Two first-half goals from Swindon, either side of a strike from Randell Williams, gave table-toppers Swindon Town all three points at the County Ground on Saturday afternoon.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor initially made four changes to the side that lost to Port Vale, with Dean Moxey, Lee Martin, Nicky Law and Randell Williams returning to the starting eleven, but was forced to name a fifth as goalkeeper Jonny Maxted was injured in the warm-up. Lewis Ward returned to League Two action as a result.
The home side, buoyed on by a vocal crowd, were fast out the blocks and pressed City high, forcing several corners in the early stages of the game, but the back line held firm. Skipper Jake Taylor had to depart the game after just 18 minutes as the City skipper walked off injured, having struggled to recover from a late tackle on the halfway line earlier in the game.
City did, however, fall behind – Lewis Ward’s effort to punch away a corner deflected unfortunately off a City defender and into the City net. Ward was on hand to make a save three minutes later, as City lost the ball in transition and Eoin Doyle ran at the City backline, but the City goalkeeper was equal to Doyle’s effort. Swindon had another chance to double their lead as left-back Rob Hunt crossed for Jerry Yates, but from close range the home side’s number nine fluffed his lines and didn’t connect properly with the ball.
City grew into the game, and the blustery conditions, as the game went on, and Randell Williams produced a cross of real quality after 31 minutes that Swindon’s captain Mathieu Baudry headed over his own crossbar. All it took was a moment – and it was a moment that would fall to Williams after 34 minutes that took City level. Ryan Bowman’s presence wreaked havoc amongst the Swindon backline, the home side couldn’t clear and Williams recovered possession and fired home with his left foot across Benda and into the goalkeeper’s bottom-left corner.
The home side were clearly on top, however, and Doyle missed a chance to restore Swindon’s lead as City were again caught in possession. It was a frantic first-half and City were punished right at the end of it for their inability to impose control on the game. Swindon delivered a cross in from deep that was headed in by Hallam Hope, after the ball seemed to hit a Swindon arm before being delivered into the box.
For large periods of the second-half, City were much improved as a unit but struggled to break through a seemingly impenetrable Swindon defence. The build-up through Law, Williams and later, substitute Nicky Ajose, retained possession much more successfully with the wind blowing in the Grecians’ favour, but clear-cut chances were not forthcoming under difficult circumstances. Brennan Dickenson’s free-kick offered a sight of goal around the hour mark, but his effort flew harmlessly over Benda’s crossbar.
There was a late chance for Ryan Bowman from a Randell Williams cross that the striker saw late, but he couldn’t react in time to divert the ball home. The Grecians were unable to break through a resolute Swindon defence and the home side held on for all three points.
SWINDON TOWN: Banda, Baudry ©, Yates, Doughty, Hunt, Jaiyesimi, Doyle (Muskwe 90+1), Caddis, Grant, Edmonds-Green, Hope (Woolery 69).
Subs not used: Fryers, Isgrove, Lyden, McCormick, Muskwe.
EXETER CITY: Ward, Sweeney, Atangana, A Martin, L Martin (Dickenson 54), Law, Williams, Bowman, Parkes (Ajose 76), Moxey, Taylor © (Collins 18).
Subs not used: Holmes, Fisher, Richardson, Dickenson.