Exeter City’s earned a valuable three points at Forest Green Rovers despite being reduced to 10 men for the majority of the second half.
The Grecians, who took the lead after four minutes through Nigel Atangana, had their goalscorer sent-off for a straight red card a minute into the second half and then had to withstand 18 shots at their goal, including one penalty, to earn a victory.
Matt Taylor made three changes to the side that had drawn with Colchester United last time out as Nicky Law, Nigel Atangana and Ryan Bowman came back into the side.
And it was one of those returning players that got City off to a winning start. First off it was good work from Bowman and Lee Martin to win a ball on the edge of the box and work it to Law and when he rolled a pass into the path of Atangana he found the bottom corner with an expertly placed side foot finish. The game was only four minutes old at that point and City could have extended their lead a couple of minutes later when Law got hold of the ball in the box, jinked past a challenge and then hit and effort that the keeper deflected onto his crossbar.
The Grecians territory and threat continued for the remainder of the first half, but Forest Green Rovers had a couple of chances on the break. The first saw Jonny Maxted called into action to palm a Liam Shephard cross out of his six-yard area and then he had to be equally adept to turn a Junior Mundal half volley around his post.
City also had a Law free-kick that was chipped into the six-yard box, only for a Forest Green defender to head behind, but in truth a lot of the first half – after a bright opening – was played in between the two 18-yard boxes.
In the second half it was a totally different story though. Atangana was harshly shown a red card a minute after the restart for a challenge on Kevin Dawson and from that moment on it was a resolute performance from the Grecians as they withstood waves and waves of pressure from the hosts.
First Jayden Richardson had to brave block a Liam Shephard shot on the edge of the box and then came another big moment in the match as Jack Aitchison went down in the area, despite minimal contact from Tom Parkes, and referee Lee Swabey pointed to the spot. Shephard stepped up to take it but Maxted gussed the right way and pushed the ball around his post.
Mondal then blazed over when well placed in the box before Maxted dive full length to parry a long-distance strike from Carl Winchester. However, the save of the match came on 67 minutes as Mondal, eight yards out, met a low cross from the left well and it appeared to be heading for the corner of the net only for Maxted to get a strong hand to the ball and turn his effort behind for a corner.
At that point, there was a sense that it was just going to be City’s day and back by a 700-plus away following, who lifted by the players’ second-half endeavour, tried to cheer the boys over the line.
There was still work to be done though, and Nicky Law, Randell Williams and Ryan Bowman all did well to relieve the pressure on the defence with surging runs forward. Archie Collins also won the ball back in midfield well in the closing 10 minutes and bulldozed his way into the box before going down under challenge from Adam Smith. Again, contact appeared to be minimal but this time the referee was not interested in awarding a spot kick and booked the young City captain for diving.
After that though City only had to survive one more scare as Mondal, well placed in the box once more, found the side netting two minutes from time.
Forest Green Rovers: Smith, Shephard, Mills (Frear, 45), Rawson, Winchester, Stevens (Aitchison, 45), Adams, Dawson (Colvil, 81), McGinley, Kitching, Mondal. Subs not used: Thomas, Bernard, Morton, Godwin-Malife.
Booked: Mills, Kitching, Shephard
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Atangana, A Martin, L Martin (Taylor, 58), Law (Tillson, 88), Williams, Bowman, Parkes, Richardson, Collins. Subs not used: Ward, Tillson, Ajose, Warren, Jay, Taylor, Seymour.
Booked: Williams, Collins