John Sheridan didn’t pull any punches after Chesterfield lost for the fifth time this season.
He issued a warning to his players that doesn’t need any further explanation: “If they don’t start listening to me, then I’ll get rid of them.”
Exeter, like their opponents, went into the game with just a single point. The injury-hit Grecians had brought in experienced striker Rowan Vine on loan from QPR but his contribution to the game was limited.
However, their late winner came from an inexperienced player, the day before his 18th birthday. Tom Nichols came on as a sub at a time when the game was somewhat sterile and had that ‘next goal wins it’ look.
He received the ball and shot on the turn from just inside the box to register his first ever senior goal.
Sheridan fumed: “At 1-1 I didn’t really feel worried too much, we were very comfortable and, if anything, pushing to win the game. But I’m getting sick and tired of saying the same thing. The winning goal just came from nothing, a basic goal that we can’t defend.”
City had taken the lead through another rare scorer. Defensive midfielder Troy Archibald-Henville, whose only previous strike was a last-minute winner at Hillsborough last season, was on target.
He was on the end of a right-wing corner that should have been cleared, and his half-hot shot bounced over Tommy Lee to set Exeter on their way.
Mark Allott forced a decent save from Artur Krysiak ahead of Danny Whitaker scoring his 10th penalty for the club, awarded after Danny Coles had handled a Scott Boden cross.
Chesterfield gave debuts to three men, defender Jonathan Grounds, midfielder Lee Johnson and striker Craig Westcarr.
The manager said: “I thought they all did okay. There was nothing between the sides and Grounds did very well.
“But I want the players to look at themselves and ask ‘can I defend better?’
“The first goal was a joke. I don’t like having a go at my players, I usually say what I have to say in the dressing room, but everyone knows their jobs, who’s marking who, they know who’s at fault.
“I’m peed off, we need to show more fight.”
Westcarr started brightly but faded towards the end, often frustrated with the offside flag and an air shot he had when the game was tight. Johnson worked hard, his trademark, and showed he’s going to help the side improve.
The hard-working Boden also had a good chance at 1-1, but he pulled a shot just wide.
Sheridan confirmed his shopping list isn’t yet complete.
“I’m trying to bring another player in, a striker or winger, it’s important we bring someone else in,” he said.
“But with the goals we conceded I might have to bring four centre-halves in.”
Frustrated, he concluded: “We’ve come away from the game with nothing again. We’re in a dog-fight and the game was there for us to win.
“The tempo of the game was so slow, I could have played myself. If we’d have wanted it, the game was there but we didn’t show it. The position we’re in, you’d think there’d be more fight and will to win.
“I’m going to fight and do some ugly things now, get a grip of people and they’ll not like it. We’re all in it together, we have to work together, they’re a good group but from winning a lot of games last year we’re losing a lot this season.
“You need to show a different mentality and we need to do that quickly.”
Dwayne Mattis (ankle) missed the game but should be fit for the weekend visit of rock-bottom Leyton Orient, but Mark Randall (hip) is still a couple of weeks off a return.
Winger Alex Mendy’s International clearance should be in place early this week so the Spireites could be set to give two more debuts this Saturday.
Exeter: Krysiak 6; Tully 6, Duffy 7, Coles 6 (Logan 81), Jones 6 (Nichols 63); Dunne 8, Archibald-Henville 7, Noble 7, Golbourne 6; Vine 5 (Shephard 63), Nardiello 5. Subs (not used): Pidgeley, Bennett.
Chesterfield: Lee 6; Holden 6, Ford 5 (Bowery 84), Grounds 7, Smith 6; Talbot 6, Allott 5 (Morgan 89), Johnson 6, Whitaker 6; Boden 7 (Lester 79), Westcarr 5. Subs (not used): Fleming, Downes.
Goals: Archibald-Henville 16, Nichols 82 (Exeter); Whitaker pen 33 (Chesterfield).
Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffs).
Bookings: Smith 43, kicking ball away, Holden 77, foul ((both Chesterfield).