Exeter City picked up their third straight win in Sky Bet League Two with a 1-0 win over Salford City.
Ryan Bowman scored the only goal of the game, midway through the first half, and it is a victory that keeps the Grecians in second going into a busy festive fixture period.
Matt Taylor made four changes to his starting line-up from the team that had lost on Tuesday night in an Emirates FA Cup replay at Hartlepool United. Into the side came Alex Fisher, Nigel Atangana, Randell Williams and Dean Moxey, while Nicky Ajose was fit enough again for a place on the bench.
It was the hosts who started the brighter of the two teams though with Luke Armstrong firing one effort wide before having another effort blocked by Aaron Martin after the ball had broken kindly to him in the box. The Grecians grew into the match though with Alex Fisher drawing the first save of the game, when his first-time finish was instinctively blocked by Salford keeper Chris Neal.
Former Plymouth Argyle striker Jake Jervis then had the Grecians worried as he flashed a 25-yard strike just past Jonny Maxted’s right-hand post and then the home side really should have taken the lead when Liam Hogan headed a free-kick against the crossbar only for the ball to fall to Lois Maynard six yards out where he inexplicably scooped a shot over an open net.
Salford were made to pay for that miss as, four minutes later, City had the lead. Following good work by Dean Moxey down the left to win a corner, Randell Williams ball in was cleared to the halfway line where Tom Parkes played an inch-perfect ball out to Pierce Sweeney. That allowed the Irish full-back to take a touch before swinging in an accurate and quick cross into the area where Bowman thumped a header past Neal.
Chances went both sides’ way in the final 15 minutes of the half, as first Craig Conway brought a good save out of Jonny Maxted and then Nigel Atangana guided a shot, from the edge of the box, narrowly wide of the bottom corner.
City started the second half the stronger of the two teams, but it was Maxted who produced the first top class save of the match as he tipped a Hogan header, from eight yards out, over his crossbar. City then had what looked a good penalty appeal turned down when Randell Williams was tripped in the box, before the hosts began to pile the pressure on the Grecians defence in the final half hour.
However, the visitors kept their shape well and, when needed, Tom Parkes and Aaron Martin both put in crucial blocks to deny efforts at their goal. The hosts did get one more effort on target though as Jervis flicked a near post cross towards the roof of the net only for Maxted to produce his third good save of the match and ensure that the Grecians collected all three points.
Salford: Neal, Threlkeld, Hogan, Burgess, Touray, Jervis, Trowell, Maynard (Jones, 62), Conway, Thomas-Asante (Rooney, 70), Armstrong (Lloyd, 81). Subs not used: Piergianni, Letheren, Whitehead, Doyle
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, A Martin, Parkes, Williams, Atangana, Collins, Moxey, Taylor (L Martin, 75), Bowman, Fisher (Law, 54). Subs not used: Ajose, Jay, Richardson, Seymour, Arthur.
Booked: A Martin
Attendance: 2,922 (692, away)