Matt Jay’s first-half penalty, in an incident that also saw David Wheater sent off, proved the turning point as Exeter City beat Oldham Athletic 5-1 at St James Park.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor made two changes from the side that beat Stevenage 2-1 at the Park on Saturday, with Matt Jay and Jayden Richardson coming in for Brennan Dickenson and the injured Nicky Law.
The game started slowly, until a ferocious effort from distance by Tom Hamer on 11 minutes had Lewis Ward scrambling to his left to dive, though the defender’s shot was narrowly off-target and the City goalkeeper didn’t need to make a save.
City responded after 15 minutes with a great run from Randell Williams, who crossed to the back post searching for Ryan Bowman. The striker jumped under the ball, however, and Jayden Richardson couldn’t convert at the back post either to leave the game goalless.
City took the lead after 20 minutes with the best move of the game up to that point, with Jayden Richardson finishing off a flowing home for the Grecians with a deft finish over Oldham goalkeeper Zeus de le Paz after Matt Jay had set him through.
The visitors responded immediately however, and were back on level terms two minutes after going behind as David Wheater scored following a short corner.
Matt Jay would be involved again in a frantic game, trying to find Nicky Ajose with a driven cross to the back post that was cut out at the last. Lewis Ward was then called into action at the other end, producing two saves in the space of two minutes to keep the visitors at bay as Oldham appeared in the ascendance.
A great City move featuring Ajose and Jay nearly resulted in a great goal; Jay’s effort on the half-volley was brilliantly saved by de le Paz before the referee blew for handball against Jay. Five minutes before the interval, a rasping drive from Danny Rowe stung Ward’s hands, before the game changed with 41 minutes gone as a loose ball in the Oldham area fell to Randell Williams, who saw his shot handled off the line by David Wheater – the Oldham skipper was sent off. Matt Jay converted the spot-kick to give the Grecians the lead at half-time.
The Grecians would double their lead five minutes into the second-half as Archie Collins fired a venomous strike past Zeus de le Paz from the edge of the box to make it 3-1 following a short corner routine.
And when Ryan Bowman added a fourth with an excellent header on the hour mark following Matt Jay’s cross, the rest of the game appeared something of a formality. It was a goal of sublime quality, from Ajose’s initial run to Jay’s delivery to Bowman’s inch-perfect header.
A speculative effort from substitute Emmanuel Dieseruvwen on 74 minutes was as close as the visitors got in the second half, but it was a shot that Lewis Ward comfortably watched sail over the top of his crossbar. The Grecians exerted a degree of control over the game that had been lacking in the first period, and were richly rewarded for it. Nicky Ajose nearly added a fifth, but for a superb sliding tackle from Tom Hamer. It eventually did come in injury time, as Brennan Dickenson’s free-kick from deep eluded everyone to find its way into the back of the net as the left-sided player scored his first goal for the club.
Dickenson’s goal proved the icing on top of the cake as the Grecians picked up a comfortable win at St James Park.
Attendance: 3,527 (74 away)
EXETER CITY: Ward, Sweeney, Atangana, A Martin, Williams (Dickenson 71), Bowman (Fisher 63), Ajose, Parkes (Moxey 29), Jay, Richardson, Collins ©.
Subs not used: Arthur, L Martin, Taylor, Holmes, Fisher.
Booked: A Martin
OLDHAM ATHLETIC: De Le Paz, Branger-Engone (Mills 44), Missilou, Sylla (N’Guessan 58), McCann, Smith, Wheater ©, Piergianni, Hamer, Rowe (Dieseruvwe 70), Borthwick-Jackson.
Subs not used: Allen, Mills, Maouche, Nepomuceno, Wilson, N’Guessan.