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Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 0 Derby County 3

City fall short at home.

13 February 2024

Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 0 Derby County 3

City fall short at home.

13 February 2024

Exeter City faced a bump in the road as Derby dented their strong run of form, putting three past the Grecians without response.

Max Bird opened the scoring in the first half with a long-range effort before the Rams sealed their victory in the second, scoring twice through Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Tom Barkhuizen.

On paper, Derby County were the favourites in this fixture as they sat second in League One and came out on top in the reverse fixture, four months prior. However, as Exeter City were on a hot streak coming into this game, winning four of their last five games, they could not be counted out.  


Manager Gary Caldwell named one change from the side that beat Wigan in City’s previous fixture. Will Aimson replaced Pierce Sweeney at the back as Reece Cole picked up the captain’s armband. Mo Eisa lead the line in his first start at home, having scored his first City goal at the weekend. 

After an open five minutes, the best chance came for Derby’s James Collins who had the ball played back to him after Kane Wilson shimmied past Zak Jules on the byline and squared it to Derby’s number nine. Collins will have thought that, from that range, all he’d have to do was get it on target, which he did... only to be met by Vil Sinisalo who got down quick enough to cushion and hold the ball, ending the attack. 

The next chance of the game came for City as the ball was lofted into Eisa who was through on goal but his touch to bring down the tricky ball was almost too good as he plucked it out of the air and it stopped dead at his feet. Eisa was subsequently fouled, leaving the ball in Reece Cole territory but unfortunately Cole was unable to beat the keeper after his free kick dipped over the wall. 

Bird put Derby ahead on the 24th minute after he intercepted a pass from Ilmari Niskanen and then shrugged off the following challenge from City’s number 14. Bird then worked space to shoot from the edge of the box. Bird hit it hard and true to beat the diving Sinisalo who was unable to get enough behind the ball to stop it from flying in. Derby had the lead and it was going to be difficult for City to respond. 

City came close to responding less than ten minutes later after Luke Harris found space from a quick Vincent Harper throw-in. Harris then played a one-two with Tom Carroll on the edge of the box before playing the ball to Cole who threaded the ball to Eisa in the box. Eisa then, urged to shoot by the fans, found Aitchison in a better position. Aitchison, who had been in great form in recent matches, then beat the keeper with his strike from the edge of the box but couldn’t beat the post as it struck the woodwork to the disbelief of onlookers. The score remained 1-0 to Derby but City looked most likely to score. 

Despite a couple half-chances from both teams, neither team were able to capitalise and went into the break with one goal separating them. 

City had their work cut out in the second half, but it was about to get more difficult as Mendez-Laing doubled Derby’s advantage early on. Bird turned provider as he played a lofted ball to Mendez-Laing who stayed on his feet, despite challenges from City defenders, and slotted the ball to Sinisalo’s right. 

City’s first decent opportunity of the second half came as Cole whipped a cross from deep to Harris, although Harris was unable to get on the end of the venomous ball. Shortly after this, Gary made a tactical change to the team, bringing on three substitutes and switching the formation. Dion Rankine, Sonny Cox, and Sweeney entered the field of play.

Before these changes could make an impact on the game, or even get into position, Derby’s substitute, Barkhuizen made an impact of his own, curling a low effort into the far-bottom corner and putting Derby three up. Collins had the chance to make it four after a ball was played through to him, putting him one-on-one with Sinisalo. Collins opted to hit it first time, totally miscuing and missing the ball. 

City had played well, although they were losing their battles in key areas. Heads began to drop and City looked a beaten team with 15 minutes to play. They were creating decent chances through the combination of Sweeney and Rankine on he right-wing, but it felt like one of those nights where the ball wasn’t going to hit the back of the net for them.  

Derby, recognising the threat of crosses from Sweeney and Rankine, sat back. It appeared the Rams were content with three as their attentions turned towards a clean sheet. City almost added a consolation goal in the seven added minutes as Cox found himself on the end of a Rankine cross. The ball was delivered hard and Cox was unable to keep his volley down from the edge of the six-yard box. 

The referee blew his whistle to put an end to the game, as both sides seemed to accept their fates. City were undone by the better team but should not be disheartened as they showed postive signs throughout. The game ended in a 3-0 defeat, meaning City remain in 13th position.

Exeter City will look to bounce back against Lincoln on Saturday, 17th February at the LNER Stadium.

Exeter City: Sinisalo, Aimson (Sweeney 61’), Jules, Diabate, Harper, Niskanen (Rankine 61’), Harris (Wildschut 85’), Carroll (Woods 76’), Cole (C) (Cox 61’), Aitchison, Eisa. 

Unused Subs: MacDonald, Hartridge. 

Derby County: Wildsmith, Wilson, Hourihane (C), Cashin, Bird, Collins, Mendez-Laing, Elder, Blackett-Taylor, Adams, Nelson. 

Subs: Loach, Ward, Bradley, Smith, Thompson, Barkhuizen, Sibleu. 

Referee: Scott Tallis 

Attendance: 7754 (1163 away) 

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