Exeter City gave their hopes of survival a huge boost with a fantastic 3-0 win over promotion-chasing Fleetwood Town at St James’ Park.
It was City’s first home win since October 5 and no one could deny they deserved the win as the Grecians turned in arguably their best home performance of the campaign.
John Parkin’s own goal set them on their way, but Fleetwood were always in the game until Eliot Richards’ quick second half brace put the game beyond doubt.
Paul Tisdale named the same XI for the game that started at Newport and it was the same bench as well.
Fleetwood were quickly on the attack with Antoni Sarcevic trying his luck from distance, but Artur Krysiak was equal to it.
However, Exeter responded with Tom Nichols crossing low, but Matt Oakley couldn’t get in front of his man to turn the ball in from close range.
However, it was another promising start from Exeter, who went close again when Scot Bennett barged onto a ball in the box, but saw his shot blocked and then Eliot Richards’ was denied by another block on the rebound.
Jordan Moore-Taylor made a superb block to deny Jamille Matt a shot at goal and minutes later, the Grecians went in front. Danny Butterfield won his side a free kick on the right and he delivered an absolutely superb low free kick that Parkin turned into his own net.
It was the fifth own goal in Exeter’s season so far and became their joint-second highest scorer alongside Bennett! Nichols remains top on six.
It was important for Exeter not to undo their hard work and concede soon after, which has been a problem in recent weeks. They didn’t and seemed to grow in confidence from the goal.
The Grecians put together a stunning passing move that finished with Nichols lashing Oakley’s lay-off goalwards, but he was denied by a breath-taking save by Chris Maxwell. It was brilliant football all round.
It had been a great half from Exeter. Sercombe, outstanding throughout, brought it to a close with a shot from distance that took a deflection before being gathered by Maxwell and the half-time cheers and cries of appreciating were a far cry to those that followed the full-time whistle against Northampton.
They did have one scare when Matt fired over from the edge of the box and Sarcevic talked himself into a booking when he contested an apparent foul by Danny Coles on Matt a little too forcefully with referee James Linington.
The Grecians started the second half well with Sercombe firing narrowly wide, Richards narrowly failing to get on the end of a Nichols pull-back and Nichols himself firing straight at Maxwell.
Bennett was also off target after connecting with a Butterfield corner, but City couldn’t rest on their laurels and Parkin forced a warning sign over the bar from 18 yards.
The big striker turned and fired another shot goalwards, which deflected behind and Moore-Taylor and Krysiak did well between them to thwart Matt.
Nichols earned some respite for his side by winning a corner through his sheer determination and from the resulting corner, Coles headed goalwards and Richards finished off from close range.
It was just what Exeter needed and things got even better on 65 minutes. Richards won a free kick, which Nichols took. Maxwell spilled it and Richards was on hand to ram in the loose ball.
The Grecians were in no mood to stop there and the confidence was soon running throughout the team. Nichols gave way to a thoroughly deserved standing ovation with 14 minutes remaining and as John O’Flynn came in, Matty Blair forced Krysiak into a smart stop.
Fleetwood were finishing strongly and Butterfield, another top performer, saved a certain goal when he headed Josh Morris’ shot over the bar.
To single Butterfield out from a backline that performed so well would be unfair on the rest though. In fact, it was the perfect team performance from Tisdale’s men with strong performances all over the park.
Exeter City (4-2-3-1): Krysiak; Coles, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Gill, Bennett; Richards (Davies 82), Oakley (Wheeler 90), Sercombe; Nichols (O’Flynn 76). Substitutes (not used): Pym (gk), Baldwin, Grimes, Parkin.
Goals: Parkin (og) 25, Richards 62, 65.
Fleetwood Town (4-4-2): Maxwell; McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts (Blair 68), Taylor; Sarcevic, Schumacher, Murdoch (Hume h-t), Morris; Parkin (Ball 68), Matt. Substitutes (not used): Davies (gk), Evans, Goodall, Blair, Ball, Jordan.
Referee: J Linington