A rapid second-half riposte with goals from Aaron Martin and Alex Fisher saw Exeter City come from behind to beat Northampton Town 3-2 at St James Park on Saturday afternoon.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor made a single change from last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Hartlepool - Alex Fisher replacing Ben Seymour, who dropped to the bench.
Ryan Bowman had the first chance of the game after eight minutes with a surging run from deep, and the visitors stood off him and allowed the striker to get a shot away, but unfortunately for the Grecians it curled narrowly wide. Nigel Atangana crossed for Fisher a couple of minutes later, but it wasn’t anything more than a half-chance and the latter’s effort flew over the bar.
The visitors then had a great chance to open the scoring as Vadaine Oliver crossed from the left-hand side, and Andy Williams was in a yard of space but the forward could only head over Jonny Maxted’s goal with 24 minutes on the clock. The Grecians responded, with Law, Bowman and Fisher combining to produce a shooting opportunity for the latter, though his effort on the half-volley deflected out for a corner that ultimately came to nothing.
A slip from Dean Moxey then produced a further chance on the counter for the Cobblers, but a last-ditch block from Archie Collins spared his teammate’s blushes as City recovered. The visitors would take the lead, however, as City failed to clear their lines following Nicky Adams’ corner, and the ball eventually fell to Cobblers’ captain Charlie Goode, who smashed home from the edge of the box.
City responded well, and Nicky Law fired a volley towards Cornell’s goal after Ryan Bowman won an aerial duel, although the effort was wide of Cornell’s left-hand post. It was a sign of things to come, however, and the Grecians were soon level – a free-kick routine saw Randell Williams presented with the chance to cut inside onto his right foot, and the winger fired a superb effort into the bottom corner to level the scores after 38 minutes.
Goode had an opportunity late at the end of the first-half, again from a set-piece, but headed wide as the two sides went in level at half-time.
City nearly took the lead immediately after the restart – a Jack Sparkes free-kick on 48 minutes hitting the post – before Maxted was first called into action, and the City goalkeeper was brave to smother a loose ball in the penalty area. Down the other end, Fisher then crossed for Law in a lightning-fast start to the second period, but the midfielder couldn’t direct his header goalwards.
A combination of Northampton defenders then combined on the line with goalkeeper Cornell to deny Fisher after Bowman played an incisive pass across the face of goal, though somehow for the Grecians amidst the pile of bodies the ball landed kindly for Cornell and the ball didn’t go over the line.
Archie Collins was the next City man to try his luck – all this within 10 minutes of the restart – with an effort that was deflected out for a corner right in front of Cornell, with the Cobblers defending resolutely.
City’s bright start was eventually rewarded with a goal – another well-worked set-piece featuring Randell Williams, whose inch-perfect cross was headed home by Aaron Martin to send the Thatchers Big Bank into raptures.
It was a raucous crowd that cheered the centre-back’s header beyond Cornell and into the net, and they would soon have something else to shout about – a superb cross from Jack Sparkes no more than a minute later found Alex Fisher in the box, and the striker made no mistake after 65 minutes.
For all his graft, Bowman deserved a goal, and nearly scored a spectacular fourth after Collins released him down the inside left channel, and the striker produced a curling effort narrowly beyond the right-hand post. The Grecians played with an intensity that the visitors simply couldn’t deal with and were good value for their two-goal lead.
The visitors pulled one back through Sam Hoskins as his driven effort beat Maxted to set up a potentially nervy last ten minutes. An acrobatic effort from Oliver flew wide of Maxted’s near post with 88 minutes on the clock, and Northampton pressed for an equaliser, but City held out to secure a huge three points.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Atangana, A Martin, Law, R Williams, Bowman, Fisher (Seymour 80), Moxey ©, Sparkes (Parkes 79), Collins (Taylor 87).
Subs not used: Visser, L Martin, Jay, Richardson.
Booked: Bowman, Fisher
Northampton Town: Cornell, McCormack (Kaja 73), Goode ©, Turnbull, Hoskins, Adams, A Williams (Smith 58), Lines, Wharton, Oliver, Anderson (Watson 58).
Subs not used: Arnold, Martin, McWilliams, Harriman.
Attendance: 3,971 (247 away)