Sky Bet League Two
Exeter City 4
(Jordan Moore-Taylor, David Wheeler x2, Lloyd James)
Crewe Alexandra 0
St James’ Park
The weekend is here again and I love my free Saturday’s to go off exploring. However today wasn’t a day for a new ground, in fact, it would be my third visit to St James’ Park, home of League Two side Exeter City.
My last visit to SJP was in the Devon derby with Plymouth Argyle in 2011 in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match with the Grecians eventually winning on penalties.
Just three days earlier I had witnessed City beat Chesterfield 2-1 in the league, thanks to goals from Troy Archibold-Henville and Tom Nichols during my first visit to the 8,541 capacity stadium.
So, six years later I return to Devon where I would be meeting up with my old man for a few hours both hoping that our team, Crewe Alexandra, could pick up a rare three points.
I had taken the train and dad had chosen the official supporters bus as his mode of transport for his 420 mile round trip. For me it wasn’t quite as far, just 214 miles there and back, just one change in Salisbury meant it wasn’t a difficult trip.
With the option of uncovered standing or covered seating, Dad had chosen to pay a bit extra to sit down, this proved to be a good move when the heavens opened in the second half, I couldn’t complain, my old man had treated me to a day out.
I couldn’t remember all that much about the ground from my first two visits in 2011, I knew it was tightly wedged among houses but as far as what the inside looked like, I was drawing blanks.
The away end is far from inviting, uncovered behind the goal basically at pitch level offering no real view of the game, (a great view of the first goal going in though, shame it wasn’t CAFC scoring!).
City do reserve a small seated section at the end of the stand up the corner which was fine for the 100 or so supporting fans that had decided to attend. Dad and I found two padded seats amongst the plastic ones, was very random to why they were different to the others but added that extra comfort.
Behind the other goal, opposite the away fans is a wall of red and white. A lovely standing terrace which was well filled when the game started is very impressive mixing in the new and the old which I love so much about many grounds in and around League Two.
Opposite where I was sat was the family stand. The seated area didn’t quite stretch the length of the pitch, giving a lot of wasted space filled with oversized advertising boards.
My stand, filled 95% with Exeter fans (excluding us travelling faithful up the corner) was all seated again, housing executive boxes along the top of the stand and probably the newest part of the stadium.
Outside the ground is also fairly unique, wedged between the player’s car park and the club shop is what basically is a fans zone, pretty self contained with a burger van gives a good place for fans of both sides to congregate before the game and soak up some February sunshine.
All in all, SJP is alright, the away end leaves a lot to be desired and for how busy the other stand behind the goal was they should have definitely made more noise but chants of ‘Wheeler, Wheeler’ were faintly heard when their number 11 smashed in his second and scored for the 14th game running, a club record.
The stewards and people seemed friendly which is always a bonus when you make the long trip to support your club.
David Artell was left waiting for his first win as Crewe Alexandra manager as they lost 4-0 to in form Exeter City, stretching Crewe’s winless run to 11 games and extending City’s winning streak to seven games.
Jordan Moore-Taylor’s early strike gave the hosts the lead at the break before David Wheeler broke a club record by scoring in his 14th consecutive game, bagging a second half brace.
The Railwaymen were reduced to ten men with eight minutes left when Charlie Kirk was given a red card just seven minutes after coming on. Welsh midfielder Lloyd James finished off the game, scoring Exeter’s fourth five minutes from time.
Exeter took the lead on eight minutes when Lloyd James’ free kick bounced around the box before Moore-Taylor poked the ball over the line.
Artell was forced to make an early change just four minutes later when central defender George Ray limped off to be replaced by Zoumana Bakayogo who went to left back with Jon Guthrie moving into the middle.
Ben Garratt then made a great save to deny Ollie Watkins who had latched on to Callum Cooke’s loose pass to advance at goal but he couldn’t quite lift his effort over the visiting ‘keeper.
On 27 minutes, George Cooper got the better of Watkins on the right wing before cutting inside and unleashing a curling shot which bounced off the top of the bar.
Exeter were then forced into a first half change with Watkins hobbling off to be replaced by journeyman Robbie Simpson on 31 minutes.
Cooper wasted Crewe’s best chance off the game when Danny Hollands’ looping header sent Cooper through on goal but City ‘keeper Christy Pym made a world class double save to deny the Crewe winger twice in quick succession.
Callum Cooke, who was making his debut following a deadline day loan move from Middlesbrough, went close from distance but he couldn’t put the shot on target.
Crewe were undone again on 58 minutes when the defence were caught napping from a quick throw in and Ryan Harley lifted the ball into the box for Wheeler to head in at the near post.
On 67 minutes, Crewe striker Chris Dagnall was introduced to the game for Chelsea loanee Alex Kiwomya, however there was nothing the former Leyton Orient striker could do to prevent City adding a third on 68 minutes.
Wheeler adding his second in style, Crewe failed to clear a long ball and Simpson squared his pass along the edge of the box to Wheeler who let it roll across his body before drilling low into the corner of the net for the goal of the game.
Crewe created very little in attack but Jordan Bowery, who had seen little of the ball all game, directed a header at goal but Pym was equal to it to keep his clean sheet.
The visitors were reduced to ten men on 82 minutes when Charlie Kirk was given a straight red card for a lunging two-footed tackle on Jake Taylor.
The game was finished off on 85 minutes when James smashed in City’s fourth of the day from the edge of the box, curling his shot into the top corner, well out of Garratt’s reach.
2016/17 Games: 88
2016/17 Grounds: 51 (9)
Total Grounds Visited: 150 (40)