A frustrated Mark Molesley was full of praise for the resolve his team-mates showed on Tuesday as they dug in to claim a 2-0 npower League Two win over high-flying Port Vale – despite him being sent off for a foul on Daniel Jones.
The former AFC Bournemouth midfielder was dismissed by Gary Sutton with 20 minutes to go with Exeter holding a 2-0 lead thanks to first-half goals from Jamie Cureton, his 19th of the season, and Danny Coles.
While Molesley admitted that he felt the sending-off was very harsh, he was delighted his red card did not cost City any points.
“I’m frustrated and angry to have got sent off because I do feel as though I have let the lads down, because I had left them in the trenches in a big game,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody is really happy with me for getting sent off, to be honest, but full credit to the boys, they stuck to their guns and stuck to their job and really worked hard.
“It was a tough game out there. Port Vale are not near the top of the league for no reason and it was a big open pitch. It was hard work, so it was a really good team performance.”
Molesley was at the heart of the action as City took the lead in the 11th minute. He capitalised on a poor clearance from John McCombe before playing the ball on to Matt Oakley, who exchanged passes with Arron Davies and swung in a great cross which Cureton converted with the aid of a deflection.
Oakley, returning from a thigh injury to start the match, then provided the ball for the second goal as he swung over a 30th minute free-kick which Molesley fired towards goal. Chris Neal produced a great one-handed save to deny the former Plymouth Argyle loan signing but the home goalkeeper could not prevent Coles from bundling the ball home at the back post.
After that, Port Vale had the better of the first half, but the hosts struggled to trouble an in-form Artur Krysiak in the City goal.
The closest they came to an equaliser was when League Two’s leading scorer Tom Pope sent a shot crashing off the base of a City post.
Exeter defended resolutely in the second half, even when they were reduced to ten men, and, while it was a great team performance, manager Paul Tisdale did single out Oakley and Krysiak for praise.
“The players were tremendously determined and worked themselves right to the last minute, but, in terms of quality and expertise, then Matt Oakley shone through,” Tisdale said.
“Artur’s real talent is his athleticism and ability to come for crosses. And, when you defend deep and you defend your box, you have to have something to defend against a high ball into the area, and Artur did that again and he has done that more than once this season.”