Exeter City continued their preparations for life in League One with a convincing 5-0 over Weston-Super-Mare AFC at the Optima Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Despite chances falling for both sides in an even first half, the contest remained goalless with both goalkeepers coming to the rescue of their respective sides.
City upped the ante in the second half, and in particular, forward Sam Nombe, who grabbed himself four of the five Grecian goals, with defender Alfie Pond bagging the other on the night.
With pre-season prep still in mind, City boss Matt Taylor opted to play two different XI’s in either half to give his players more minutes against another strong and competitive opponent.
The Grecians included youngsters Gabriel Billington and Harrison King in their starting line-up, while returning to the Optima Stadium following last season’s loan spell, Sonny Cox led the Exeter attack.
While the opening minutes saw some nice passages of play from City’s players, particularly down the right side involving Jake Caprice, the first pause in play came after five minutes when Cox required treatment following a hefty challenge on the edge of the box.
Taylor brought Cox off and Aamir Daniels entered the fray, which caused a little team reshuffle that saw King move into midfield and Josh Coley join captain Matt Jay in attack. Coley’s bright surge forward on 10 minutes unfortunately led to nothing.
On the quarter of an hour mark, Harry Kite’s intelligent pass saw his team move forward down the right during a swift counter-attack. Jay’s powerful cross was deflected out for a corner, which in turn saw Jonathan Grounds send a tame header goalwards, but that was easily dealt with by the Seagulls defence.
Jordan Bastin’s 25th minute through ball to former Grecian, Reuben Reid, created the best chance of the opening period for the hosts. The powerful striker charged clear and let fly from 20 yards out, but the ball flew over Harry Lee’s crossbar.
City’s best opportunity came when they went more direct a few minutes later. A Grounds long ball fell nicely for Coley, who teed up his skipper for a shot from the left side. MJ’s low drive saw Luke Purnall dive to his right to tip the ball onto the post, causing a round of rapturous from the fans behind the goal.
Coley saw a long-range shot deflected wide moments after, before Jay tried his luck with a cheeky chip, but the effort was just a few inches too high.
Chances continued to come at either end, and Daniels’ slip in the 35th minute saw Bastin dance his way into a shooting area. Diabate couldn’t stop the wide-man, before his curled effort was denied by Lee’s diving save in what became a frantic few minutes.
The Seagulls kept the pressure on when Scott Laird’s centre was met by Reid in the six-yard box. The forward climbed highest and saw header was well stopped by the feet of Lee.
Lee came to the rescue again almost seconds later, before WSM should have scored when Reid played in Bastin down the right. The winger dribbled into the area and tried to link up with Reid once again for a tap in, however, Daniels made a desperate sliding challenge to stop the ball getting across to keep things goalless in the lead up to half-time.
The final action of the first 45 came when Jay spread play to the right following a counter-attack from a corner. Caprice arrowed an effort towards goal, but the ball sailed into the Alto Digital Stand, meaning matters remained goalless when referee Craig Scrivens blew for the break.
Taylor changed eight men for the second half, with only Harry Kite, Daniels and Lee staying on the pitch.
The first opportunity after the interval came when Archie Collins’ powerful run through the middle saw him play in Nombe, however, the striker was unable to get a real shot away at goal despite having two attempts at it.
Josh Key started his cameo strongly with a few scurries down the right, and his cut back almost led to the games opener, if it wasn’t for some desperate WSM defending.
Two of Weston Super Mare’s replacements created a wonderful chance when Ellis Watts’ inswinging ball fell to Marlon Jackson just a few yards out. His volley was miscued however, and the ball went over.
That kickstarted the Grecians into life however, and in the 52nd minute, the deadlock was finally broken in some style. Nombe combined with Jevani Brown, before receiving the ball again on the edge of the 18-yard box. The attacker whipped the ball beyond the reach of Purnall and inside the post to hand his team the lead.
With confidence high, Nombe tried his luck in similar circumstances just a few moments later, however, his effort was easily smothered on that occasion.
In the 61st minute, Jack Sparkes produced some bright play down the left to get to the byline. His dinked cross found Brown at the far stick, and the midfielder’s header set up Pedro Borges nicely. The youngster saw his low effort repelled by a superb defensive block, before Tim Dieng flashed the rebound high over the crossbar.
But at the midpoint of the second period, a cross from the right flank saw the Grecians finally double their advantage. Alex Hartridge climbed highest, and his header saw Purnall produce a wonderful low save, but on hand, fellow centre-back, Pond, tapped home from close range to make it 2-0.
Borges began to look bright in the offensive third during the final quarter, and in the 70th minute his shot was turned away. The young playmaker then saw another effort saved moments later, before Dieng saw a stab at the near post turned away from Purnell once again.
City really looked to turn the screw, and a loose Weston Super Mare back pass saw the visitors carve open another chance. Nombe intercepted the pass and saw his shot parried away, before the ball fell to Brown, whose curling strike was tipped around the post by Purnell’s save of the game.
The score became 3-0 in the 77th minute thanks to another smart finish. Despite the ball being fizzed into Nombe, his sharp turn and finish was too good for the Seagulls goalkeeper, and the ball found the bottom corner bringing more cheers from the Exeter fans.
In the 79th minute, Nombe completed his hattrick after some neat build-up play found Sparkes in a pocket of space on the left. The wing-back’s teasing cross found the poacher in front of goal, and he bundled the ball home despite Purnell’s best efforts to make it a four-goal game.
Sparkes, ever prominent going forward, set Brown down the left with eight minutes remaining. Jevani’s low ball looked like it would be tapped home by Nombe once again, however Jason Pope’s heroic challenge meant the ball escaped the danger area.
On 88 minutes, the result was rounded off nicely with a fifth goal for Taylor’s men. Sparkes moved the ball onto Brown, who in turn fed Nombe inside the box. The striker held his nerve and coolly slotted the ball past Purnell for his fourth, and his team’s fifth, to complete what became a productive day at the office for the Grecians.
City are next in action on Friday night as their pre-season continues at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium against Taunton Town in a 7:45pm kick-off, you can find the details here.
Exeter City 1st Half: Harry Lee, Harrison King, Cheick Diabate, Jonathan Grounds, Jake Caprice, Nelson Iseguan, Harry Kite, Gabriel Billington, Josh Coley, Matt Jay, Sonny Cox
Subs: Aamir Daniels, Pedro Borges