Late goals seal Exeter City win over Weston
PUBLISHED: 22:26 16 July 2019 | UPDATED: 22:33 16 July 2019
Weston lost their first game since Scott Bartlett was reappointed manager as Exeter City beat them 3-0 at The Optima Stadium this evening (Tuesday).
The visit of Football League opposition proved to be a big step up for the Seagulls after friendly wins over Ashton & Backwell and Banwell.
A first-half strike from Ryan Bowman and late goals from Joel Randall and Jack Sparkes meant Exeter headed back down the M5 with the win.
Chances were at a premium in the first half, with the Seagulls untroubled until the 25th minute.
Former Manchester United youngster Lee Martin's perfect through ball put Bowman through and he made no mistake as his low drive across Niall Maher found the bottom left corner.
Weston's attack showed glimpses of promise, with winger Tom Llewellyn and the busy Isaac Pearce looking to stretch the Exeter defence.
But bar a tame header under pressure from a Pearce free-kick from Greg Tindle, the Exeter goalkeeper trialist had a simple half.
In the final five minutes though the League Two outfit began to show glimpses of their quality.
On 40 minutes another slide-rule pass from Martin to Bowman put the number 12 through on goal, but this time his shot was too close to Maher who saved smartly down to his left.
While Bowman could bemoan good goalkeeping for not doubling Exeter's lead, he had no-one but himself to blame on the stroke of half-time.
With the final action of the half he rose highest from a corner but his downward header from just six yards bounced down and over the bar with the net gaping.
The second half began much like the first, but as the hour-mark approached both goalkeepers began to be tested.
Lively substitute Ryan Jones' dribble put Owen Howe through but the Weston striker was unable to get a meaningful shot away before being closed down by the keeper diving at his feet.
And on 63 minutes he had an even better chance.
A Maher save, after more good build-up play from Martin, allowed Weston to break but Howe could fire only at the Exeter keeper when put clean through and Jay Malshankyj lashed the rebound over.
Exeter went close to doubling their lead with 10 minutes to go when Sparkes' free-kick was brilliantly tipped on to a post by Maher, either side of two good chances for Weston.
Firstly, substitute Sam Hendy's fierce drive was stopped by the keeper's outstretched leg before the impressive Jones' arrowing strike towards the top corner was also brilliantly saved. Howe's free header from the resulting corner flew over the bar.
But it was Exeter who sealed the game with three minutes of time left.
Sparkes' tricky cross was not dealt with by Maher, allowing Randall to smash home from 12 yards.
And, harshly on Weston, Sparkes got himself on the scoresheet in the second minute of additional time when his inswinging cross from the right evaded everyone to find the bottom corner.