Exeter City made sure of a home tie in the knockout stages of the Leasing.com Trophy with a 3-1 win over West Ham United under-21s.
Two goals from Joel Randall and a header from Jordan Tillson gave City the three points and kept their 100 per cent record in the competition this season going.
Manager Matt Taylor made 10 changes from the side that drew with Cambridge United in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday, with only Pierce Sweeney remaining in the team.
South African keeper Dino Visser made his first start for City, while Josh Key, Will Dean, Alex Hartridge, Ben Seymour and Joel Randall all were given spots in a youthful starting XI.
City went into the game knowing, thanks to Newport County’s 7-4 win over Cheltenham on Tuesday night, that they had qualified for the knockout stages of the competition. However, West Ham United needed a point to qualify, while the Grecians also needed a point to be sure of topping the group.
The Grecians started the match brightly and nudged themselves in front, after nine minutes, when Visser’s long kick up field was flicked on by Seymour for Randall to race through one-on-one and send a first-time shot past Krisztian Hegyi.
However, the lead lasted just eight minutes as Harrison Ashby went over a trailing leg in the box to earn his side a penalty, which was converted by Joe Powell.
West Ham had another chance 10-minutes later as Ashby got in on the right side of the area once more, but this time he skied a bouncing ball over the crossbar.
City hit back on the half hour as Jack Sparkes won and took a free-kick on the edge of the area, which forced Hegyi into a routine save and then, following a good dummy from Randall, Jake Taylor got in on the right side of the box and struck a low shot that the West Ham keeper blocked with his legs and then gathered.
However, the game started to drift towards half-time as both sides sturggled to create anything of note in the final 10 minutes of the first period.
City were the side pressing at the start of the second half as well, but it took them until the 55th-minute to get their first sight at goal as Sparkes won the ball high up the pitch before playing a one-two with Randall and curling an effort towards goal that deflected away to safety.
Sparkes was again in the thick of the action just before the hour mark as he side-stepped a challenge in midfield before unleashing a 30-yard effort that cannoned off the base of the post.
West Ham looked threatening on the counter though and Visser had to be off his line smartly to block Daniel Kemp’s effort when he was played in on goal.
Substitute Ryan Bowman then drilled a shot low to the bottom corner that was turned behind by Hegyi before Nathan Holland responded with a long-range effort that whistle inches wide of the post.
However, it was City who deservedly nudged themselves in front, with 12 minutes left, when Sparkes sent a free-kick, near the corner flag, to the back post for Tillson to nod home.
Randall then came so close to making it 3-1, but after racing in on the left side of the box his slide finish cannoned off the inside of the post and was cleared out of the six-yard box.
However, the striker was given the chance to get his second moments later as Bowman profited from a loose back pass to square the ball to him on the edge of the six yard box where he smashed the ball home.
Exeter City: Visser, Sweeney (Richardson, 45), Hartridge, Moxey (Bowman, 57), Key, Dean, Taylor, Tillson, Sparkes, Seymour (Chrisene, 78), Randall. Subs not used: Maxted, Williams, Jay, Fisher.
West Ham United under-21s: Hegyi, Holland, Lewis, Rosa, Kemp, Powell, Longelo, Chesters (Corbett, 79), Baptiste, Parker, Ashby (Caiger, 70). Subs not used: Jinaadu, Giddings, Appiah-Forson, Greenidge, Nsumbu.
Attendance: 807 (69 away)
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