Exeter City got back to winning ways with a 2-1 win over Stevenage at St James Park. Randell Williams goal and Matt Jay’s strike just a minute after the visitors equalised secured the three points for Matt Taylor’s side to take them back to third in the Sky Bet League Two table.
City boss Taylor made three changes to the side that were beaten by league leaders Swindon Town last week with Nicky Ajose, Brennan Dickenson and Archie Collins – who captained the side – returning to the starting line up.
This was the second time in three weeks that the Grecians had faced the Hertfordshire side, with City victorious 3-0 in the Leasing.com quarter final in January thanks to Nicky Ajose’s strike and Jay’s double, and Stevenage were also much changed from that contest.
City were off to a bright start, with little over two minute on the clock when Williams floated in a cross that saw Aaron Martin nod wide, but play was halted when Nicky Law took a hefty thump to the head. When play restarted it allowed the visitors a bit of time on the ball, but they were unable to capitalise on their spell of possession.
Despite their lowly league position, the away side were creating chances and City were lucky when Pierce Sweeney deflected Jake Cassidy’s first time effort behind for a corner, with Lewis Ward holding the resulting ball well.
The Grecians came close when Nigel Atangana did brilliantly to react to Dickenson’s throw, whipping a fierce ball onto the head of Ryan Bowman, who dinked over. Law was then forced off after his earlier knock, with Jay taking his spot on the pitch.
After the half hour mark City showed more want and forced a string of successive corners, but Stevenage were dealing with balls from the wide positions well and Williams was being given little space to work his usual magic. When he finally did breach the backline, it was the same old story. The onslaught continued, but there was still no opener for City.
Finally, it did come and it was from the man himself. Moving into the centre of the park, Williams raced into the area, bulleting Sweeney’s ball from the right hand side past Farman in the Stevenage goal. It was a just reward for the home side that had forced their opponents to batten down the hatches.
The lead should have been doubled in first half stoppage time, but Ajose couldn’t squeeze the ball under an on-rushing Farman.
It was more of the same in the second half as City tried to extend their lead, and Ajose once again missed a glorious chance as he tried to chip Farman inside the area, but his effort dipped just wide of the far post.
Dickenson then came close as he latched onto Collins’ low ball at the near post, but Farman was equal to it to keep the ball out.
It was then the post that denied the Grecians a second as Collins once again did the legwork, finding Bowman who smashed the ball against the woodwork.
Stevenage boss Westley made a couple of changes with ten minutes to go, and the shuffle in the pack paid dividends as the bottom of the table side restore parity. It was Daniel Kemp who leveled the scores, finding space on the right hand side before smashing the ball past Ward.
The Big Bank wasn’t silent for long though, as right from the restart the hosts poked themselves back into the lead. Ajose did superbly to get behind the Stevenage defence but saw a couple of shots blocked by a resolute defence. His perseverance would pay off though, with the ball bobbling out to Jay who slid the it home with ease.
Stevenage rallied late on but couldn’t produce the goods as City rose back into the automatic promotion places.
Exeter City: Ward, Sweeney, Atangana, A.Martin, Law (Jay), Williams, Bowman, Ajose (Fisher), Parkes, Dickenson (Richardson), Collins ©.
Subs not used: Arthur, L.Martin, Holmes, Moxey.
Stevenage: Farman, Reading, Digby ©, Soares (Carter), Carroll, Parrett, Cassidy, Dabo, Nugent, Jackson (Folami), Kemp.
Subs not used: Bastien, Cuthbert, Ionnton, Lakin, Denton.
Booked: Digby, Dabo, Parrett, Reading
Attendance: 4,458 (107 away)
Referee: Ollie Yates