James Norwood’s deflected volley in the first-half was enough for Tranmere Rovers to overcome Exeter City at St James Park, despite a spirited fightback from the Grecians in the second half.
Boss Matt Taylor made two changes from the side that conceded late in Tuesday night’s draw in Lincoln City, with Lee Holmes and Randell Williams returning to the starting XI over Aaron Martin and Ryan Bowman.
It was the visitors who started the brighter of the two sides, with a flurry of chances to shoot following Ben Pringle’s free-kick into a dangerous area after five minutes, but City defended bravely and blocked a couple of goalbound efforts to eventually recover possession.
Donovan Wilson’s game then came to a premature end as he went off injured after 26 minutes and replaced by Jonathan Forte. Tranmere would take the lead soon after as a long ball out of
Tranmere would take the lead soon after as a long ball out of defence found James Norwood, and his effort on the half-volley deflected off Pierce Sweeney and rolled agonisingly beyond Christy Pym just before the half-hour mark.
Great solo work from Forte produced an opportunity for the City man as he broke through on goal, but Emmanuel Monthe did just enough to prevent the striker getting a clear sight of goal, and restricted the home side to just a corner. It proved to be the Grecians’ best chance in a relatively turgid first 45, with both sides struggling to create anything of note beyond Norwood’s strike.
City started the second half more aggressively, with Randell Williams enjoyed a good spell against Zoumana Bakayogo – cutting across the fullback and firing a dangerous low cross in on 53 minutes that goalkeeper Scott Davies did well to hold on to, before drawing a foul – and a yellow card – off of the former Ivory Coast youth international a couple of minutes later.
It was a dominant period for the Grecians, whose pressure ultimately resulted in a chance for Matt Jay that he could only fire wide on the volley.
Lee Holmes was a persistent threat down the City left, and his cross for Forte was dangerous enough to have resulted in an equaliser but the substitute’s header under pressure flew wide.
A corner routine after 67 minutes then saw Holmes hit the side-netting as he latched onto Matt Jay’s pass. The City winger was involved again a couple of minutes later, again crossing for Forte, but this time the forward’s glancing header flew over.
The City pressure ramped up and up into the dying minutes; Pierce Sweeney saw his effort blocked inadvertently by teammate Nicky Law following a corner, before Jonathan Forte’s acrobatic volley from close range was saved spectacularly by Davies in the Tranmere goal.
Davies was on hand again to deny Forte’s header deep into injury time with another superb save; it was a backs-to-the-wall defensive effort from Tranmere with the City back-line largely untroubled for the duration of the second half, but it’s the visitors that emerge from the game with all three points.
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Woodman, O’Shea, Holmes, Williams (Law 76), Jay, D Wilson (Forte 26), K Wilson, Taylor, Collins (Boateng 69). Subs not used: Hamon, Martin, J Brown, Hartridge.
Tranmere Rovers: Davies, Monthe, Norwood, Jennings, McCullough, Caprice, Ellis, Perkins, Smith (Gilmour 67), Bakayogo, Pringle (Nelson 90+3). Subs not used: Pilling, Buxton, Mullin, Banks, Dagnall.
Booked: Perkins, Bakayogo, McCullough
Attendance: 4,855 (405 away)