In a week where Exeter City’s substitutes were in the news for the wrong reasons, it was only fitting they contributed to them extending their club record unbeaten run and make it five wins in a row in the league.
Just before the hour, Jonathan Grounds, who had only just come off the bench, scored his first Grecians goal, sliding home an effort from the edge of the box, despite Sam Nombe’s attempts to claim it for himself.
Brennan Dickenson and Tristan Abrahams had missed good chances for Carlisle early in the first half, while Tim Dieng was denied for the Grecians, before the Cumbrians went down to ten men when Jon Mellish was sent off just before half time for a dangerous lunge on Archie Collins.
Jevani Brown and Dieng had chances to further extend the lead, before substitute Jake Caprice’s first goal in 322 career appearances doubled the advantage.
Jordan Gibson pulled one back late on, but the 2-1 win means that Exeter’s record unbeaten run now stands at 20, with it being 19 since defeat at St James Park, and 15 unbeaten in the League.
The three points see them rise to second and a three point gap back to Swindon Town in fourth has been opened up.
Read More – Exeter City 2 Carlisle United 1 – recap of Grecians’ League Two clash
Exeter City manager Matt Taylor made three changes from Tuesday night’s infamous 3-0 FA Cup first round replay win over Bradford City that will need to be replayed after the Grecians inadvertently used a sixth substitute.
That sub, Josh Key, was restored to the line-up having been rested in midweek, as were Jevani Brown and skipper Matt Jay, whose brace counts in his goal tally, with George Ray, Harry Kite and Owura Edwards dropping to the bench. Josh Coley was retained for what was his first league start, while Nombe passed a fitness test on his calf to start upfront.
For Carlisle United, manager Keith Millen made two changes from the side who drew 0-0 at Barrow last Saturday. Into the side came Danny Devine and former Grecian Dickenson, replacing Zach Clough who dropped to the bench, and the suspended Callum Guy who collected his fifth booking last Saturday.
And it was visitors who started the brighter with two former Grecians having early chances. Firstly Abrahams was given space to run at the defence, and Key had to make a vital block to deny his strike, and from the resulting corner, which was only half cleared, Dickenson blazed a volley over the bar.
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It was a slow start by the Grecians, while the Cumbrians, who had only scored 11 in their first 16 games, on the offensive, but Jordan Gibson, and then Dickenson again, missed half-decent chances, as the hosts were struggling to assert themselves in the game.
It took Taylor’s men 20 minutes to create anything of note, and it came after Nombe chased a lost cause and kept the ball alive, laid it off to Brown, but his curling effort went straight into the arms of Mark Howard, while at the other end, Cameron Dawson was forced into two saves when Dickenson and Abrahams found space inside the area, and Alex Hartridge into a goalline clearance.
City’s best chance of the half came just before the break and it fell to Dieng. Another Brown chased a long ball, kept it in play, and nutmegged a defender, he pulled it back to the in-form Frenchman who struck a first time effort from 15 yards, but Howard punched the ball to safety.
However, on 42 minutes, the Cumbrians were reduced to ten men when Mellish was given his marching orders. The midfielder overran the ball and lunged in over the top on Collins. Referee Will Finnie gave himself some time to think, before he reached into his back pocket and pulled out the red card. It was the right decision.
Neither side made a change at the break, but City were nearly gifted an opener straight away. Howard’s clearance was poor and straight to Brown, who then found Jay, but the captain unselfishly tried to return the ball back to him, and Howard atoned for his error and made the save, when the first time shot was probably the better option.
The goalkeeper then denied Dieng from a corner, before Rob McDonald just got his head to a teasing Colin Daniel cross when Coley and Nombe were lurking for an open goal.
Jonathan Grounds replaced Daniel as City switched to a back three in search of the opening goal, and within minutes, the change paid dividends. The experienced defender found plenty of space on the left-hand side, fizzed in a low cross, and Nombe from close range tried and failed to poke the ball home and into the corner of Howard’s net, but the ball dribbled home regardless. It was no less than they deserved for their second half dominance.
The second half had been all City, and having got the goal, that should have been that, but City switched off, and needed Dawson to keep them ahead, again denying Abrahams, and it seemed to switch the Grecians back on, as Pierce Sweeney and then Nombe again tested Howard.
As United pushed for a leveller, space was opening up for City on the break, with Brown and Jay combining nicely to set up Dieng, but he lashed wide, but with ten minutes to go, the game was put beyond any doubt.
Brown broke quickly and laid the ball off to Caprice, only just on the pitch, and the defender drilled home from ten yards through the legs of the goalkeeper to double the advantage and net for the first time in his 322 game career.
Caprice though was partially at fault for the goal that gave Carlisle some hope, not tracking back and leaving Gibson unmarked to sweep home a Dickenson cross with five minute still to play.
Dickenson and McDonald had late chances to level, while Caprice could have made it three, only to fire over, as the Grecians held on for another win and one that now means it is 20 without defeat as the unbeaten run continued.
Up next for the Grecians is a trip to Colchester United on Tuesday, when they will look to extend their current nine game away unbeaten streak, which after West Ham United’s loss to Wolves, is also, as well as the home and all competitions, longest run in English football.
Exeter City: (4-2-3-1) – Cameron Dawson, Josh Key, Pierce Sweeney, Alex Hartridge, Colin Daniel (Jonathan Grounds, 54), Tim Dieng, Archie Collins, Josh Coley (Jake Caprice, 74), Matt Jay, Jevani Brown, Sam Nombe (Padraig Amond, 80)
Subs: Scott Brown, George Ray, , Harry Kite, Owura Edwards,
Carlisle United: (4-2-3-1) – Mark Howard, Kelvin Mellor, Corey Whelan, Rod McDonald, Jack Armer (Taylor Charters 37), Danny Devine , Jon Mellish, Jordan Gibson, Brad Young Morgan Feeney, 56), Brennan Dickenson, Tristan Abrahams (Sam Fishburn, 80
Subs: Scott Simons, Jonathan Dinzeyi, Lewis Alessandra, Manasse Mampala,
Red card: Mellish
Attendance: 4796 (155 away)
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