Ten-man City were beaten 1-0 at Port Vale on a disappointing afternoon at Vale Park.
It was a dismal afternoon for the Grecians as they lost on the road, with the Valiants only goal coming from Will Forrester after Rekeem Harper saw red.
Following on from Tuesdays 0-0 at home to Shrewsbury and City’s third game in a week, Gary made a few changes for the visit to Vale Park. Coming in to the starting XI were Jake Caprice, Pierce Sweeney, Harper, Sam Nombe and James Scott for his full debut. Making the bench after his short spell with an injury was also Jamal Blackman, with Kevin McDonald absent for personal reasons.
City started the game on the front foot controlling the possession in the opening five minutes. A lovely bit of link up play between Sweeney and Harry Kite down the right-hand side, found the later sending a searching ball into the area, but no one in a blue shirt was there to tuck it away.
There was a massive let off for City in the 8th minute as the Valiants found a way to put the ball past Gary Woods in the City goal but thankfully the linesman had his flag up and the goal was ruled out for offside.
With 15 minutes on the clock, a quick dinked free kick from Port Vale caught out the City defence with Matty Taylor getting in behind and getting a shot away on target. But Woods was there to make an excellent reflex save to keep the score at 0-0.
Halfway through the first half and the home side had a huge shout for a penalty but a textbook challenge from City’s captain Will Aimson ensured the referee had no reason to doubt not awarding it. Seconds later and this time the home side were awarded a foul, Alex Hartridge found himself the wrong side of the attacker and then found himself in the referee’s book, picking up the first yellow of the game.
That was that for the first half with both sides unable to find the back of the net, with all the highlights in the opening 45 coming from Woods who made two brilliant saves to keep City in the game.
After going down in the last few minutes of the first half, Hartridge was replaced by Jonathan Grounds at half time, in a straight swap on the left-hand side of the back three.
Only a few minutes into the second half and Woods made another astounding save to deny Port Vale taking the lead, a training ground free kick routine from City had Matty Taylor having a shot on target, but Woods was able to punch away.
A calamitous start to the second half for City, with the game falling apart inside the space of two minutes. The 59th minute saw Rekeem Harper given his second yellow of the game and sent for an early bath for a shirt tug in the middle of the park. The immediate reaction from Vale was to attack from the resulting free kick and after finding space in behind Will Forrester slotted the ball past Woods to make it 1-0.
After the red card, Gary made a defensive change with James Scott the player called upon to be replaced and on in his place came Josh Key, with Harry Kite moving into the position vacated by Harper.
The 70th minute saw City’s first chance of the second half, Stansfield and Nombe found themselves linking up with the latter running down the right-hand side, but his effort was blazed over the bar, still 1-0 to the home side.
With something needing to be changed, Gary Caldwell made a triple change in the 76th minute, with Kite, Caprice and Stansfield replaced by Mitchell, Sparkes and White.
The subs seemed to give City a new lease of life, with the Grecians seeing a bit more of the ball, seeing the ball more was Aimson who decided to go on a little wander, travelling the good part of 30 yards but as he was about to let loose a Vale defender blocked the effort into the hands of Aidan Stone.
With eight minutes added on at the end of the second half, it was all guns blazing for City, but without a shot on target in normal time, City were struggling. And that was that, City were unable to muster anything up in the added time and lost on the road to Port Vale.
The next game for City is a home tie against Cambridge United on Saturday 25th August.
City: Woods, Kite (Sparkes, 76), Sweeney, Aimson ©, Hartridge (Grounds, 45), Caprice (Mitchell, 76), Collins, Harper, Stansfield (White, 76), Nombe, Scott (Key, 64)
Subs Not Used: Blackman, Chauke
Port Vale: Stone, Donnelly, Smith, Worrall, Garrity, Ojo, Forrester, Massey (Harrison), Taylor (Proctor), Pett ©, Robinson (Benning)
Subs Not Used: Stevens, Conlon, Agyakwa, Politic
Referee: Andrew Kitchen
Attendance: 6209 (324)