Exeter City began their Leasing.com Trophy campaign with a 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town at St James Park.
Although it was still a strong line-up, there were plenty of changes made by City boss Matt Taylor with Ben Seymour, Jordan Tillson and Johnny Maxted making their second starts of the season after all playing the full 90 minutes against Coventry City in the EFL Cup.
The first clear cut chance of the game fell to the Grecians and it was another early goal as Nicky Ajose tapped home in the fourth-minute. Matt Jay curled in a low free-kick and this time summer signing Ajose opened his body up well to guide the pace of the ball beyond Rhys Lovett.
City were constant throughout the first period with their pressure from the front forcing mistakes out of Cheltenham. Alex Fisher led the line expertly, with Ajose, Jay and Seymour all pressing well.
As the minuted progressed, Town did look slightly more comfortable on the ball and George Lloyd used his frightening pace get the better of Gary Warren, but the experienced defender managed to stop him in his tracks with a tactical foul on the edge of the penalty area.
Moments before half-time Joshua Debayo whipped in a dangerous cross to the back post where Lloyd was left free, the Cheltenham winger managed to take a touch and shoot, however his effort was wayward and flew high over Maxted’s crossbar.
At the other end, Jake Taylor lofted a terrific ball over the top of the Robins’ defence straight into Jay’s path, unfortunately the midfielder who had assisted the first curled just wide of Lovett’s left-hand post.
Josh Key replaced captain Taylor early on in the second-half, and not long after his introduction the 19-year-old fired a speculative half-volley from range which sailed over Lovett’s goal.
Another of Taylor’s substitutes came on in the early stages of the second period and looked to change things, this time Randell Williams found some space on the left-hand side and fired a cross into Seymour who couldn’t quite make contact with a diving header.
City’s domination continued and as Seymour looked to latch onto a long ball he forced an error out of Lovett who completely missed the ball when swiping despairingly, luckily for the Robins the loose ball was swept up before the young forward could capitalise.
Town did register one more shot on target before the final whistle and Maxted was forced into a regulation save from eight-yards to stop Ben Tozer from grabbing a point late on.
A win puts City at the top of the Southern Group E, with Newport County hosting West Ham United’s U21s on Wednesday evening.
Exeter City: Maxted (GK), Woodman, Tillson, Ajose (Chrisene 86), Parkes, Warren, Jay, Fisher (Williams 62), Richardson, Taylor (C) (Key 53’), Seymour. Unused subs: Ward (GK), A. Martin, Sparkes, Collins.
Cheltenham Town: Lovett (GK), Tozer (C), Bowery, Thomas, Campbell, Broom, Debayo, Brennan (Long 78’), Lloyd, Chamberlain (Addai 78), Greaves (Raglan 78). Unused subs: Flinders (GK), Hussey, Reilly.
Yellow cards: Warren. Attendance: 786 (38)