Exeter City 0 Accrington 1
The last time Accrington Stanley won at Exeter City there was a national television audience to witness it.
That season the Reds went on to win Football League status. Their latest victory at St James’ Park may have only been witnessed by 71 hardy visiting fans but went a long way to preserving that status for another year.
Kayode Odejayi’s poacher’s goal on the stroke of half time was enough to give James Beattie’s side all three points from Devon for the first time since January 2006.
Both sides headed into the game unbeaten in three matches and with unchanged sides but it was the visitors who set the tone early on. Will Hatfield cut in from the right and lashed a left foot shot over the bar before Artur Krysiak dropped a Lee Molyneux free kick and Danny Butterfield was forced to clear.
Paul Tisdale’s Exeter had won two on the bounce but showed few signs of threatening with Danny Coles heading straight at Marcus Bettinelli as they laboured in the final third.
Chances weren’t plentiful at the other end either but the Reds looked far more of a danger, with Adam Buxton seeing a strike deflected wide and Dean Winnard unable to make a good contact with a Hatfield cross when he rose highest in the box.
In tight games Molyneux can usually be relied upon to conjure something up but when his strike from 25 yards flew wide the strikers stepped up to the plate.
James Gray and Odejayi had been willing workers and a handful for the defence throughout but as half time loomed they made the crucial impact.
First Gray tested Krysiak from close range from a poor Craig Woodman clearance and then Odejayi struck.
Krysiak failed to hold on to Molyneux’s corner kick and amidst a phalanx of Grecians’ defenders Odejayi pounced to jab the ball home and net his first goal since New Year’s Day.
Now the recipe for the second half changed and Beattie’s team could show their increasing defensive dependability with Winnard and Tom Aldred continuing to look one of the best centre back partnerships in the league.
Even the departure of Buxton, with a rib problem, and Will Hatfield, through sheer exhaustion, made little difference and the Reds could have been two up when Coles inadvertently headed the ball over his own keeper only for Krysiak to recover.
The hosts barely mustered a clear opening, with Michael Liddle and Piero Mingoia slipping into Stanley’s unit.
Eliot Richards saw a strike blocked by Winnard before Tom Nichols shot over as they continued to be frustrated.
Not even a double attacking change could help City break through; sub Sam Parkin was miles away with a header from Butterfield’s cross as Aldred handled his physical threat superbly.
A late free kick on the edge of the Stanley ‘D’ caused consternation but Liam Sercombe’s effort flew high over the goal.
It appears that whether or not you win it on Sky, three points at Exeter are always significant for Stanley. The Reds are now nine clear of 23rd placed Northampton, who are their next opponents.