An early goal from Yanic Wildschut proved to be the decider as City won their closing game of this season’s Bristol Street Motors’ Trophy campaign.
Wildschut directed the ball home at the near post on the back of a James Scott assist to put City ahead early. A solid defence and persistent attack meant City could see the game out with ease as they secured a much needed and morale boosting victory.
With both teams mathematically unable to proceed into the knockout stages of this competition, the game provided an opportunity for City to experiment and regain some confidence before returning to League One action on Saturday.
Manager Gary Caldwell named six changes from City’s last fixture. Shaun Macdonald came into net to replace Vil Sinisalo, who was otherwise engaged making his competitive debut in the EURO 2024 qualifiers with Finland. Wildschut, Tom Carroll, Kyle Taylor, Jake Richards and Dion Rankine complete the list of changes; the latter of whom returning from a long-term injury, playing his first game since the start of September.
City started strong, dominating possession against a young Swindon side. Winning consecutive corners, City took the opportunity to show off a new routine: Four-to-five City players jogged in a line on the edge of the Swindon area, before darting into the box and leaving the Swindon defence unable to track them.
City’s bright start was rewarded as Wildschut put the Grecians ahead. An unfruitful City corner was recycled back out to Scott, who beat his man and drilled the ball low towards Wildschut. Wildschut beat two Swindon defenders to the ball, getting the definitive touch at the near post, scoring his first goal for City and City’s first of the evening. On first viewing it looked like an own goal from Liam Kinsella, but replays soon showed it was indeed the Surinamese who got the excellent touch.
The game all seemed to be going to plan for Caldwell as he made his first change for the evening: Vincent Harper coming on at the half-hour mark to replace Rankine, who played well on his return from injury. City controlled the game and whilst they weren’t creating too many opportunities, they looked comfortable, only allowing Swindon to take their first, and only, shot in the 40th minute – blocked by Aimson.
Harper created a good opportunity shortly after coming on, darting down the right-wing and playing the ball across the face of goal, just behind Scott who was unable to make a solid connection. A solid first-half ended with City ahead.
The second-half began with a triple-change for City. Zak Jules, Ilmari Niskanen and Cheick Diabate came on, with the latter lining up in unfamiliar territory. Taking experimentation in this competition further than anyone could have expected, Diabate started the second-half as a lone striker, following a successful trial period in training. Diabate’s first real involvement as the frontman came 15 minutes into the second-half as he shimmied to create space on the edge of the Swindon area and unleashed a powerful strike that, to the disappointment of the (still, somewhat bemused) travelling fans, was blocked.
In a similar story to the first-half, City continued to dominate possession of the ball without creating too many threatening chances. Some of the more exciting action of the half came as Diabate, who was desparate to get the ball at his feet, received a booking for standing infront of a Swindon deadball in their own half, which the referee deemed to be delaying the game.
With little to report in the second-half, the game drew to a close with City taking three points and ending the group-stages in third. A solid performance from the Grecians, though they will be disappointed not to have created more opportunities to capitalise on the youth of the Swindon setup.
Nevertheless, it’s a win and City can take that confidence boost into Saturday’s League One game away game against Bolton Wanderers.
Exeter City: Macdonald, Aimson, Hartridge (Jules 46’), Carroll, Scott (Niskanen 46’), Wildschut (Diabate 46’), Kite, Rankine (Harper 32’), Taylor, Sweeney, Richards (Aitchison 64’).
Unused subs: Trevitt, O’Connor.
Swindon Town: Ward, McEachran, Genesini, Kokolo, Kinsella, Dworzak, Minturn, McGregor, Hart, Obodo, Hubbard.
Subs: Milne, Brown, Fox, Larkins, Keyes, Adams, Evans.
Referee: Ollie Yates.
Attendance: 644 (78 away).