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📝 Match Report: Exeter City 4 Harrogate Town 3

Our write-up of an incredible comeback

15 February 2022

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Jack Sparkes' last minute winner gave City all three points in an eventful clash with Harrogate Town.

Sparkes' curling effort sent SJP into pandemonium after City came from 3-1 down to claim all three points. 

Harrogate twice had a two goal margin, but three late unanswered goals from Jonathan Grounds, Tim Dieng and Sparkes completed an unlikely comeback.

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City made four changes from last Saturday, notably Sam Nombe made his first start since coming back from injury. 

Harrogate made their mark in the first minutes, challenging the Grecians defence. In the fourth minute the impressive clean sheet record of City was broken with Harrogate striker Luke Armstrong firing home from the centre of the box following a cross from the left.

This was reflected in the following minutes with Harrogate staying on top. A ball broke loose inside the City half with Jack Muldoon breaking through on goal but thankfully for City only finding the hands of the in-form Cam Dawson.

A minute later City were presented with a great opportunity as Jevani Brown played an intricate ball through to MJ but the ball was unable to settle resulting in Jay firing into the body of the Harrogate keeper Mark Oxley.

Despite this, the momentum stayed with the blue shirts of Harrogate. The 19th minute was to produce the second goal for Harrogate with Jack Muldoon able to finish off a move following a corner from the right. With the Grecians unable to take care of the danger, the number 18 was able to poke home with ease from the middle of the box.

Harrogate were to stay on top in the following with The Grecians unable to find a way into the match. The 26th minute saw City make their first change of the match with defender Cheick Diabate coming off for wide man Josh Coley in an attempt to change to a more attacking shape.

This made an immediate difference for City with a deflected ball from Josh Coley landing on the bar. The ball came down from the bar for Nombe and then MJ who both couldn’t squeeze the ball over the line from point blank range due to some miraculous shot stopping from Oxley.

Hope was provided for The Grecians in the 34th minute as Archie Collins was bought down by Harrogate defender Warren Burrell after a run through on goal. Jevani Brown stepped up for his first penalty for City and calmly slotted away into the left side of the stretched Harrogate keeper.

The change in shape was starting to make a notable difference to play with The Grecians now firmly on top. Immediately following the restart, Jake Caprice played a delightful ball over the top of the Harrogate centre halves presenting MJ with an awkward volley from the keepers right, unfortunately for City only finding the side netting.

By the 51st minute City had been forced into using all available substitutions with Nigel Atangana making way for Tim Dieng at the half-way point and Sam Stubbs coming off with an injury to be replaced by the experienced Jonathon Grounds 5 minutes later.

The opening stages of the second half presented few opportunities for both teams, with the Grecians working hard to draw level. This was reflected in vocal support from the Big Bank faithful.

Despite the hard work of City, it was to prove ineffective with Harrogate midfielder George Thompson nodding home with ease into the bottom left corner in the 64th minute following a corner from the right.

The Grecians didn’t let their heads drop despite bring down on the scoreboard. The lively nature of the match was to continue in the 70th minute following a corner from the left. The ball was to fall to substitute Jonathon Grounds on the other side of the box who was able to fire the ball low to the keepers left to give City hope.

Chances carried on coming thick and fast with Harrogate striker Jack Diamond being presented with a glorious one on one after running clear of the Grecian defence but only managing to steer the ball to the left of the post. A huge let of off for City.

City found the equaliser in the 81st minute. Tim Dieng was able to convert with a header from the centre of the box to the bottom left following an inch-perfect cross from Jake Caprice, shifting momentum once again in the Grecians favour.

City looked to find a spectacular last-minute winner sending the Big Bank into raptures with an epic equaliser in the closing stages. 

The Grecians continued to persevere and in the 95th minute the hard work was to pay dividends with Jack Sparkes finding himself in space on the left of the box and calmly able to lift the ball into the top right, cueing hysteria around St James Park.

This was to cap an incredible comeback win for City, securing their spot at third in the League Two table.

Exeter City: Dawson, Sparkes, Sweeney ©, Stubbs (Grounds 51’), Diabate (Coley 26’), Caprice, Collins, Atangana (Dieng 45’), Jay, Brown, Phillips

Subs: Brown, Amond, Key, Dieng, Taylor, Grounds, Coley

Harrogate Town: Oxley, Page (Austerfield 89’), Falkingham, Smith, Burrell (Sheron 83’), Thomson, Pattison, Muldoon, Legge, Diamond, Armstrong

Subs: Cracknell, Beck, Sheron, Kerry, Austerfield, Diarra

Referee: Brett Huxtable

Attendance: 3,852 (37 away)

City return to action on Saturday when we welcome Barrow to SJP. 


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