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Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 1 Stevenage 0

City win to go six games unbeaten!

6 April 2024

Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 1 Stevenage 0

City win to go six games unbeaten!

6 April 2024

Reece Cole calmly finished off a gifted opportunity as his goal proved to be the decider in a 1-0 win against play-off hunting Stevenage.

The only goal of the game came as Sonny Cox blocked an attempted clearance from Stevenage keeper, Taye Ashby-Hammond. Cox's block fell kindly for Cole who had an open net to dispatch the ball and put City up. The Grecians then played out the remainder of the game with relative comfort, securing a 1-0 win.


Exeter City’s penultimate game at St James Park this season came against playoff-contending Stevenage. The reverse fixture saw the Grecians fight back with ten-men for a hard-earned draw on the road. With four games left of the season, City could have been mathematically guaranteed safety from relegation if other results went their way. 

Caldwell named three changes to his side that beat Cheltenham Town away on Monday as Reece Cole, Dion Rankine, and Sonny Cox entered the starting the lineup, replacing Jack Aitchison, Ilmari Niskanen, and Yanic Wildschut. Alex Hartridge collected the captain’s armband following his superb performance against Cheltenham Town. 

Stevenage won the toss and opted to switch sides, meaning City would be playing towards the Big Bank in the first half.  

Rankine frustrated Dan Butler into picking up a yellow in the opening ten minutes as he dribbled past him on the right-wing with dazzling footwork. Rankine continued to cause problems, as he tormented the Stevenage defenders with his shimmies and dribbling.

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At the St James Road end, Stevenage were seeing their fair share of opportunities. The closest opportunity came after Will Aimson put in a strong sliding challenge in the box: the ball fell kindly for the Stevenage attacker who used the pocket left by Aimson to his advantage, smacking the ball towards the goal. The shot was hit well, but not well enough to beat Vil Sinisalo in goal as he got low to deny the effort. 

For the next twenty minutes, the game was predominantly played in the middle third of the pitch as neither side were able to create their own opportunities. Thankfully for City, they wouldn’t have to as Ashby-Hammond gifted a goal to the Grecians. Cox chased down the keeper, leaping into the air as Ashby-Hammond kicked it into him. The ball fell into the path of Cole, with an open goal in front of him and the Big Bank just behind that. Cole calmly placed the ball into the open net, not to be deterred by the keeper’s desperate sprint towards goal. 1-0 City.


Unfortunately, it appeared that in his acrobatics, Cox may have over-stretched as he was brought off shortly after, replaced by Jack Aitchison up top. The second half ended with City a goal to the good. 

In the second half, Rankine and Vincent Harper were replaced by Niskanen and Caleb Watts. Watts, who was making his first appearance since January, made an instant impact as he gathered the ball beyond the Stevenage backline on the wing and carried it 20 yards before switching play to Niskanen on the other wing. Niskanen looked to shoot but couldn’t create the space, so opted to pass it sideways and eventually gave away possession. It was a positive start for both substitutes. 

Cole and Luke Harris were replaced by Millenic Alli and Jake Richards. This now meant that Alli was the lone striker, a role he has often filled when City have had the lead as his physical presence allows him to hold up the play well. 

Whilst Stevenage were not piling on the pressure, they did create occasional uncomfortable opportunities, including the ball being rolled across the six-yard box without any player from either side getting contact. 

Pierce Sweeney lit-up SJP as he nipped ahead of his man to beat him to the ball, bringing the ball down with his chest. Sweeney then found himself in a cul-de-sac, but rather than give away possession, City’s club captain cutely back-heeled the ball into the path of his trailing defender, winning City the throw-in. 

Alli showcased his strength as held off the sizeable figure of Nathan Thompson, keeping possession and killing 30-seconds of the game. The game had entered that period. City had seven added minutes to defend their lead, although neither team looked more likely to score than the other. 

With three minutes of added time remaining, Stevenage started to pile on the pressure. Butler thundered a strike from outside the box straight into the chest of Sweeney, who looked entirely unphased. 

The game ended with Alli and the ball in the corner of the pitch as the ref blew his whistle to call an end to a quiet second half. 

Exeter City’s next match is away at Leyton Orient on Tuesday 9th April at 19.45. 

Exeter City: Sinisalo (GK), Harper (Niskanen 59’), Sweeney, Aimson, Hartridge (C), Rankine (Watts 60’), Cole (Richards 75’), Woods, Carroll, Harris (Alli 76’), Cox (Aitchison 44’). 

Unused Subs: Macdonald, Diabate. 

Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond (GK), Wildin, Butler, Piergianni (GK), MacDonald, Roberts, Smith, Vancooten, Reid, Thompson, Oliver. 

Subs: MacGillivray, Thompson, Freeman, White, Guiness-Walker, Thompson, Hemmings. 

Referee: Lewis Smith 

Attendance: 6,314 (184 away) 

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