Walsall are Exeter’s next visitors to St James Park this weekend as the Grecians look to extend their seven-game unbeaten run.
Prior to kick off, we take a trip down memory lane when the Saddler’s came to Devon in January 2011 when goals from Richard Duffy and Daniel Nardiello meant the points stayed in the Westcountry.
Jed Penberthy relives the League One encounter.
Exeter City 2 Walsall 1 | League One | St James Park | January 22, 2011
The Grecians were looking to put the Saddlers to the sword in this mid-season encounter. The home side were comfortable in 13th head of kick-off, where Walsall knew a defeat would take them to the foot of the League One table.
Paul Tisdale switched to a back five following the Johnstone Paint Trophy semi-final against Brentford. Dan Nardiello was replaced by Billy Jones in City’s only change.
And it was the Grecians who got off the perfect start and after four minutes were ahead.
A scrappy passage in the Walsall box led to Richard Logan going for goal. The half-clearance fell to the ever-composed David Noble. Steve Tully sneaked around the back of the Walsall back line and delivered a ball back into the mixer. Walsall’s desperate defending could only flick into Richard Duffy at the far post, who swept the reds into an early lead.
Undeterred, Dean Smith’s men worked a chance of their own. Darryl Westlake found Alex Nicholls trying to break the Exeter rear guard. He looped a ball to the far post and Tully almost diverted into his own net. Fortunately for City, Reading-loanee Ben Hamer was quick to react.
Next, Richard Taundry went for goal from range. Jon Macken only needed to flick it goalward, though he let it run, and so did Hamer, wide.
In a frantic first half, City hit the woodwork. Liam Sercombe whipped in a free kick from the left for Noble to rise highest. His header hit the corner of the post and Walsall survived going two-down.
Nicholls flashed an effort wide and Aaron Lescott volley over as the Saddler’s grew into the game.
Jamie Cureton came within inches of extending Exeter’s lead. Twice. First on the half-turn Cureton pulled a shot wide of the upright, and minutes later found himself baring down on Jimmy Walker’s goal without a defender in sight. Completely uncharacteristically from Curo, the City number 12 again traded paint with the outside of the far post.
After the break Walsall should have found themselves level. Julian Gray was allowed to run at the City defence and hook a ball to the back stick. Taundry arrived and inexplicably turned his shot wayward with Hamer’s goal gaping.
Taundry tested Hamer soon after, but his driven shot was easy for the City keeper. Hamer was alert to former-City midfielder Matt Gill’s header as well.
The storm was ultimately weather and with thirteen minutes left, the Grecians made sure of the points. Noble and Nardiello were on the same wavelength as a quick free-kick caught the Saddler’s slacking and the City substitute was on hand to roll the ball into the corner.
Exeter were gifted the chance to put the icing on the cake when John O’Flynn was fouled just inside the box. Nardiello stepped up and was expertly denied by Walker, which set up a nervy finish at the Park.
From the next Walsall attack, City were unable to clear, and despite a smart stop from Hamer, Gray was quickest to the loose ball to bundle home with five minutes left on the clock.
City though were sound enough to hold on and claim the points and Walsall dropped to the foot of the table.
Exeter City: Ben Hamer, Richard Duffy, Matt Taylor, Scott Golbourne, Billy Jones, Steve Tully, James Dunne, David Noble, Liam Sercombe, Jamie Cureton, Richard Logan
Walsall: Jimmy Walker, Andy Butler, Manny Smith, Aaron Lescott, Richard Taundry, Darryl Westlake, Matthew Gill, Matt Richards, Julian Gray, Alex Nicholls, Jon Macken
Referee: Bobby Madley