A big step forward: Gary Caldwell hails performance as Exeter beat Carlisle

By Sports Desk January 06, 2024

Exeter manager Gary Caldwell hailed a superb team performance as the Grecians climbed out of the League One relegation zone with a deserved 2-1 win over Carlisle at St James Park.

Second-half goals from Reece Cole and Sonny Cox gave Exeter a 2-0 lead after they had been in almost complete control.

Dan Butterworth then pulled one back for Carlisle in the 86th minute, which led to a nervy finale, but City held on for a deserved three points.

“I thought we were outstanding right from the start, and in complete control of the game,” Caldwell said.

“We spoke yesterday about how we needed to dominate possession, but that possession had to have a purpose to it and I thought it did from the very first minute.

“Luke (Harris) almost scored with his first touch in a red and white shirt, but they are always a threat with the long balls they play and from set-pieces and throw-ins. We had to defend those moments, but I thought we totally dominated the first half and created chances without scoring, which can be frustrating.

“We added some bits in the second half and scored two brilliant goals. It could have been easier, but I think that is the next step for us because it could have been three, it could have been four, and they scored a brilliant goal when he hits one on the half volley from 20 yards.

“We need to be better and we had to dig in and defend the onslaught that would come. But it’s a fantastic three points and I think a fantastic performance and a big step forward.”

Carlisle boss Paul Simpson was critical of his side’s display and said: “I am hugely disappointed, obviously, to have not taken anything out of the game. Unfortunately, we only started playing with any meaning when we were 2-0 down and it doesn’t matter where you are playing, you can’t do that.

“You have to have a belief that you are going to win the game and I don’t think we had that. I think we turned up today expecting it was going to happen and, unfortunately, you can’t do that. You have to be right from the first whistle.

“I thought we had chances today, particularly towards the end of the game, but if you don’t do those simple, basic things well – tracking runners, getting shots in, passing the ball better and locking on to players – you don’t get anything out of the game.

“We got into some good areas but our quality was really poor. It is really simple, basic things and everybody has to take it, everybody has to deal with it. We have to be better because this was a game there to be won today and I think we have let Exeter off the hook.”

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