Exeter City began their 2020/21 pre-season campaign with a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers. An early goal from the home side in each half helped the hosts on the way to victory, despite a consolation strike from Tom Parkes.
Jayden Mitchell Lawson opened the scoring inside 90 seconds of the first half, while less than 60 seconds of second period had elapsed when Cameron Hargreaves doubled the lead. Parkes smashed in at the near post minutes later but it wasn’t enough for the Grecians.
Boss Matt Taylor new signings Jake Caprice and Rory McArdle in the starting line up at the Memorial Stadium for the game, which after some consideration of a four-quartered game, took place as a regular 90 minute fixture.
Bristol Rovers took the lead in the proceedings inside two minutes when Mitchell-Lawson latched onto a Hargreaves cross in the six yard box and knocked the ball past Lewis Ward.
It was an early blow for the Grecians, but they should have levelled within minutes, but Ryan Bowman’s bullet header was tipped over the bar by Anssi Jaakola in the Gas net.
The game had all the hallmarks of a pre-season game but, after a drink’s break, City improved. Archie Collins was having a good half and he fed in Jake Taylor with a good ball over the top, before Matt Jay found Bowman in the area. His shot had the sting taken out of it after a strong tackle from behind.
Bowman again had a great chance when he took down McArdle’s header in the six-yard box but couldn’t quite control it, allowing Jaakola to come out and gather.
The second half saw Josh Key come on at right back in place of Caprice but there was a similar start as the first as Rovers struck early to double their lead. The goal came from a sweet strike from Hargreaves as he cut inside and smashed the ball past Ward and into the top corner.
It wasn’t long though before City found a way back into the game though as Tom Parkes volleyed the ball in via the post after a deflection off a Rovers man fell kindly to him. Game on at the Memorial Stadium.
There was a marked improvement from City thereon as they battled for an equaliser and Taylor soon wrung the changes. Nicky Law, Pierce Sweeney, Alex Fisher, Joel Randall and Harry Kite were all brought onto the field for their first minutes of pre-season. Shortly after, Jonny Maxted, Jordan Dyer, Alex Hartridge, Nicky Ajose and an unnamed trialist were also added to the field.
The new look line up picked up where their predecessors left off and continued to put pressure on the Pirates’ defence. City were given a good opportunity to level when Ajose was felled on the edge of the area, but the trialist could only smash the ball just a tad too left to hit the target.
Maxted had to be quick off his line to deny James Daly after some neat footwork, before the same once again caused City some problems in the area. At the other end, Jordi van Stappershoef – who has replaced Jaakola midway through the half – was forced to get low and deny Randall’s powerful drive from the edge of the box. City weren’t able to equalise and their pre-season campaign ended in defeat.
The Grecians are next in action next Friday, when they host Taunton Town in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Cliff Hill.