Pinnock strike seals superb win for Cobblers at rivals Exeter

Cobblers became the first visiting team to win at St James Park since March - some 19 games ago - when they battled their way to a 2-1 victory over promotion rivals Exeter City on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 9:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:00 pm
Jack Sowerby celebrates his first-half goal with Paul Lewis and Shaun McWilliams (Pictures: Pete Norton)

Town's freshness showed in an excellent first-half performance down in Devon and their superiority was rewarded when Jack Sowerby broke the deadlock shortly after the half-hour mark.

The second-half was a totally different story however, and once Padraig Amond headed City level just five minutes in, the momentum was all with the home side and there looked to be only one winner.

But Town dug deep and pulled off something of a smash and grab with Mitch Pinnock scrambling in the all-important goal from a free-kick 16 minutes from time.

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Cobblers rode their luck at times and Exeter did miss chances, both before and after Pinnock's winner, but they have now beaten promotion rivals in back-to-back games and boast a mightily impressive recent record of seven wins in their last nine.

Shaun McWilliams and Jon Guthrie returned for the Cobblers but a hamstring injury prevented striker Kion Etete from making the trip down to Devon.

There was a surprise in how Town lined up as Jon Brady matched Exeter's 3-5-2 with Pinnock alongside Danny Rose in attack and Sam Hoskins and Ali Koiki at wing-back.

Exeter made a sharp start though and the visiting defender was under early pressure with Aaron McGowan in just the right place to make a goal-saving clearance.

Mitch Pinnock on the ball for the Cobblers at Exeter

But things quickly flipped as Town grew into the game and their shape was allowing Koiki plenty of space to motor forward and deliver numerous threatening balls into the box, one of which was just too high for Lewis.

Cobblers controlled the vast majority of the first-half and Lewis had the first clear sight of Exeter's goal when a long throw was flicked into his path, but he could not make a clean contact.

Cobblers frequently found good crossing positions and applied constant pressure on the home defence, and eventually it told with the game's opening goal on 33 minutes.

The marauding Koiki was brilliantly denied at close quarters following Hoskins' cross but the ball rebounded back out to Sowerby on the edge of the box and he found the bottom corner via a deflection.

Town remained dominant and Pinnock squandered an excellent chance to double the lead shortly before half-time when slashing over the crossbar having expertly brought down Rose's terrific pass.

Koiki flashed in another enticing ball that whizzed across the face of goal, and Town's failure to make more of the first-half supremacy would come back to bite them five minutes into the second-half.

Exeter came out with renewed vigour after the break and they required only five minutes to equalise.

The ball was worked out to the right where Josh Key stood up a cross for Amond and he had the simplest headed finish.

Suddenly City had all of the momentum and Liam Roberts kept Cobblers on level terms with two good saves as he held Matt Jay's shot before tipping over Jevani Brown's curler.

Cobblers' attacking threat diminished significantly in the second-half, limited only to a tame long-range effort from half-time substitute Jordan Flores, at least until the 74th minute when the visitors, out of the blue, retook the lead.

Lewis won a free-kick on the right and Hoskins seemed to scuff his delivery but it worked a treat, his cross somehow missing every defender and deftly flicked into the net by Pinnock via the woodwork.

Exeter pushed for a second equaliser and they did all but score with five minutes left when the ball somehow stayed out after a mass goalmouth scramble from a corner.

The tension grew as City continued to pile forward and Josh Coley saw a penalty shout turned down before he spurned a golden late chance to salvage a point, finding only the side-netting when the goal was gaping, allowing Cobblers to just about cling on.

Match facts

Exeter: Dawson, Caprice, Ray (Taylor 78), Sweeney, Kite (Seymour 82), Hartridge, Jay (c), Collins, Key, J Brown, Amond (Coley 78)

Subs not used: S Brown, Sparkes, Daniel, Grounds

Cobblers: Roberts, McGowan, Horsfall (c), Guthrie, Koiki, McWilliams (Flores 45) (Kabamba 87), Sowerby, Lewis, Hoskins, Pinnock, Rose (Ashley-Seal 87)

Subs not used: Maxted, Dyche, Pollock, Connolly

Referee: John Busby

Attendance: 3,823

Cobblers fans: 159