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Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 1 Oxford United 2

City's rollercoaster of a season ends in defeat.

27 April 2024

Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 1 Oxford United 2

City's rollercoaster of a season ends in defeat.

27 April 2024

Exeter City ended the season with a 2-1 defeat to Oxford United, who in turn secured a play-off spot.

Oxford United took a two-goal advantage into the break with goals from Mark Harris and Cameron Brannagan. Millenic Alli headed in from a corner to halve the deficit as it looked as though City's comeback might be on, but they were unable to complete the comeback.

The Grecians’ last game of the 2023/24 season was at home, against playoff-pushing Oxford United. City were enjoying the run-in, with safety secured and the play-offs out-of-reach, City were nine games unbeaten (with six of those being wins). The stakes were much higher for Oxford as they sat on the cusp of the play-offs. 

Manager Gary Caldwell named four changes from the side that won away at Northampton Town, as Caleb Watts, Pierce Sweeney, Reece Cole, and Sonny Cox came into the starting XI.  

City started well, as the first shot of the game came in the opening few minutes off the boot of Millenic Alli. It was lashed wide, but a statement of intent nonetheless.  

Oxford quickly threatened City’s unbeaten streak as the Yellows’ number nine, Harris intercepted a poor pass from Sweeney, leaving him one-on-one with Vil Sinisalo. Harris confidently smashed the ball to Sinisalo’s left and Oxford had their ideal start.  

Oxford nearly doubled their lead on the 20th minute with a close-range header. The away end erupted as the ball flew towards goal, looking like a certain goal, before City’s Sinisalo clawed it out the air and kept City in it. A sight that Grecians had become very familiar with this season, and would sure miss in the next campaign. Image

With five minutes to go before the break, Will Aimson stood up to Josh Murphy in the penalty area. Aimson raised his arm to suggest that Murphy was offside, all the while Murphy moved towards the penalty area. Aimson got himself between the ball and City’s net, but Murphy was too tricky and went over Aimson’s outstretched leg. Penalty to Oxford, converted by Brannagan who calmly played it to Sinisalo’s right. Sinisalo guessed the right way but couldn’t get across far enough as the ball was slotted into the corner. 2-0 to the visitors. 

City’s next best chance was an Aimson header from a Tom Carroll set-piece. Aimson rose the highest and got a strong head on the ball, but it went just over the bar. A frustrating half for the Grecians drew to a close and Caldwell’s men had work to do in the second half. 

Caldwell made two changes at the break, bringing on Jack Aitchison and Dion Rankine, to replace Watts and Cox. The two subs almost made an instant impact as they combined to create a decent chance in the opening moments of the second half.  

The team looked rejuvenated in the second-half and soon halved the deficit. The away fans cheered as news from other grounds spread meaning that Oxford’s play-off chances increased. There celebrations were quickly halted though as Carroll whipped a delightful corner onto the head of Alli who headed low and beat Jamie Cumming in net. Image

City came close again when Alli’s low cross deflected up against the post. The Grecians were undoubtedly on the front-foot as they played towards the Big Bank. Rankine was proving a tricky customer on the right-wing as he beat his man on the byline with a shimmy and played the ball back into the danger area, to no avail. 

A sweet moment with twenty minutes to play as Harry Kite came on to replace Cole. Kite received a standing ovation as he entered the field of play, greeted by Sweeney who passed over the captain’s armband for Kite’s last game in a City shirt. 

Kite was enjoying his last game as he played a cheeky backheel to release Carroll in space on the wing. Carroll whipped a cross in, although nothing came of it. 

City’s momentum had depleted as Oxford began to enjoy their afternoon again. Murphy attempted an audacious overhead kick, although he mishit the ball and it went flying over the away end, met by sarcastic cheers from both sets of supporters. 

As the game began to draw to a close, Aimson had a chance to level the scoring, but his header flew just over the bar. Oxford clearly still felt threatened by the chance of a City attack as Cumming picked up a yellow for delaying the game. That did come back to bite Oxford though as the fourth official indicated eight additional minutes. 

Luke Harris, whose passion can never be denied, picked up a yellow for a strong challenge as the game entered added time. A strange atmosphere filled SJP as Oxford’s place in the play-offs was all but confirmed, given other results around the country. Despite being behind, it was also important to remember that, although it would now be coming to an end, City had enjoyed a very successful run-in. With the 2023/24 League One campaign drawing to a close, City were the most successful club in the country’s top four leagues in 2024, based on points accumulated. 

Whilst the final result did not fall in City’s favour, there was a lot to be optimistic about in Exeter as the club looked forward to the next season in League One, finishing this season on a strong 61 points and in 13th position. 

Exeter City: Sinisalo (GK), Watts (Rankine 46’), Sweeney (C) (Richards 78’), Aimson, Jules, Niskanen, Carroll, Cole (Kite 70’), Harris, Alli, Cox (Aitchison 46’). 

Unused Subs: MacDonald, Purrington, Fitzwater. 

Port Vale: Cumming, Brown, Moore, Brannagan, Harris, Bennett, Stevens, Goodrham, Rodrigues, Murphy, Dale. 

Subs: Eastwood, McEachran, Bodin, Browne, Henry, McGuane, Leigh 

Referee: Tom Reeves 

Attendance: 8,123 (1,259 away) 

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