City's three game winning streak comes to an end with 2-1 defeat
It’s Exeter’s seventh defeat of the season, which leaves them outside the top three heading into the new year.
With one eye on Tuesday’s New Year’s Day game against Swindon Town, City manager Matt Taylor announced an unexpected starting eleven prior to kick-off. Most noticeably, Exeter’s exciting prospect Alex Hartridge, aged 19, was given his first start for the club whilst inform winger Lee Holmes, who scored last weekend against Yeovil, was left out of the squad.
City came out the blocks confidently, and within minutes, they came agonisingly close to taking an early lead. On the turn, inside a congested Grimsby box, Jayden Stockely struck an effort towards goal but James McKeown produced a fine save to deny the striker’s fifth goal in three games. Stockely was handed another chance moments later, but his headed effort was hooked over the crossbar as the hosts continued to dominate the opening 10 minutes.
Grimsby, feeling quietly self-assured having thumped 5 goals past Tranmere last weekend, survived the early pressure before taking a surprise lead. Following a rare attack, the ball was whipped deep into city’s back post where Martyn Woolford volleyed home to break the deadlock.
The Grecians responded immediately and found the back of the visitors' net. However, under strange circumstances, the goal was ruled out for off-side. Tristian Abrahams with the finish, initially, the linesman’s flag stayed down as the city players and fans celebrated. But as the referee, accompanied by the majority of Grimsby players, surrounded the linesman to have a discussion, the decision changed and the goal was disallowed.
Moans of frustration and anger resonated around the stadium as the Grecians pushed hard for the equaliser. Nearing the end of the opening 45 minutes, they came tantalizingly close to getting it. A thunderous volley from Pierce Sweeney was cleared off the line heroically by a Grimsby defender as it finished 1-0 at half-time.
You could sense more goals in the second half, and when Grimsby’s Alex Whitmore received a straight red card for a reckless challenge on city’s captain Jake Taylor just 5 minutes into the half, a goal for the Grecians was inevitable.
With their tails up, playing with the man advantage, city dominated possession for the remainder of the half but struggled to create clear cut opportunities as the visitors parked ten men behind the ball.
It took a long waited 77 minutes, but the Grecian’s finally picked Grimsby apart for their first goal of the encounter. Stockely headed home from a cross – his fifth goal in two games.
Unfortunately, it counted for nothing. Seconds after scoring, city conceded a penalty and went behind once more.
With less than ten minutes on the clock, Matt Taylor’s side couldn’t salvage an equaliser, although Sweeney missed the target from 5 metres out in the 85th minute, as it finished 2-1.