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Exeter City 1 Saints 3
DEFEATING Exeter in the Carling Cup may not sound like a significant result for Saints but it might just prove that way.
After a slightly unfortunate defeat to Cardiff at the weekend Jan Poortvliet and his team desperately needed to get their first win under their belts.
Poortvliet really believes in his side but they need to believe in themselves.
Only results, goals and performances will provide that, no matter who it is against.
Now they are up and running and, what's more, generally looking pretty good they have the chance to take it on.
Exeter started the brighter and put Saints on the back foot.
Saints played some good football and deserved their first win.There were a few shaky moments at the back but an awful lot to be positive about. Hopefully the win will give Saints the belief to push on in the league now.Adam Leitch
Saints didn't help themselves with a few shaky early moments.
Firstly there seemed to be a break down in communication between Bartosz Bialkowski and Chris Perry that led to the centre half sliding the ball past him, leaving the keeper to scramble back and hack clear from his own goalline.
Just a couple of minutes later he slipped and spilled a ball but grabbed it at the second attempt to prevent Exeter getting in.
But the longer Saints weathered the storm the more you got the impression their superior ability might just tell and give them the all important breakthrough.
Adam Lallana threatened twice with shots that needing saving by Paul Jones, while the Exeter stopper was also kept busy by a low drive from Morgan Schneiderlin.
In the end Saints' ability to knock the ball around quickly paid dividends and they took the lead on 29 minutes.
A searching deep ball down the right picked out Paul Wotton who beat the offside trap.
He pushed on to the by-line and was way ahead of anybody else.
Wotton showed all his experience as he kept his head and picked out the run of Lee Holmes whose first time left-footed finish flew over the head of Jones.
Exeter weren't prepared to lie down though and could have felt themselves unlucky to have gone in 1-0 down at the break.
Before the half-time whistle Craig McAllister had a deflected shot saved by Bialkowski before Matt Gill volleyed over.
Bialkowski produced a terrific double save on 28 minutes to block Ryan Harley's low shot from 20 yards and then the follow-up by Adam Stansfield from point blank range.
Just before the break Exeter threatened again with McAllister's deflected header from a corner somehow scrambled off the line by Lallana and Bialkowski.
Saints started off the second half looking desperate for that second goal to kill the game off.
They had chances to get it as well as Lallana caused havoc.
He and David McGoldrick linked up well three minutes after the restart but Lallana's finish was over the bar before there was an almighty scramble in the six-yard box from Lloyd James' shot after it was cleared off the line.
Lallana then picked out Lee Holmes but his shot, when through on goal, was saved by the legs of Jones.
Exeter weren't without their moments and, just as it was at the weekend, the marking from setpieces occasionally left a bit to be desired.
Danny Seaborne got a free header from a corner on 61 minutes but again Lallana was there to clear off the line, while Harley dragged a shot wide seven minutes later.
Saints did eventually get the goal that seemed as if it would get them comfortably through to the next round on 77 minutes.
McGoldrick, who was now playing in the right-sided attacking role, burst forward past two defenders and slammed his shot low into the bottom corner for 2-0.
Exeter gave Saints a late scare five minutes from time when they pulled a goal back.
Richard Logan flicked on a long throw and Dean Moxey was brave enough to throw himself at the ball and headed it home, colliding with the post in the process.
As you would expect Exeter threw everything forward to try and grab an equaliser but it was actually Saints that found an injury time goal.
McGoldrick tried to burst forward in the box but was tripped by Seaborne and a penalty was awarded.
The striker stepped up to take it himself and duly dispatched it into the bottom corner to ensure a timely boost and a first win for Jan Poortvliet and his young side.