Exeter City secure promotion to League One for first time in 10 years

  • Watch Richard Lawrence's report following the game

Exeter City came-from-behind to beat Barrow 2-1 to secure that long-awaited promotion out of League Two.

Matt Jay’s winner 12 minutes from time delighted the near 8000 fans inside St James Park.

After three play-off final defeats at Wembley in the previous five seasons, and two ninth placed finishes, missing out on the play-offs on the final day, City finally got over the line.

It is only the sixth promotion in the 121-year history of the club.

The Bluebirds took the lead on 11 minutes - it came in bizarre circumstances when a long throw-in went in off the post and the back of Cameron Dawson to put the visitors ahead.

But after Kieran Phillips hit the crossbar from close range, the on-loan striker made amends on 35 minutes.

He drove half the length of the pitch and fired home to level, albeit with the aid of a deflection.

The second half was nervous, with chances few and far between.

But on 78 minutes, Josh Key swung in a cross, which found Jay at the back post, and the captain on the half volley struck home his 18th goal of the season.

The roar could be heard all around Exeter - ending years of hurt.

Matt Taylor made three changes from the Exeter City side who beat Rochdale 2-0 on Saturday.

Sam Stubbs was fit enough after a knee injury scare to start, with Jonathan Grounds dropping to the bench.

Jack Sparkes replaced Jake Caprice, while with Offrande Zanzala unable to face his parent club, Phillips was given the nod upfront. Sam Nombe was still only fit enough to be a substitute.

It was just the sixth promotion in the 121-year history of the club. Credit: ITV News

After their 1-0 win over Sutton United on Saturday which sealed their survival, Phil Brown made two changes to his Barrow side.

In came Josh Gordon and George Williams, replacing Aaron Amadi-Holloway who wasn’t involved, and the suspended Josh Kay.

City started brightly, winning two early corners, but both were taken short and came to nothing. Archie Collins tested Paul Farman from 25 yards with a low shot, but it was comfortably saved.

However, on 11 minutes, City went behind. A long throw from Remeao Hutton caused chaos in the box and a combination of a faintest of touches from Tom White, and Dawson’s attempt to keep it out of the net saw the ball sneak in off the post and his back - White claimed it, but it went down as an own goal.

It was a bizarre way to go behind but they rallied, trying to get the instant riposte.

Tim Dieng saw a shot deflected over, and from the resulting corner, Jack Sparkes saw a volley blocked.

Matt Jay then tested Farman but the keeper was able to keep the powerful strike out.

A better chance came on 25 minutes. Collins and Jevani Brown combined with some sumptuous football, ending with a backheel to Phillips, but the on-loan Huddersfield Town man from eight yards saw his shot beat Farman, but not the crossbar, and it rebounded to safety.

City should have been level, but on 35 minutes, they were.

A long throw this time was headed clear by Cheick Diabate and it broke to Phillips on half-way. He drove forward and then let fly from 25 yards. His shot took a wicked which deflected off Patrick Brough and looped over Farman and into the net.

The Big Bank erupted as City made it 1-1.

At full-time, crowds rushed on to the pitch to celebrate with the players. Credit: ITV News

It was a big moment for the Grecians to get level, and had Stubbs got more on a header from a corner, they could have gone in ahead, but it was all square at the break.

Neither manager made a change at half-time, but City struggled to create anything at the start of the second half, and Brown’s men had the first chance, but Gordon’s shot from the angle was saved.

Diabate could not get direction on a header from a free-kick as City finally created a half-chance as the nerves descended on St James Park, while Jay from 30 yards with a dipper at least forced Farman into a simple save.

At the other end, Dawson kept City level with a brilliant save from Hutton after the winger broke an offside trap.

Taylor rolled the dice on 72 minutes, bringing on Grounds and Nombe for Diabate and Phillips, and six minutes later, it paid off.

After Nombe won a throw-in, the ball eventually was worked to Key. He swung in a cross, it bounced nicely to Jay, and on the half-volley, he fired home. St James Park erupted.