Exeter City manager Matt Taylor was delighted his side managed to see out victory as they overcame League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers 1-0 at St James Park.
Ryan Bowman scored the only goal of the game after 11 minutes, but on occasions this season, such as last week at Crewe, one goal has not been enough for Taylor’s troops as they have conceded and dropped points in the latter stages of games.
However, they defended resolutely against their promotion rivals, although they had Jonny Maxted to thank for making a brilliant second half save to preserve maximum points for the Grecians.
“Obviously I am pleased to win any game of football and I said to the group we have been at 1-0 numerous times this season, so it was important that we saw that game through,” Taylor said.
“We dominated the first half and I felt we were the better team in that first period. We were on the front foot and playing good, attacking football and it was a shame we didn’t have more than that one-goal advantage.
“They came back into it in the second half and started to dominate the ball to a certain extent but we limited them to half chances and the one real chance they had, Jonny has made an important save. It was two good teams going at it today.
“It was a big decision for me to start Ryan Bowman. It was a decision I have thought long and hard about this week.
“Maybe I was too critical of our forwards, or players, last week in missing opportunities, but you have to back the ones that you think will do the job. I was still undecided last night.
“I backed Ryan, I spoke to him before the game and told him exactly what I wanted from him and I felt his all round game was superb. If he plays like that, then I have no qualms with him missing the odd chance here and there.”
Exeter, who were replaced at the top by Forest Green last week, started superbly and laid siege to the Rovers goal. They won six corners in the opening five minutes and it was no surprise when the opening goal came their way.
Jack Sparkes did brilliantly to twist and turn his man before delivering a lovely low cross to the near post, where Bowman was on hand to volley in his fifth goal of the campaign from six yards.
Forest Green did create chances, but nothing clear-cut. That was until Aaron Collins had a glorious chance from six yards out midway through the second half – his header brilliantly saved by Exeter goalkeeper Maxted, who was making his first start for the Grecians after first choice Lewis Ward broke his arm in the 1-1 draw at Crewe last week.
Rovers manager Mark Cooper cut a frustrated figure at full-time and bemoaned a poor start to the game, as well as that missed chance by Collins.
“I thought the best team won. We didn’t play and started terribly and didn’t deal with the threat,” Cooper said. “It looked as though we were still on the coach for the first 15 minutes and it is difficult to recover from that.
“Their goalkeeper has made a great save in the second half, but he (Aaron Collins) really should score. He should head the ball into the floor because if he does, he scores.
“Full credit to Exeter. They deserved the win today.
“It was two very good sides, but I thought the game was very bitty. There were too many free kicks and too many stoppages for the game to get going.
“We are at home again next week and we have to go out and win. There is no point in crying about it, we have not played particularly well today, we will get back to training on Monday and make sure that we perform next Saturday.”