|Exeter City 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 4th January 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Exeter City 2-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 4th Jan 2020 17:06
Former Blues midfielder Lee Martin’s injury-time goal ended Town’s hopes of a Wembley appearance in the Leasing.com Trophy as they were defeated 2-1 at League Two Exeter City in the third round. Nicky Ajose gave the Grecians the lead in first-half injury time before Will Keane levelled on 58 as Town improved in the second half.
Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears both made their first starts of the season playing off lone central striker Will Keane with Cole Skuse and Andre Dozzell in the centre of the midfield.
Toto Nsiala, James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden - two of only three players who started at Wycombe on Wednesday to keep their places - were the back three with Myles Kenlock and Gwion Edwards - the other - the wing-backs. Tomas Holy was back in goal.
Exeter made nine changes from the team which won 1-0 at Forest Green Rovers on New Year’s Day with former Blues midfielder Martin on the bench.
The Grecians were forced into a late change of keeper after Lewis Ward picked up an injury in the warm-up. Sub Jonny Maxsted started with youngster Jack Arthur on the bench.
Town began the game on top with Bishop making a couple of early trademark pacy dribbles towards the Exeter penalty area, despite a surface more Sunday league than EFL.
But the game’s first shot came in the 10th minute - with Grecians fans still streaming into the ground - when Joel Randell cut inside Edwards on the left of the box and hit a low shot which Holy claimed at the second attempt.
On 12 Ajose looped an effort well over after being found in space on the left, then at the other end Bishop almost found himself in on goal after the ball dropped for him on the edge of the area but his touch let him down and Alex Hartridge stabbed away from him. Two minutes later home skipper Jake Taylor shot over from distance.
Nsiala headed Town’s first attempt at goal into the side-netting from a tight angle from a Dozzell ball in from the right following a corner.
Taylor curled over for the Grecians, who were having a lot of the ball and plenty of shots from distance but without testing Holy.
Most of the game had been played in the Town half but on 36 Skuse looked the break on halfway but was tripped by Matt Jay, who was shown the game’s first yellow card by referee Josh Smith.
As the half moved into its final five minutes the Blues began to put the Grecians under pressure and on 40 went very close to going in front. Keane got round his man on the right, cut the ball back, hit a defender and struck the post before bouncing away from goal.
Town kept the ball around the Exeter box and eventually it was played out to Dozzell, whose shot from 20 yards was going wide to the left of goal until Keane nodded it not too far past the other post. A minute later, Keane was yellow-carded for frustratedly kicking the ball away.
However, in the final minute of the half, the home side took the lead. Nigel Atangana sent a ball in from the right which was flicked on to Ajose at the far post from where he struck a shot off the inside of the woodwork and over the line.
Moments later, referee Smith ended a rather understated half in which the Blues had struggled to make their divisional superiority tell on a pitch which was hardly conducive to playing passing football.
Until the brief spell when the Exeter post was hit and Keane nodded just wide, Town had rarely threatened other than when Bishop, who had had a lively half, had made breaks forward.
The home side had seen more of the ball but until their goal had been limited to efforts from distance which had failed to trouble Holy.
The Grecians swapped Gary Warren for Will Dean ahead of the start of the second half but it was the Blues who started on top.
Two minutes after the restart Bishop broke into the area on the right and might have shot but squared to Sears but the chance was snuffed out. On 51 Sears was sent away by Keane but with the linesman’s flag raised.
Two minutes later, the former West Ham man timed a run from deep perfectly and Bishop sent him away on the right. However, his cross towards Keane was cut out.
Town had started the second half positively, however, with the opening minutes played almost wholly in the Grecians’ half.
And in the 58th minute the Blues were on terms. Nsiala hit a long ball forward to Keane, who deftly took the ball down and laid it back to Sears. The returning frontman played it into Keane’s path and the striker hit his fifth goal of the season past Maxted right in front of the Town terrace.
Almost immediately after the restart Sears was sent away towards goal but was crowded out and forced back. Eventually, the Town number 20 hit a shot which Maxted did well to push away from goal, then moments later, the ball was crossed from the right to Bishop, but the midfielder could only divert it well wide of goal.
Woolfenden was yellow-carded for a foul on Ben Seymour not far outside the area as the match moved towards the hour mark. Jay’s freekick was easy for Holy.
Kayden Jackson replaced Sears in the 64th minute. The ex-Colchester man will have benefited from his longest run-out since his return from injury and will be pleased with his overall display. Four minutes later, the Grecians switched Seymour for Ryan Bowman.
Bishop, Town’s main danger throughout, cleverly turned his man and broke into the area on the right in the 72nd minute before hitting a low ball across the six-yard box but with none of his team-mates having read his intentions.
The Blues should have taken the lead in the 75th minute when Kenlock played a great ball from the left into the path of Jackson, but the sub hit his shot into the side-netting when he should at least have hit the target.
Bishop was subbed to a warm ovation from the Blues support a minute later after a very impressive return. Idris El Mizouni took over. For Exeter, ex-Blue Martin was introduced for goalscorer Ajose.
Woolfenden headed a deflected cross from the left over from under the bar in the 77th minute, before El Mizouni almost made a dramatic impact. The Tunisian international brought the ball in from the left at pace but, with Keane demanding a pass in the middle, saw it stabbed away from him just as he was about to shoot.
The left flank was proving increasingly fruitful for the Blues and a minute later Kenlock was sent away but with a number of team-mates well placed his cross was cut out. Moments later, Nsiala blazed over, the Grecians having failed to clear following a corner.
Town had been the better side throughout the second half and were ending the period on top. In the final scheduled minute, with James Norwood having been introduced for Edwards and seconds before the fourth official raised his board indicating three additional minutes, El Mizouni curled a shot into Maxted’s arms from the left.
Nsiala was booked for a pull back just outside the box as Exeter made a break from which Jay struck a freekick which Holy brilliantly tipped over.
But from the corner the Grecians won the tie. The flag-kick was blocked but was looped back in and fell to Martin to the left of the box from where he hit a shot across Holy and into the net before running to celebrate with his supporters in the other half of the field.
There wasn’t time for the Blues to hit back before referee Smith brought the game and Town’s hopes of a Leasing.come Trophy final appearance at Wembley to an end.
The scoreline was harsh on the Blues on the balance of the second half with Town having been much the better side, as they should have been against a much-changed Exeter XI.
However, when they were on top they failed to turn that advantage into chances and those they did create they failed to take, while Exeter took one of their few second half opportunities at the death with Martin - who scored the Grecians’ winning penalty in the Carabao Cup shoot-out last season - perhaps inevitably the one to net the goal.
The defeat, an embarrassing one against opposition from a lower league in a cup once again, stretches the Blues’ winless run over 90 minutes to 12 games, however, the performance in the second half deserved more, even if the display before the break was far less impressive.
Town are back in League One action against Accrington Stanley at Portman Road next Saturday.
Town: Holy, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Wilson, Edwards (Edwards 89), Skuse (c), Dozzell, Kenlock, Bishop (El Mizouni 76), Sears (Jackson 64), Keane. Unused: Norris, Judge, Garbutt, Dobra.
Exeter: Maxted, Dyer, Warren (Dean 46), Hartridge, Richardson, Taylor (c), Atangana, Jay, Randall, Ajose (Martin 76), Seymour (Bowman 68). Unused: Arthur, Bowman, Collins, Kite, Chrisene. Referee: Josh Smith (Bedford).
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