Ryan Bowman’s early goal earned Exeter City a 1-0 win at St James Park over Mansfield Town in the Sky Bet League Two.
Manager Matt Taylor made just the one change to his starting XI from Morecambe with now-joint top goalscorer, Nicky Law, temporarily sidelined with injury, allowing Matt Jay to come into the lineup in his place.
The game, as expected, was end-to-end for the entirety of the first-half with both sides having a plethora of chances.
It was the Grecians who took the lead inside five minutes, after a quick throw-in from Dean Moxey and an instinctive first-time finish from Bowman which thundered high into the back of Conrad Logan’s net.
At the other end, Mansfield’s Nicky Maynard made himself a nuisance as the ball was pumped into the box, fortunately his driven effort fell wide of Lewis Ward’s right-hand post. In the 17th minute, Lee Martin cut inside to beat Mal Benning and hit a left-footed strike towards Logan, however Town’s goalkeeper saved well at his near post.
Soon after, City’s No.7 had another chance as Jay whipped in a low free-kick on the left-hand side, but Martin could only direct his flicked effort straight into Logan’s midriff.
Martin was once again in the thick of the action and looked to turn provider with a sumptuous cross towards Randell Williams at the back post who was millimetres away from touching the ball into an empty net. Bowman’s confidence was brimming throughout the first 45 minutes, and it was the 27-year-old who rose highest once more from a corner-kick, but despairingly for City his header slammed onto the post and the ball was cleared off the line by Town.
The second-half didn’t carry on with the same zest as the first and rather than dynamic, passages of play, the ball was hit more directly upfield from both sides. Omari Sterling-James was introduced in the latter stages and had a rasping effort 25-yards from goal which drifted just wide of Ward’s goal, and with ten minutes to go, Jake Taylor was a crossbar away from doubling City’s lead as his volley on the edge of the box rattled the framework. As Mansfield continued to press for an Ryan Sweeney was sent off in the 87th minute for an elbow to the chest on Ryan Bowman.
The last few minutes of play were nail-biting, but the Grecians managed to hold on and maintain their top of the table status in League Two.
Exeter City: Ward (GK), Sweeney, A. Martin, L. Martin, Williams, Bowman, Jay (Woodman 88’), Moxey, Sparkes, Taylor (C), Collins. Unused substitutes: Maxted (GK), Tillson, Ajose, Parkes, Fisher, Richardson.
Mansfield Town: Logan (GK), Benning, Preston (Hamilton 78’), Pearce (C), MacDonald, Mellis, Maynard, Tomlinson (Sterling-James 72’), Sweeney, Gordon, Rose. Unused substitutes: Stone (GK), White, Khan, Afol, Smith.
Yellow Cards: Bowman, Tomlinson, Sparkes
Red Cards: Sweeney.
Attendance: 4,316 (262)