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Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 2 Bolton 2

9 March 2024

Match Reports

📝 Match Report: City 2 Bolton 2

9 March 2024

Two quickfire goals from Sonny Cox helped Exeter City pick up an impressive 2-2 draw against promotion chasing Bolton Wanderers at SJP.


After a first half that saw the Trotters lead at the break through Maghoma, Cox swung the game on its head inside five minutes of the second half, scoring two fantastic goals but Eoin Toal's late header pegged the Grecians back.

Manager Gary Caldwell named one change to the side that faced narrow defeat against Peterborough the weekend before as Jack Aitchison came into the starting XI, returning from injury, and replacing Vincent Harper who moves to the bench. 

Bolton kicked off aggressively, with a high defensive line, launching the ball deep into City territory, only to be cleared by the head of Zak Jules. Bolton’s plan to start the game fast was stunted as they were forced into an early substitution as Jon Böðvarsson came on to replace Victor Adeboyejo. Despite this, they came close just inside the ten-minute mark as Aaron Collins struck the bar from distance. Wanderers were on top in the opening 15. 

City’s first chance of the game came as a one-two between Ilmari Niskanen and Tom Carroll saw the latter release the Finn down the wing. Niskanen delivered a dangerous cross to the back post, forcing a defensive header to concede a corner. The resulting corner was played short and whipped in by Pierce Sweeney. The ball fell in the box to Ryan Woods who played the ball back to Aitchison on the edge of the box. The ball took a bobble as Aitchison went to hit it but he adjusted well and troubled Joel Coleman in goal who spilled his save but there were no City attackers close enough to pounce before the Bolton keeper smothered the ball. 

A City attack nearly turned calamitous as Woods failed to get the ball out of his feet and had his pockets picked by a Bolton attacker. Wanderers appeared to be through on goal, with two attackers having nothing but Vil Sinisalo between them and the City goal. Will Aimson put on the afterburners and caught up with the attack, timing his sliding challenge perfectly to put an end to the attack. 

Bolton’s attacks paid dividends just beyond the half-hour mark as Maghoma smashed the ball past Sinisalo from inside the box. Following a well-worked move that saw the ball floated in behind City’s defensive line, the ball sat for Maghoma on the inside edge of the area who, running onto the ball, hit it with conviction. Sinisalo dived for it but couldn’t match the speed of the shot. 

After four added minutes, the first half drew to a close with City needing to overcome a one goal deficit in the second half, playing towards the Big Bank. 

And they did so within about ten seconds! Sweeney pumped the ball forward from kick-off, the ball fell to Ben Purrington who nodded it on to the feet of Cox. Cox, with the ink still wet on his contract extension, hit a delicious volley, looping the ball over Coleman who was caught off his line. Sonny had drawn his club level, but he wasn’t done there. 

Just four minutes later, Cox was played through again, this time by Luke Harris who slid Cox through. City’s number 19 still had a lot to do with the gargantuan figure of Ricardo Santos breathing down his neck, Cox stayed composed, kept the ball in his control and rifled the ball through Coleman and into the top of the net. A sensational strike that sent St James Park into pandemonium. 

A goal to the good, the Grecians were brimming with confidence now, playing fluid football across the park as every twist and turn appeared to be falling in their favour. Down at the other end, incase City needed reminding of just how good Sinisalo is, he caught a Böðvarsson’s header from close range, putting an end to Bolton’s attack as they tried to claw themselves back into the game. 


Coleman’s instinct save denied Cox his hattrick with 20 minutes remaining of the match. Niskanen took control of Sweeney’s through ball and beat his man on the by-line. Managing to squeeze the ball across the face of goal, it looked as though Niskanen had set up Sonny’s third, but the Bolton keeper had other ideas, pulling off a superb reactionary save to deny Cox from close-range.  

At the St James Road end, Bolton were not having much luck getting past the combination of Jules and Aimson. Aimson, in particular, was playing a fantastic game that, if it weren’t for Cox’s brace, would likely have seen him take player of the match. 

Cox walked off to a standing ovation as injury forced him off the pitch with 15 minutes remaining. Carroll also came off and the pair were replaced by Mo Eisa and Millenic Alli with the former coming on for his first home match in red and white. Shortly after, Eisa nearly found himself on the scoresheet. So did Alli, Aimson, and Purrington as the ball ricocheted around the six-yard box, somehow not finding its way into the area. 

Another standing ovation for another substitute as Aimson was also forced off due to a knock. Replaced by Cheick Diabate, City’s centre back had made life tough for Bolton’s attackers all game, especially in the second half.  

City’s celebrations were put on hold as the towering Toal headed Bolton back into the game after a textbook cross was floated into the six-yard box. Toal headed the ball down at the feet of Sinisalo who was just unable to smother the ball as it squeezed its way across the line. 

This game had been a rollercoaster for all onlookers, but it wasn’t over yet as the fourth official indicated that there would be nine more minutes to enjoy/ endure. Which it would be, only time would tell. 

In the end it was a mix of both as the game ended level, despite both teams coming close in additional time. The ball just couldn’t find its way beyond either keeper as Coleman’s saves kept Bolton level. One big, hard-earned point for Exeter City against tough competition. 

Exeter City have a quick turnaround before their next game as they face Shrewsbury Town at 19.45, Tuesday 12th March. 

Exeter City: Sinisalo (GK), Jules, Purrington, Sweeney (C), Aimson (Diabate 83’), Carroll (Alli 77’), Woods (Harper 89’), Cox (Eisa 77’), Harris, Aitchison, Niskanen. 

Unused Subs: Macdonald, Rankine, Wildschut. 

Bolton Wanderers: Coleman, Santos (C), Toal, Jones, Iredale, Thomason, Sheehan, Maghoma, Collins, Adeboyejo, Williams. 

Subs: Ogbeta, Ashworth, Forrester, Dacres-Cogley, Dempsey, Böðvarsson, Jerome. 

Referee: D. Middleton. 

Attendance: 6748 (948 away). 

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