It was Groundhog Day for Exeter City as once again they were beaten 2-0 by Wigan Athletic, despite plenty of chances in the FA Cup First Round.
City created some great chances throughout the game but were punished as they were unable to capitalise on effort after effort. Thelo Aasgaard poked in a rebound to put Wigan ahead before Steven Sessegnon sealed the tie in the closing five minutes with a curled effort.
Manager Gary Caldwell, who was watching the game from the gantry following an accumulation of yellow cards, named four changes from Tuesday’s game. Pierce Sweeney, Vincent Harper, Jack Aitchison and Yanic Wildschut came into the starting XI to replace Admiral Muskwe and Kyle Taylor who are on the bench. Jack Fitzwater and Demetri Mitchell missed the game due to injury.
City’s defence, who were set up in a four, didn’t have a lot to do in the opening ten minutes as City dominated possession in Wigan’s half of the pitch. The Grecians had the best of the chances, playing short passes on the edge of the box and delivering lofted balls into the box to be headed wide of the target. Wildschut was causing the Wigan right-back problems with his pace and strength, getting in behind on multiple occasions, just lacking the final ball.
As the clock ticked over the 25th minute, Wigan were enjoying some sustained possession of the ball. The Latics’ Scott Smith released a venomous strike from the edge of the box, forcing an impressive save from Vil Sinisalo. Down the other end, the Wigan goalkeeper pulled off, arguably, an ever better save to deny Zak Jules whose header had the trajectory to nestle into the bottom corner.
A City corner nearly ended in disaster. Sweeney played the ball short to Ryan Trevitt, who turned and passed. The ball found its way to Harry Kite, City’s furthest man back, who took a shot from distance: this shot was blocked by a Wigan man and the rebound sent Martial Godo on a threatening counterattack. Kite, who took the initial shot, tracked back and put in an excellent sliding challenge to steal the ball from Godo and end the attack. The referee, who had been lenient throughout the first-half, deemed this a booking-worthy offence and so Kite picked up a yellow.
The teams went into the break level as City failed to convert any of their 12 first-half shots. In what was threatening to be a re-run of their meeting a fortnight ago, City would have to be more clinical in the second-half if they were to avoid a replay in two weeks’ time.
City came out in the second-half looking most likely to score. Aitchison shimmied past three players on the left-side of the pitch, running at the Wigan box but failing to get a shot off. City’s best chance of the initial flurry came as James Scott hit the ball on the half-turn from close range and sent the ball over the bar and into the Big Bank. City continued to dominate the chances and if either team were going to score it looked to be the Grecians: they just needed a moment of inspiration.
Whilst they needed a moment of inspiration, City got the opposite. Against the run of play, Wigan found a good opportunity to shoot, and did so. Sinisalo made a fantastic save to deny Jordan Jones but Aasgaard was the first to the ball and poked in to put the visitors ahead. City would need to turn this around if they wanted to continue in this competition.
In a bid to spark a change from the gantry, Caldwell brought on Muskwe to replace Zac Jules in a positive change. Wigan’s goal took the wind out of City’s sails and whilst they remained to put the pressure on, their chances had less energy and looked less threatening. The Wigan defence remained strong as they locked down, keeping at least two players between the ball and the goal at all points.
In the closing five minutes, Wigan put the nail in Exeter City’s FA Cup coffin and matched the scoreline from their last trip to Devon. Sessegnon picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled a wonderful effort into the top-right corner, beating Sinisalo and sending the Latics through to the second round. Much like the league fixture a fortnight ago, a late goal proved a sucker punch with the Grecians punished for not being clinical enough in the final third.
Exeter City: Sinisalo, Jules (Muskwe 65’), Aimson (C), Hartridge, Trevitt, Scott (Taylor 75’), Wildschut, Kite (Richards 89’), Sweeney (Diabate 75), Aitchison, Harper.
Unused subs: MacDonald, O’Connor, Cunningham.
Wigan: Tickle, Smith, Sessegnon, Morrison, Jones, Humphrys, Hughes, Godo, Clare, Adeeko, Aasgaard.
Subs: Amos, Lang, Magennis, McManaman, Pearce, Rekik, Shaw, Smith, Stones.
Referee: Craig Hicks.
Attendance: 3,512 (136 away).