MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood Town 1 Exeter City 2
Two goals from Scot Bennett saw injury-hit Exeter City pick up their second away win of the season with a brilliant 2-1 victory at Fleetwood Town.
The gifted Cornishman started the game as one of three centre backs, but ended the game as a makeshift striker and the match winner with a brilliant brace in the space of three second half minutes.
Defeat looked to be on the cards when substitute Matty Blair put the Cod Army in front on 71 minutes. But Bennett’s double salvo saw the Grecians complete a remarkable turnaround and seal three well-earned points ahead of next week’s Devon derby clash with Plymouth Argyle.
City went into the game best by injury problems and it was no surprise to see enforced changes to Paul Tisdale’s line-up. Tommy Doherty came into the midfield, while Jamie Reid partnered Alan Gow in attack.
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Sam Parkin and John O’Flynn both missed out, so there were places on the bench for new signing Danny Butterfield and Jordan Tillson. 18-year-old goalkeeper James Hamon, from Guernsey, was named as Exeter’s reserve goalkeeper in the absence of Christy Pym.
There was a change in formation as well with Tisdale reverting to a 3-5-2 system that served him well in years gone by. Arron Davies and Craig Woodman were paired as wing-backs, which allowed Pat Baldwin to play at centre half alongside Danny Coles and Bennett.
The home side enjoyed plenty of possession in the early stages, but failed to trouble Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krysiak. Junior Brown had the first effort of the game, but he dragged his shot wide on 13 minutes.
Exeter responded by winning a corner kick, which was headed well wide by Reid, while Antoni Sarcevic saw a shot deflect wide for a corner for the home side. That one came to nothing, but shortly afterwards, another corner led to Ryan Cresswell heading goalwards, but the ball dropped over the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
Liam Sercombe was booked for pulling at the shirt of Jeff Hughes and he was soon followed by Fleetwood’s Brown for a nasty tackle on Woodman. Fleetwood then went close when Hughes fed Sarcevic, who hit a superb first time shot which Krysiak tipped over the bar.
The Pole then made another superb save to deny Nathan Pond from the resulting corner as Fleetwood suddenly stepped up a gear. Ball then beat Coles in an aerial duel, but as the ball popped up nicely, he could only fire his shot over the bar.
City had not really threatened much going forward, but defensively, they looked pretty comfortable. The concern was the severe lack of attacking options with only a half-fit David Wheeler available off the bench.
Fleetwood made a change at the break with Blair replacing Brown and they started the second half well. Krysiak saved from Hughes and then Ball on the rebound, while a rare City attack led to Gow firing wide from 25 yards.
Butterfield came on for his debut, Doherty was the man to make way, just before the hour mark and Wheeler soon followed, replacing Reid, who had worked hard with little reward. Bennett was thrown forward to play as the main striker with Wheeler and Gow flanking him. It was certainly a bold move from Tisdale, but one which reaped remarkable rewards.
Gareth Evans pulled a shot wide of goal as Fleetwood continued to press for that elusive goal and Krysiak saved well from Hughes, whose header was creeping inside the upright.
Oakley shot into the arms of Scott Davies as Exeter ventured forward and City were denied a clear penalty when Wheeler was pulled back inside the box, but the referee gave nothing.
City were enjoying their best spell of the game, but their desire to go for the win meant they were vulnerable. Krysiak saved well again to deny Hughes, but the deadlock was finally broken when Blair cut inside of Butterfield and his shot went across goal and into the bottom corner.
Exeter responded with a Sercombe shot that deflected wide for a corner and as Fleetwood failed to clear, the equaliser came on 76 minutes when the ball was worked back to Gow, who crossed for Bennett to convert at the back post.
It was no more than the Grecians had deserved and incredibly, City went 2-1 in front with a second goal in three minutes. Again, it was Gow that did the damage with a superb cross that Bennett volleyed in at the back post.
Fleetwood threw on big Jon Parkin, which gave every indication of their intentions, but they found themselves up against a City defence in no mood to throw away the points now.
Coles was forced off late in the game and was replaced by Jordan Moore-Taylor and the Grecians had to see out four minutes of stoppage time. However, it was they that came closest to scoring when Gow volleyed wide of goal as City held on for a brilliant win.
Fleetwood Town (4-5-1): Davies; McLaughlin, Cresswell, Pond, Howell; Brown (Blair h-t), Hughes, Sarcevic, Schumacher, Evans (Matt 66); Ball (Parkin 80). Substitutes (not used): Lucas, Murdoch, Roberts, Parkin, Hogan.
Goal: Blair 71
Exeter City (3-5-2): Krysiak; Baldwin, Bennett, Coles (Moore-Taylor 88); Davies, Sercombe, Oakley, Doherty (Butterfield 58), Woodman; Gow, Reid (Wheeler 61). Substitutes (not used): Hamon (gk), Tillson, Grimes.
Goals: Bennett 76, 79
Bookings: Sercombe, Davies.
Referee: M Haywood (West Yorkshire).