Exeter City fall to successive home defeats at the hands of Tranmere Rovers.
Elliott Nevitt’s first half strike proved the winner on a difficult afternoon for the Grecians, where clear-cut chances came at a premium.
Matt Jay and Jevani Brown came closest to finding a late equaliser against the stubborn Rovers defence, as City dominated the second half.
Tranmere played the last few minutes with ten men, after Callam McManaman’s horror tackle on Kyle Taylor saw him sent off- though time had all but ran out for Exeter’s attack to make a difference.
Three alterations were on Matt Taylor’s mind ahead of this one. Josh Coley, Kyle Taylor, and Colin Daniel were reinstated into the side.
Saturday also marked Exeter City's dedicated Rainbow Laces fixture, supporting Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign to "Lace Up and Speak Up" for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans or Queer (LGBTQ+) inclusion in football.
After a cagey fifteen minutes Tranmere almost went ahead from a free-kick. Josh Hawkes set his sights from a central position, but Cameron Dawson got a strong hand to divert the powerful effort onto the post.
The danger signs were there, and Rovers took the lead two minutes later. Elliott Nevitt was picked out at the far post and he slotted home to put the visitors in front.
Matt Jay had City’s first real effort of the day on the half-hour mark. Josh Coley picked up a loose ball after Josh Key slipped. Coley jinked his way past two Rovers players and laid into his captain. On the swivel, Jay dragged wide.
City almost found inspiration through Key five minutes later. A amzy run from right-back got him to the by-line. His pull back pinballed around the box and belatedly fell to MJ, not once, but twice. On the second occasion the skipper pulled wide.
Tranmere came out of the changing rooms in an extra gear. Nevitt again found space at the far post, to be denied his second by Dawson. From the resulting corner Jevani Brown headed onto his own post and wide, then Rovers won the consecutive corner but there was a sigh of relief as the ball sailed wide.
With City fruitlessly searching for an early equaliser, Dawson had to be called back into action, halting a dangerous looking Rovers counter.
Exeter were aggrieved not to have had a penalty, if not two, on the hour mark. Kyle Taylor was bundled over in the box but former Premier League referee Bobby Madley thought Peter Clarke’s challenge was fair.
The ball ricocheted for a City throw-in which Alex Hartridge launched into the box. The bouncing ball contacted dangerously close to a Tranmere arm, but again the man in black said no, and tempers started to flare.
Rovers had a wonderful chance on the counter attack to put the game beyond City. Josh Hawkes sprung the high line but was expertly stopped by the onrushing Dawson. The follow-up from the ever-present Charlie Jolley was wasted.
Tranmere were camped in their defensive third for much of the second half but time was slowly running out. Crosses from Josh Key and Pierce Sweeney offering Exeter’s best avenue for untaken chances.
Archie Collins tried his luck from the edge of the box as the game pressed into the last ten minutes, but his curler landed the wrong side of the post. Substitute Jake Caprice kept those standing at the top of the Big Bank on their toes with a first-time shot.
It was complete Attack versus Defence in the final exchanges. Matt Jay saw a left-footed strike miraculously blocked by Clarke on its way into the bottom corner.
In the first minute of added time Jevani Brown flashed a shot towards goal. The fortuitous deflection could have gone anywhere, somehow the ball stayed out of the net. Matt Jay then found space in the box and Ross Doohan pulled off a great save to stop the skipper.
Callum McManaman was soon shown red for an absolutely unnecessary and horrendous challenge on Kyle Taylor and City had three minutes to find a goal.
That they couldn’t and Exeter City suffered back-to-back home defeats and ended a fourteen game scoring streak.
Exeter City: Dawson, Key, Ray (Amond 79’), Hartridge (Sweeney 69’), Daniel, Taylor, Kite, Collins, Jay, Coley (Caprice 69’), J. Brown
Subs: S. Brown, Grounds, Rowe, Amond, Edwards
Tranmere Rovers: Doohan, Dacres-Cogley, MacDonald, Davies, Clarke, Spearing, Morris, Foley, Hawkes (O’Connor), Jolley (McManaman 82’), Nevitt (Merrie 78’)
Subs: Murphy, Feeney, McManaman, Watson, Maynard
Referee: Bobby Madley
Attendance: 4,850 (221 away)