Ten-man Exeter gave their League One survival hopes a huge boost with a hard fought 1-0 win against relegation rivals Burton.

Reece Cole scored the only goal in the 41st minute but City had to play the entire second half with 10 men after Zak Jules was sent off for an incident in the tunnel as the players made their way off at half-time.

Exeter started well and should have been in front inside four minutes, but Luke Harris skied Ilmari Niskanen’s pull-back over the bar.

The deadlock was broken in the 41st minute after a lovely Exeter move. Jack Aitchison played a fine ball to Niskanen and he picked out Cole with a perfect cut-back, and he made no mistake from 12 yards for his fifth goal of the season.

Burton responded well with Deji Oshilaja’s header crashing back off the crossbar, but it took the Brewers 25 minutes of the second half to really get going and when they did, Antwoine Hackford was put in on goal but shot wide when under pressure from Niskanen.

John Brayford crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar but despite eight minutes added at the end, the Grecians held firm for a deserved win.

Exeter boss Gary Caldwell was delighted after his side secured a 3-0 victory over Shrewsbury to move 10 points clear of the League One relegation zone.

Shrewsbury were dealt a blow in the seventh minute when referee David Rock showed a red card to winger Jordan Shipley for a two-footed challenge on Ryan Woods.

And the Grecians took full advantage with Will Aimson, Luke Harris and Jack Aitchison all scoring before half-time to secure a first win in six games.

Grecians boss Caldwell said: “I was delighted. The red card changed the game, and it actually made it harder in some respects.

“In terms of how deep Shrewsbury then sat in, it could have potentially been a really long night.

“When we created opportunities, we were ruthless with our finishing, and our goals were fantastic.

“I thought, in the second half again, we could be a bit better in our final third play, take a bit more risk, and create more opportunities.

“The size of the game and where we both are in the league, I can’t be happier about what the players did and the result.

“When we went into tight areas and played intricate football in and around the box I thought we played we were very good.

“I just said to the players there is eight games to go they are all massive games and we want to win as many points as we can.”

Shrewsbury are three points worse off than Exeter following their third defeat in four outings.

Boss Paul Hurst was furious with the decision to send off Shipley.

“I can’t say what I really think,” Hurst said.

“I think we may as well stop playing football if that’s a red card.

“I am not saying it’s not a red card for Woods at all – but if anything, he is the one that ends up higher on Shipley.

“When the referee blew up, I thought he gave a free-kick to us. And my gut from the side is that honestly – and admittedly, I was a distance away – but it was Woods who was slightly late on it, and Shipley got there first.

“Then for the red card I was genuinely thinking it was for their player and for it to turn out for Jordan was baffling.

“It spoils the night for everyone and at 10 men we need to give it a go. But like I said they are good in possession and that is the type of team you don’t want to go down to 10 men to.”

Joe Taylor clipped in the winner as Lincoln saw off Exeter 1-0 at the LNER Stadium.

Luton-loanee Taylor netted his first for the club, calmly finishing the ball over Viljami Sinisalo midway through the second half.

Jack Aitchison hit the bar for Exeter with the Grecians only clear-cut opportunity.

The first chance fell to the home side when Dylan Duffy pulled a free-kick just wide of the target. Duffy would soon slice a volley wide as the Imps took control.

The visitors scrambled the first chance of the second period as Yanic Wildschut tested Lukas Jensen at his near post.

Dion Rankine burst down the wing and picked out Aitchison inside the Lincoln area. The Scot’s side-footed effort was tipped onto the bar by the ever-alert Jensen.

The hosts carved a near-identical chance of their own when Ben House unmarked on the penalty spot was denied twice by Sinisalo, as the game came to life.

Substitute Ted Bishop soon slipped in Taylor to find the winner in some style.

Gary Caldwell could not hide his delight at marking his first return to Wigan as an opposition manager with all three points after Exeter ran out 2-1 winners in Sky Bet League One.

Latics had recorded two victories at Exeter in the first half of the campaign – following up a 2-0 win in the league with an FA Cup first-round victory by the same score.

As a result, restoring the balance at the DW Stadium was just what the doctor ordered for Caldwell, who was also locking horns against his old Wigan, Celtic and Scotland colleague Shaun Maloney.

Deflected goals from Mo Eisa and Jack Aitchison had Exeter two goals up heading into the final quarter, with Charlie Kelman’s first Wigan goal 19 minutes from time proving to be only a consolation.

“I actually thought that was the best that Wigan played in all three matches,” said Caldwell.

“They gave us so many problems in possession, I thought they were excellent, the way they kept rotating their shape and asking questions.

“First half out of possession we were outstanding, the way we set-up, the understanding of how we could restrict them trying to play through us.

“Second half they put even more men forward and asked even more questions, and put us under a lot of pressure.

“We had to really defend our box to see it through, but football is a really funny game.

“I thought we played much better in the first two games and came away with nothing.

“Although we were excellent out of possession today, in possession I know we can play a lot better, but it was a good one to win.”

When asked whether the result meant slightly more given the circumstances, Caldwell replied: “I don’t think so, other than obviously where both sides are in the league.

“I do feel for Wigan because of the points deduction, they shouldn’t be where they are in the table.

“That’s unfortunate and I think they have dealt with that extremely well this season.

“But in terms of our league position, and the run we’ve been on, I think it was important we didn’t lose today.

“You could see with the attitude of the players and the way they worked out of possession, there was a real spirit and a determination not to get beat – and fortunately we got the win.”

For opposite number Maloney, it was a tough result to take on the back of last weekend’s victory at high-flying Peterborough.

“I imagine I’m feeling very similar to how Exeter would have been feeling on definitely one of the occasions we won down there,” he said.

“It was a really tough result to take because the second half in particular was everything I want to see from my team moving forward.

“We needed more intensity in that second half, I thought we lacked intensity without the ball in that first half.

“We started the game well, Thelo (Aasgaard) had a couple of good chances and Martial (Godo) another with his header.

“But 1-0 down, I didn’t like the feeling in the group and I needed to see more intensity.

“I was really happy with the players who came on, although I must say the players they replaced have all been really good for me as well.

“It just felt like I needed to make a momentum change, which happened in the second half, but unfortunately we lost a second goal on the break.

“In the end, it was just too big a challenge for us to pull it back at the end.”

Exeter staged a rousing comeback to beat the 10 men of promotion-chasing Peterborough 2-1 and ease their League One relegation fears in the process.

Posh went in front on 32 minutes when Will Aimson’s clumsy tackle on Ephron Mason-Clark gifted Posh a penalty, which Harrison Burrows stroked home.

Jack Aitchison then missed a glorious chance to equalise when Josh Knight’s pass went straight to him, but he inexplicably shot straight at the floored Peterborough goalkeeper from 10 yards.

In the second half, Exeter’s Vili Sinisalo made a brilliant stop to deny Michael Olakigbe in a one-on-one, then another to keep out Ricky-Jade Jones before Posh were reduced to 10 men when Olakigbe picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Vinnie Harper on 56 minutes.

Exeter upped the tempo with Harper striking the post from 25 yards before Reece Cole’s superb free-kick on 75 minutes brought about the opener – his shot also struck the post and looked to have crossed the line off unfortunate keeper Nicholas Bilokapic, with Dion Rankine on hand to make sure.

Five minutes later, it was 2-1 as Cole’s superb cross from the right was headed into his own net by Jadel Katongo.

Posh rarely threatened thereafter with the defeat denting their promotion hopes, but Exeter are up to 14th with the win.

Exeter boss Gary Caldwell claimed Bristol Rovers fans inadvertently boosted his side by booing their own team during the Grecians’ 1-0 victory at Memorial Stadium that eased the Devon club’s relegation worries.

Teenage striker Sonny Cox’s close-range finish in the 12th minute after Brentford loanee Matt Cox spilled Jack Aitchison’s 20-yard shot put Exeter on course for a first away win since early September.

After the visitors dominated the opening period, Bristol Rovers were booed off at half-time and afterwards Caldwell insisted their jeers only helped the visitors’ cause in the West Country derby.

The former Celtic defender said: “For us a big thing tonight was to control the crowd and our game-management, especially in the first half, was fantastic.

“Those boos that greeted the half-time whistle were great to hear from our point of view because it’s exactly what we wanted to happen.

“It gave us energy and the players deserve immense credit for making the fans resort to booing by controlling the play and dictating the tempo.”

Caldwell added: “I couldn’t be prouder of every single member of my team because we showed two sides to our game.

“In the first half we were absolutely incredible and could have been four-nil up.

“We played on the front foot and they didn’t have an answer to us and we restricted them to nothing.

“Everything was perfect apart from the fact the game should have been finished and so we knew we’d have to resist an onslaught.

“We knew what was coming but showed incredible character and immense resilience and there was a real team spirit that you need to win away from home.

“We came to a difficult place and stood up to everything they threw at us, even when the wind was against us.”

Rovers’ former Exeter manager Matt Taylor refused to criticise his players following a third home defeat in the space of a week.

“I can’t be too hard on the players because we showed good character in the second half but just showed poor execution,” Taylor said.

“We went and got on the ball better then we did before the break but we just lacked that end product in the opposition box.

“Things seem to be just going against us at the moment and there were a lot of nearly moments.

“But their keeper has come off having barely had a save to make, even though we had 15 or 16 shots in the second half.”

Taylor said he expected veteran striker Chris Martin, who missed the game through illness, to sign a new contract to keep him at the club, with his current deal expiring this week.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s been agreed and will be signed going into the game at the weekend,” Taylor said.

“There are going to be questions as to why it’s not been done as yet but there’s nothing untoward and while there will be rumours on social media, he’s got a virus and I don’t think that derails the contract.”

Teenage striker Sonny Cox eased Exeter’s relegation worries as his early goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers.

The 19-year-old proved to be the hero when he nipped in to score from close range in the 12th minute after Brentford loanee Matt Cox had fumbled Jack Aitchison’s 20-yard shot.

It ultimately secured Exeter’s first victory on their travels since early September and lifted the pressure on manager Gary Caldwell.

The Grecians looked anything but a side struggling to stay out of the relegation zone and midfielder Reece Cole almost doubled their lead on the half-hour but his low shot struck the outside of Cox’s far post.

It was a night to forget for Rovers’ former Exeter manager Matt Taylor, whose attack lacked punch. John Marquis was denied an equaliser by an offside flag late on before the Gas were booed off following the final whistle.

Gary Caldwell criticised referee Ross Joyce’s decision to send off Jack Aitchison following struggling Exeter’s 1-1 draw at Stevenage.

Aitchison received a second yellow card for apparent dissent in the 43rd minute of the Sky Bet League One contest, with Carl Piergianni heading Boro into the lead shortly afterwards.

Half-time substitute Yanic Wildschut’s first league goal for the Grecians within two minutes of the restart earned the 10-man visitors a battling point but Caldwell, who was booked himself following Piergianni’s goal, could not hide his frustration with the officials.

“We don’t know what he’s sent him off for,” he said.

“He hasn’t sworn, all their players said he didn’t swear at the ref and he’s chosen to send him off. And when we ask him politely why at half-time, he refuses to tell us.

“Only we were getting booked in this stadium because referees are intimidated at this stadium.

“We are very respectful, everything goes against us and we have to deal with that. We dealt with it in a really positive manner.”

The Grecians’ winless league run stands at 12 matches but their under-pressure boss believes the second-half fightback shows the squad are still playing for him.

“I have never doubted that for one second,” he said. “I really believe in this group of players, they give so much.

“A lot has gone against them in recent months and when that happens as a footballer, confidence gets affected and it’s a difficult thing to play through.

“You have seen their character and resilience and we have to use this as a springboard going into the coming games.

“They can all be really proud of how they went about the second half, both the way we defended and when we had the ball.”

Caldwell’s opposite number Steve Evans felt Aitchison should have seen red for the challenge which brought his first yellow card but admitted his side did not do enough to win the game, despite Jordan Roberts and Elliott List spurning fine chances late on.

“We were far from our best,” he said.

“We looked as if Tuesday night’s game took its toll on us in terms of sharpness and freshness. We were off it the first 25 minutes then we got it into the game.

“With the sending off, my only question is why is he even on the pitch to receive a second yellow? He should have been in the shower room after running up and kicking Louis Thompson off the ball.

“Did we do enough in terms of the final pass? No. Did we miss a couple of huge chances? Yes.

“We had great opportunities, great overload, we had command of the ball. But our quality, for once, wasn’t there.”

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