Pat Baldwin posts a rare goal as City move into play-off places
EXETER City moved back into the play-off positions with a 3-2 win away at promotion rivals Rochdale on Saturday.
The victory came courtesy of a stunning first-half performance which saw Pat Baldwin net for only the fourth time in his career.
John O'Flynn was also in the right place to provide two other strikes and while City had to do a lot of second-half defending, the win – the Grecians' seventh on the road this season – left manager Paul Tisdale praising all the players.
"It was a good team performance," he said. "The boys played extremely well. They were tough when they had to be tough and they did the basics well. I was very pleased."
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Tisdale named an attacking line-up for the game, recalling O'Flynn to partner Jamie Cureton up front with Alan Gow playing just behind the two strikers.
Rochdale set up in a similar fashion, with the in-form Bobby Grant partnering on-loan Shrewsbury Town striker Terry Gornell.
But it was City who created the better chances. First Cureton blazed over having been put through on goal and then Gow curled a 25-yard free-kick a foot wide of the post.
City got the breakthrough on 26 minutes when Craig Woodman floated in a free-kick from the left, which saw Baldwin prod the ball home from close range.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 as Cureton beat the Rochdale offside trap to latch onto a Liam Sercombe pass down the right. Cureton cleverly squared a pass to the waiting O'Flynn, who was left with the simple task of side-footing a shot past Josh Lillis.
At this point Rochdale were rocking. Having seen their side concede three first-half goals to York last time out, the home fans were quick to get on the team's back. The players' confidence was shaking and when Jimmy Keohane crossed into the box on 40 minutes, keeper Lillis made a mess of trying to clear and the ball bounced through to O'Flynn, who was left with another simple finish for 3-0.
Rochdale switched to a 4-3-3 formation after the break and were given a lifeline when Gornell's 25-yard shot deflected past Krysiak.
However, Tisdale brought on Arron Davies, Aaron Dawson and Kevin Amankwaah and switched to a 4-5-1 line-up to see out the match.
It worked as City frustrated their Greater Manchester opponents, who were left taking shots from distance, which Krysiak dealt with well.
The Dale did pull a goal back in time added on when Gornell headed in a cross from the right touchline. But the striker was sent off a minute later for kicking out at Amankwaah, to the displeasure of the home support and his manager Coleman.
In the other dugout, City manager Tisdale was delighted with the three points and his team's second half display.
"It would have been very, very hard for us to go and play with as much freedom (as we did in the first half) in the second half," he said. "I was ready to put on Arron Davies on when they scored the first goal, because the game needed us to cover the pitch and be a little bit more thoughtful about defending. When their first goal went in it changed the game.
"The psychology changed and they started to push more men forward and we just had to hang on."