Exeter City fell to their first defeat of the season as some defensive errors and missed chances cost them at home to Grimsby Town.
The Grecians, who were looking to break a club record of 14 league games without loss, started the match brightly but were dealt a blow when the visitors scored from a corner, when Archie Collins was off the pitch injured, and although they started the second half brightly, a costly penalty and swung the match very much in Grimsby’s favour.
The Grecians created the first notable opportunity of the match as Lee Martin picked up the ball on the edge of the box before working a yard of room and curling an effort towards the corner of the net at James McKeown parried to safety.
However Grimsby, sitting just outside the play-off places going into the match, were passing the ball around nicely. City were then grateful, following a defensive mistake, to some last-ditch defending from Tom Parkes to prevent Ahkeem Rose from getting the opener, but the breakthrough did come shortly after.
There was an element of good fortune about it as City were down to 10 men at the time, with Collins off the pitch injured, but Ethan Robson was afforded too much time on the edge of the box and curled effort into the top corner.
The Grecians responded and created a couple of chances in the closing stages of the half as Lee Martin teed up Law for a shot that was blocked six yards out and then Sparkes delivered a superb cross that Ryan Bowman was inches away from glancing home.
However, manager Matt Taylor – unhappy with the first half showing – made a switch at half-time bringing on Jayden Richardson for Sparkes, that also saw Randell Williams move to the left wing.
Richardson’s first impact was to set up a shooting chance for Bowman but his volley was blocked by a Grimsby defender. Moments later Richardson crossed to the back post and McKeown fumbled the effort onto his bar before Nicky Law had a shot that was cleared off the line by Mattie Pollock via the outside of the crossbar.
Those missed chances were too prove costly as 13 minutes into the second half Max Wright got the wrong side of Dean Moxey in the box and he clumsily brought him down allowing Moses Ogbu to double the visitors’ advantage from the spot.
Grimsby then made it 3-0 as Robson finished off a good passing move by side-stepping a defender in the box and firing home. City did manage to get a goal back in the fourth minute of injury time as a free-kick was played into the area for Bowman to side foot a finish home.
However, City’s players were incensed in the closing stages when Richardson was brought down in the box for what looked like a clear penalty only for the referee Brett Huxtable to turn down the appeal. That led to Matt Taylor getting booked for his protests on the touchline.
Exeter City: Ward, Sweeney, L Martin, Law, Williams, Bowman, Parkes, Moxey, Sparkes (Richardson, 45), Taylor, Collins (Fisher, 63). Subs not used: Maxted, Woodman, A Martin, Jay, Seymour. Booked: Collins, Moxey, Sweeney, M Taylor
Grimsby Town: McKeown, Hendrie, Gibson (Davis, 67), Waterfall, Hessenthaler, Cook, Robson, Rose (Hanson, 60), Wright, Ogbu (Whitehouse, 73), Pollock. Subs not used: Russell, Green, Vernam, Hewitt. Booked: Gibson, Robson, Hessenthaler Attendance: 4,973 (261, away)