Exeter City produce another outstanding comeback for fantastic victory

Exeter City produced their second comeback from 2-0 down in the space of a week as they claimed all three points with a stirring second half performance at Port Vale. The Grecians were two down at half time, but were outstanding after the break as they turned it around with a 4-2 victory.

Ethan Chislett’s deflected strike after a corner put Vale ahead on the half hour. Baylee Dipepa doubled the lead just before half-time after a fantastic solo effort, although it was one Vil Sinisalo should really have kept out.

But Millenic Alli’s deflected strike halved the deficit early in the second half, before in the 67 th minute, City drew level when a corner swung into the box was met by Zak Jules who rifled home. Luke Harris then smashed home a volley late on to put Exeter ahead in stunning style, before Alli then grabbed his second of the afternoon late on to seal the victory and all three points.

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The win took City past last season’s points total with two games to spare, as they stayed 12 th in the League One table with a top 10 finish still possible. The loss was a hammer blow for Port Vale’s bid to avoid relegation as they stay in the bottom four, now three points from safety and with a much worse goal difference, with only two games to go.

“The less said about the first half, the better,” manager Gary Caldwell said. “The second half was probably one of our best performances of the season, the way we understood how to win the game. And there was no change, we didn’t change anything tactically.

“We obviously made a couple of personnel changes and made more throughout the second half, and I thought all the finishers were outstanding. But second half, the way we attacked – the speed, the physicality – we could have scored more goals. I thought we were outstanding. Everything we worked on we didn’t do in the first half, we did in the second half, and we were fantastic.

“Our finishers have been a big aspect of the second part of the season. We’ve had options from the bench so when things aren’t quite going to plan, we have people who are ready and able to come on and make an impact on the game.

“In the first half of the season we didn’t have that often enough for a number of different reasons, but in the second half of the season we have. It has pushed players to different levels and we have been fantastic second half of the year.

“The group was a new group, we have to develop relationships, develop team spirit. The group is fully committed, fantastic performances, comebacks, and won games shouldn’t have won, and that comes from the spirit. 2-0 down early season we probably don’t have a way back, but we could have six.”

Following the 2-2 draw at Leyton Orient on Tuesday night, Caldwell made six changes to the Grecians starting line-up, taking no risks on any of the players who were injury doubts. In came Cheick Diabate, Ben Purrington, Yanic Wildschut, Harris, Caleb Watts and Alli. Jules and Dion Rankine dropped down to the bench, while there was no Pierce Sweeney (ankle), Tom Carroll, Reece Cole (back) or Jack Aitchison (groin) involved at all with the quartet all nursing minor injuries.

Chances were few and far between before on the half hour, the Valiants took the lead. A corner was half cleared, and Chislett’s shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection, beat the despairing Sinisalo who was heading the other way, as the ball nestled in the far corner of the net.

Ten minutes later, Vale doubled their lead. Dipepa went on a mazy run, beat two City defenders, and then let fly from the distance. The shot bounced awkwardly in front of Sinisalo and beat his dive to make it 2-0 to the hosts, with the 17-year-old celebrating his third goal for the club.

Caldwell made a double change at the break, with Purrington and Watts, both of whom were on bookings, taken off, with Jules and Rankine replacing them. Harper then replaced Wildschut who seemed to have picked up a knock – and soon after, in the 57 th minute, City halved the deficit. Alli cut in from the left hand side, took aim with his right foot, and the shot took a wicked deflection, looped up into the air, and gave Conor Ripley no chance.

Richards nearly caught Ripley napping with a cross, but he just managed to tip it over. But from that corner, City drew level, and came from 2-0 down for the second game running. The corner was whipped into the box by Ryan Woods and from 12 yards out, Jules smashed home the finish for his second of the season.

With 10 minutes to go, the comeback was complete. Ilmari Niskanen found Pedro Borges, the younger flicked the ball into the box, and Fulham loanee Harris from the penalty spot smashed the ball on the volley into the roof of the net. It was a third goal of the season for the teenager, and was an unstoppable finish. Late on, it was four. Niskanen robbed a defender, he played in Alli, and he slotted home his second of the game and third of the week to seal victory and make it eight unbeaten, and beat last season’s points tally with two games to spare.

“It has been a long and hard season, players given everything having played a lot of games,” Caldwell said. “There is fatigue after a long hard season but we have the squad to be competitive.

“We have to get ready for another big game and finish strong and finish in the top half which would be an incredible finish from where we were. We want to progress all the time and that goes for the points total and now we want to finish in the top half of the league and we can do that.”

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