Two second half goals in as many minutes saw 10-man Exeter City take all three points at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon in Sky Bet League 2.
Jordan Moore-Taylor’s 24th minute red card for the visitors looked like it might swing the game in Boro’s favour, however two quick strikes with around 20 minutes of the game remaining won the game for the Grecians.
Darren Sarll made just the one change from last weekend’s narrow defeat at Wycombe with Jobi McAnuff returning in place of the injured Matt Godden. The Jamaican international took his place on the right flank with Tom Pett moving up to support Tyler Walker.
Despite suffering defeat in their last two away games, Exeter started the game brightly. They went close in the opening minutes when Ollie Watkins curled wide and then on the 10 minute mark Fraser Franks hooked a loose ball off the line after Jamie Jones had made a fine save.
Stevenage were gradually getting into the game but the half’s big turning point came on 24 minutes when the visitors were reduced to 10 men. A ball over the top was perfect for the scampering Pett but he was fouled by last man Moore-Taylor and the Grecians captain was shown a straight red.
From the resulting free-kick Tonge’s effort took a slight deflection off the wall and flew just wide and from that point Boro’s confidence grew.
Despite being a man down, Exeter still remained a threat on the counter however with Boro’s defence standing firm it often left opportunities for Boro to break. Kgosi Ntlhe was a big beneficiary of this with Tonge finding him in space on a number of occasions as the half went on.
With 35 minutes on the clock the left-back advanced down the left and swung in a ball which Andrew Fox met on the volley, back across Olejnik but wide of the ‘keeper’s far post.
Two minutes later Ntlhe started an attack which eventually saw Tonge setup King for a first-time rocket which flew wide of goal.
Just before the break a nice jinxing run from Pett saw the winger get into the box and pull the ball back for Walker, but it was intercepted and put out for a corner. Fraser Franks rose to meet the resulting set-piece but headed over.
Chances came at the start of the second half for Stevenage with Luke Wilkinson’s header hooked off the line and McAnuff firing at Olejnik from 25 yards on 56 minutes.
Luke Croll then denied the Jamaican with a block and Tyler Walker fired into the side netting as the hosts pushed on 67 minutes.
Ben Kennedy and Harry McKirdy both came on as Boro looked to inject more pace and creativity into their attacking momentum, but instead it was Exeter who struck twice in devastating style to win the game.
With 69 minutes on the clock Robbie Simpson played the ball through to sub Lee Holmes who advanced on Jamie Jones and slotted the ball home.
1-0 became 2-0 seconds later as Ollie Watkins applied the finishing touch to a swift Grecians counter-attack with a low strike past Jones.
From that point onwards Boro pushed forward with Exeter happy to sit back and protect their lead. Jack King volleyed over and then Kennedy, King and Lee all went close with headers in the game’s closing stages, but Bobby Olejnik could not be beaten.
Stevenage’s recent good home form now comes to an end however a midweek trip to Cheltenham gives Darren Sarll’s men the chance for immediate redemption. Tickets for Tuesday’s game can be purchased from the club until midday on Monday or at the turnstiles at Cheltenham.
Stevenage: Jones, Lee, Franks, Wilkinson, Ntlhe, McAnuff, King, Tonge, Fox (Kennedy 58), Pett (McKirdy 67), Walker (Henry 75)
Subs not used: Preston, Liburd, Gorman, Cowans
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman, James, Simpson, Watkins, Moore-Taylor, Taylor (Oakley 90), Stacey, Croll, Sweeney, Reid (Holmes 58)
Subs not used: Pym, McAlinden, Jay, Riley-Lowe, Byrne
Referee: Ollie Yates
Attendance: 2,244 (169 away)