled City’s lead if the striker had been able to establish a clean contact.
A myriad of chances were coming City’s way and it was only a matter of time before the pressure paid dividends for the home side. Stockley – the highest goalscorer in England’s top four divisions this calendar year – headed home from Sweeney’s cross to finally give City some breathing space.
Stockley was then a linesman’s flag away from scoring a potential goal of the season. Again, it was Sweeney who delivered, with a delicate cross just over the head of the Robins’ last defender, and Stockley met the ball with a perfectly executed scissor kick that flew past McCormick into the bottom-right corner. As St James Park erupted, the goal was disallowed as Stockley was deemed offside – a disappointing conclusion for what was a stunning strike.
An injury to Chiedozie Ogbene – picked up just after coming on – was a blight on an otherwise superb afternoon for Exeter, who controlled the ebb and flow of the game after doubling their lead. It could have been three late in the game as Nicky Law darted inside before firing an effort towards the far corner, but this time McCormick was equal to it, tipping behind for a corner.
With referee Peter Wright blowing for full-time shortly after, City were rewarded with a richly-deserved three points that marks a return to winning ways after last weekend’s draw.
Attendance: 4,506 (330 away)
Exeter City: Pym; Sweeney, A Martin, Croll, Moxey; Law, Taylor ©, Boateng, Holmes; Forte, Stockley. Subs: Hamon, O’Shea, Tillson (Forte 64), L Martin (Ogbene 87), Jay, Abrahams, Ogbene (Holmes 81).
Swindon Town: McCormick, Knoyle, Lancashire ©, Richards, Anderson, Smith, Diagouraga, Twine, Conroy, Taylor, Woolfenden. Subs: Henry (GK), Nelson, McGlashan, Alzate (Twine 53) Dunne, Adebayo (Smith 61) Woolery (Richards 69).
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, March 2 in a 3pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.