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Match Reports

💬 Match Report: Reading 3 City 2

City lose on the road.

1 January 2024

Match Reports

💬 Match Report: Reading 3 City 2

City lose on the road.

1 January 2024

Exeter City began 2024 with a 3-2 defeat at bottom four rivals Reading, despite twice battling back from behind.

Zak Jules and Dion Rankine both scored their first goals for the club – Jules' a sumptuous effort from outside the area after Harvey Knibbs’ opener, before Rankine’s poke cancelled out Alex Hartridge’s own goal. Femi Azeez won it for the hosts on 77 minutes. Tracks.png

Manager Gary Caldwell named two changes to the starting XI that drew against table-topping Portsmouth three days prior: James Scott came in up top to replace Sonny Cox and Harry Kite replaced the injured Will Aimson at full back. Caldwell was also forced to name U23s coach, David Perkins - who was registered as a player during the injury crisis earlier this season - on the bench, following a late failed fitness test by WAimson and the inability to recall loan players. 

City’s first real chance of the game came in the sixth minute as Dion Rankine picked the ball up on the right wing, drew in two defenders with mesmerizing footwork, and laid the ball off to Kite who had enough time and space to pick out a quality cross into the back post, cleared by a Reading defender before it could reach the looming figure of Jules at the back post. 

Knibbs then put the hosts ahead in the 9th minute with Reading’s first opportunity of the game. A loose ball slipped through the cracks and Reading’s number seven was the first to it as he poked home from close range. This was the first attack of a short onslaught from the Reading attack, although thankfully for the travelling Grecians it was the only fruitful attack before City quickly equalised at the other end. 

City had a corner on the right side of the pitch, that was floated into the area and cleared only as far as Jules on the edge of the box. Intoxicated by a wishful chorus of “shoooootttt”, Jules teed himself up and let fly a thunderous strike into top right corner, blasting City level. Jules celebrated as a man that hasn’t practiced his celebrations would, running half the length of the pitch jubilantly, before eventually reaching Caldwell and giving him a hearty high-five. The rest of the team caught up with Jules and embraced, fired up by City’s fullback’s wonderful strike drawing them level. 

Not content with going level, City continued to pressure David Button’s goal. Just a few minutes after Jules’ goal, City fans were getting ready to celebrate again as Reece Cole’s deflected freekick fell kindly for Hartridge, unmarked in the area. Hartridge, with Reading defenders quickly breathing down his neck, miscued his shot and hit wide – to the disbelief of everyone in the Select Car Leasing Stadium – and the game stayed level. 

Just before the half-time whistle, City went behind for a second time. Kite was dispossessed on the edge of his area and the entire City defense was caught wrong-footed, especially Hartridge who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he turned Knibbs’ cross into his own net. Shortly after this mishappening, the referee’s whistle blew for half-time and the Grecians went into the changing room with work to do. 

Jack Aitchison kicked off the second half as City looked to pick up their performance, as it stood at the break, they were in the drop zone. The Grecians’ first chance of the second half came as Jules beat two defenders on his side of the pitch, made his way to the near-post and then pulled a pass back to Scott, who was marked and had his effort blocked. Five minutes later, Scott won City a corner after his long-range effort was deflected over the bar. After short play from Tom Carroll, Scott, and Rankine, Carroll’s cross to the back-post was left unanswered.  

Looking to get back into the game, Caldwell’s first substitution of the afternoon was a double one as Cox and Pierce Sweeney replaced Scott and Kite in the 61st minute. With Sweeney providing more stability at the back and Cox providing an outlet up top, everything started to flow a bit better for City as they played with more confidence.  

This confidence soon paid dividends as Jules, who had been fantastic all game, turned his player on the left of the pitch and delivered the ball into the box. After some ricochets in the area, the ball fell to Rankine who, just about, had the time and space to pick a corner and slot the ball in low at the back-post – equalising for City, although their joy was short lived. 

Femi Azeez put the hosts ahead for the third time in the 77th minute as he found himself in space on the edge of the City area and hit from range, low and true, beating Vil Sinisalo on his left.  

City struggled to find their mojo again after Reading’s third goal with Caldwell bringing on Kyle Taylor to replace Ilmari Niskanen, in a bid to inspire the Grecians but it seemed to be too little too late. As the six additional minutes wore thin, City continued to struggle to break down Reading’s defence.  

The game ended Reading 3, Exeter City 2 and the Grecians slipped into the relegation zone.  

Exeter City: Sinisalo, Jules, Hartridge, Carroll, Scott (61’), Cole (C), Niskanen (88'), Kite (61’), Rankine, Diabate. 

Unused subs: MacDonald, Perkins, Borges, Richards. 

Reading: Button, Mola, Knibbs, Smith, Azeez, Dorsett, Bindon, Wing, Abbey, Craig, Vickers. 

Subs: Pereira, Elliott, Dean, Savage, Mukairu, Ehibhatiomhan, Mbengue. 

Referee: Anthony Backhouse. 

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