Exeter City fell to a 2-0 defeat to Derby County as the Grecians poor League One form continued on Tuesday night.
City came to Pride Park in 16th position in League One following a poor run of form in recent weeks. Although they looked to turn things around, City never seemed to get into the game. Derby scored goals through Nathaniel Mendez-Laing who scored midway through the first-half before Conor Washington put the game to bed in the 79th minute.
On the day that marked one-year since his appointment as manager, Gary Caldwell named one change from the side that lost to Wigan at the weekend as Jack Fitzwater came into the starting XI to replace Pierce Sweeney. Reece Cole was suspended after picking up a yellow-card in the Wigan game and was replaced by Cheick Diabate on the bench.
Following a back-and-forth opening five minutes, the first chance of the game came from Derby’s left-winger, Mendez-Laing, who made his way across the edge of the City box but dragged his effort well wide of Vil Sinisalo’s goal. Mendez-Laing then looked to threaten again, tangling with Will Aimson as he shimmied towards the six-yard box. Aimson calmly dispossessed the Derby winger, leaving The Ram's supporters calls for a penalty unrewarded.
City looked lively each time they won possession. Multiple black shirts charged forward, but Derby defenders did well to close passing lanes and either intercept attacking passes or force City backward. Either way, the City attack would end without an attempt at goal, and in the 30th minute, Derby punished City.
A loose aerial ball left Vincent Harper in no man’s land as Max Bird got in behind the right-back and squared a ball across to Mendez-Laing, who smashed Derby ahead from inside the six-yard box.
Demetri Mitchell lifted the travelling supporters toward the closing minutes of the first half. Bearing down on the Derby defence, he twisted left and right to the enjoyment of the City fans, eventually having his shot blocked, ending the attack. The teams went in at half-time with one goal between them.
City came out with a point to prove: Admiral Muskwe epitomised this with a spirited sliding challenge from the Derby kick-off, followed by an energetic press of the Rams’ defence. Despite these initial promising signs, it was Derby who were creating the most chances - testing Sinisalo from long range on several occasions to no avail.
Quarter of an hour into the second-half, City were under constant pressure and unable to keep possession of the ball. Caleb Watts replaced Zak Jules at left-wing back and quickly picked up a yellow-card for tugging on a white shirt to halt a Derby attack. The Rams’ supporters thought Derby’s efforts were rewarded as they had the ball in the back of the net following header-pinball in the City area. Thankfully, the offside-flag was up and the one-goal deficit remained, for the next ten minutes.
Derby substitute Washington dribbled down the left-wing, asking questions of the City defenders. Those questions were left unanswered as he cut inside onto his right foot on the edge of the box and guided the ball into the near-post, wrong-footing Sinisalo and doubling Derby’s lead.
Chants of “City till I die” echoed around Pride Park as the loyal Grecians showed their support for City, whose run of poor form looked to continue. It seemed there was nothing City could do to break down the Derby press, every pass from a City player was intercepted and every dribble attempt was blocked.
The game ended in a City defeat and with City dropping to 19th in the League One table.
City return to SJP on Saturday to take on Lincoln City ina 3pm kick-off.
Exeter City: Sinisalo, Harper (Wildschut 74’), Fitzwater (Sweeney 82’), Aimson (C), Hartridge, Jules (Watts 61’), Carroll, Trevitt, Aitchison, Muskwe (Scott 74’), Mitchell.
Unused subs: Macdonald, Kite, Diabate.
Derby: Wildsmith (GK), Wilson, Forsyth, Hourihane (C), Cashin, Bird, Waghorn, Mendez-Laing, Sibley, Nyambe, Nelson
Subs: Vickers, Bradley, Smith, Barkhuizen, Collins, Washington, Fornah
Referee: Sunny Singh Gill
Attendance: To Follow.