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Ten-men City beat Burton

Player sent-off in tunnel

10-man Exeter City scraped past Burton Albion in a hard-fought win, with a first half strike by Reece Cole eventually proving the difference between the two sides. The game turned on an off-pitch incident at half time, as Exeter centre-back Zak Jules was sent off in the tunnel for an as yet unspecified offence, presumably dissent or violent conduct.

With 11 men, City had dominated the ball, creating numerous half chances for Sonny Cox who fired straight at Burton goalkeeper Max Crocombe and shanked another wide in the early stages. Joe Hugill did have a golden chance to score against the run of play, by virtue of a loose pass from City captain Pierce Sweeney, but Finnish keeper Vils Sinisalo got down well to stop the Burton striker’s flick from close range. Will Aimson’s sliding goal-line block from the subsequent rebound was a display of impressive athleticism, as he maintained his excellent defensive form in his recent run in the team.

Exeter winger Yanic Wildschut twice tricked his way past ex- City right back Jake Caprice, teeing up both Tom Carrol and Reece Cole in the space of a few minutes, but both saw their efforts blocked. It was Cole who finally registered the breakthrough just before the break, via a perfect cut back from Ilmari Niskanen. His run had been spotted by the ever-impressive Fulham loanee Luke Harris, who played the Finnish international in behind the Burton defence. Niskanen cut the ball back to the edge of the box, straight into the path of Cole, who slotted it past Crocombe with his usual composure and nonchalance.

At that point, a comfortable home victory looked inevitable, but that certainly was not the feeling 20 minutes later, in which time Jules had been sent off in the tunnel (news of which slowly reached the fans via social media over the course of half-time), and attacking winger
Yanic Wildschut was sacrificed for solid defender Ben Purrington for the start of the second half. Burton’s attacking credentials seemed to improve, especially with the introduction of Ademola Ola-Adebomi, who repeatedly dragged his side up the pitch towards an Exeter defence who slipped deeper and deeper as full time came nearer.

Despite their dominance and player advantage Burton had very few chances, bar a free header by towering centre back Ryan Sweeny from a deep corner, and Brewers captain John Brayford sending a dipping effort off the underside of the crossbar. Exeter broke forward occasionally, with Reece Cole nearly curling home from distance for his second late on, but the second half was one of very low quality and few shots on goal. No less was to be expected given the match up of a low scoring, relegation threatened side against 10 men with a lead to defend at home.

A mass brawl on 90 minutes resulted in multiple yellow cards for City players and was perhaps the most entertaining moment of the second half, but despite his side’s ill discipline, Exeter manager Gary Caldwell will be more than happy with a well fought home win which leaves the Grecians within touching distance of safety, and the promise of a third straight campaign in League One.

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