Date: 30th September 2017 at 6:08pm
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The EFL`s longest serving Manager, forty-four year old Paul Tisdale (eleven years at the helm in Devon so far) welcomed the second longest in the shape of Jim Bentley (six years and counting) at St James` Park today. Exeter City`s start to the season was simply stupendous with six straight wins in League Two. But the loss of Captain and influential central defender Jordan Taylor-Moore to injury has coincided with an abrupt end to this excellent run of form and the Grecians have lost their last two league games in a row against Coventry City and then Notts County, who have leap-frogged them to the top of the division as a direct result. Mr Tisdale has summed-up these recent setbacks thus:

“The players have worked particularly well and got some good results, but now we have to settle and start again… We can’t promise to win any game. We can promise how we think and react to this game and prepare for the next one, but we can’t promise the next result, you can’t just will it. The opposition have got something to say about it.’ And what he had to say about that opposition and their boss specifically was this: “I admire Jim greatly. He has had a long time at Morecambe and does a really good job on the resources he has and I think, as always, they will be a tough nut to crack. They have got some continuity in the team and continuity in the manager. I am hoping Kevin Ellison doesn`t score a scorcher like he did last year. That was probably goal-of-the-season, his volley. I`m hoping he`ll keep that for another day but it will be a tough game – as it always is with Morecambe.”

The one thing to say about this clash before the game with any certainty is that throughout this season so far, the Shrimps have shown a resilience and fighting spirit even in defeat which would be the envy of virtually any team anywhere. For Exeter, an added incentive to get back on track was the fact that Notts County had lost earlier 3-1 against Mansfield: three points today could put them back on top of the pile.

The match started with much of St James` Park closed for redevelopment and the home fans packed into a stand called Thatcher`s Big Bank. (I thought that had gone bust ages ago but there we go…) Morecambe were in their yellow third strip and the action started with a long ball from the Grecians within a minute which Reuben Reid chased before colliding with Morecambe minder Barry Roche, leaving both men needing prolonged treatment on the field before the huge Dubliner had to be helped off with a clearly lacerated knee to be replaced by Danijel Nizic. Undeterred though, the visitors took the game to Exeter and forced a couple of corners during the opening ten minutes or so. With Reid seemingly recovered from his earlier encounter with the Shrimps` first-choice keeper, the Grecians seemed to be trying to direct their earlier forward efforts almost exclusively through him. He handled the ball early on and was caught offside in short order after this with no threat to the visiting goal. Up the other end, Ellison slung the ball across after 18 minutes to Vadaine Oliver, who headed the ball narrowly over at the back stick. The home team took the lead though after 21 minutes when Troy Brown side-footed a shot past Nizic after a corner kick was deflected to him at the far post. It almost immediately got worse for the visitors as Reid linked with Jake Taylor to set-up Pierce Sweeney who saw his shot blocked but the Shrimps` defence was Absent Without Leave after 24 minutes when Jayden Stockley received Taylor`s pass from the wing and blasted the ball into the net to score his customary goal against Morecambe for the Grecians and also put the hosts well in charge. Taylor then tried his own luck after 26 minutes but his shot was blocked again and bundled away by the Shrimps` defence. Although Morecambe commendably pushed forward after these setbacks – with Adam Campbell taking a shot from 30 yards which missed after 28 minutes and Garry Thompson having a shot blocked at the far post after another corner four minutes later – City continued to look threatening every time they pushed forward. Having said that, Morecambe`s indomitable spirit showed itself again with 38 minutes on the clock: Oliver reduced the arrears when he was fastest to react to Christy Pym`s fumble of Thommo`s shot from the edge of the penalty area and placed the ball past the stranded home keeper. Pym redeemed himself to some extent almost immediately however when he raced from his line and bravely dived at the feet of Oliver to stop him getting off another shot at goal just a minute later. The goalkeeper did well again during injury time at the end of the first half when he saved a Michael Rose Special from a free kick which was awarded for a foul on Thommo by Luke Croll which earned the Exeter man a yellow card. But right at the end of the seven minutes of added-on time, City restored their two-goal advantage as Stockley doubled his return for the day when he received a throw-in, spun on a sixpence and unleashed a shot from a narrow angle which beat Nizic and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.

Exeter continued on the front foot at the beginning of the second half and Stockley had a chance to increase the lead before he played-in Dean Moxey with just 48 minutes on the clock and – with the Morecambe defence at sixes and sevens again and Mitchell Lund having been dispossessed – he made no mistake with a left-footed shot to put the hosts 4-1 ahead. It was largely cruise control for Exeter after that with Nizic saving well from Reid and substitute Kyle Edwards later on but the visitors never gave up. Oliver had two good attempts on goal and a free kick after 82 minutes hit a Grecian defender and bounced back off a post but that was as good as it got for the team from Lancashire. At the end, Exeter found themselves still in second position in League Two but level on points with Notts County. Morecambe meanwhile found themselves in twenty-first position but with double the points (ten) of all three teams below them.

Exeter City: 1 Christy Pym (Y); 2 Pierce Sweeney; 23 Luke Croll (Y); 3 Craig Woodman; 25 Jake Taylor; 4 Lloyd James; 6 Jordan Tillson 41 mins); 44 Hiram Boateng; 21 Dean Moxey (Y); 33 Reuben Reid20 Matt Jay 86 mins); 39 Troy Brown; 11 Jayden Stockley (28 Kyle Edwards 80 mins).

Substitutes not used: 13 James Hamon; 5 Troy Archibald-Henville; 19 Liam McAlinden; 22 Kane Wilson.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (12 Danijel Nizic 1 min); 22 Max Muller; 5 Steven Old; 17 Mitchell Lund (Y); 3 Patrick Brough; 24 Michael Rose (C); 8 Andy Fleming (4 Alex Kenyon 67 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison; 7 Garry Thompson (29 Callum Lang 75 mins); 10 Adam Campbell; 9 Vadaine Oliver.

Substitutes not used: 21 Elliot Osborne 2 Aaron McGowan; 16 Sam Lavelle; 18 Rhys Turner.
Ref: Brett Huxtable