Manager Matt Taylor described Exeter’s 1-0 win over Salford as the Grecians “winning ugly”, but for the former centre-half it was a more beautiful victory than that.
Taylor saw his side defend impeccably to repel Salford, who have now gone five games in succession without scoring and slipped further adrift of the play-off places.
Matt Jay scrambled home the only goal of the game on 34 minutes and moments after Ian Henderson had been denied by Jokull Andresson, who brilliantly diverted his fierce shot onto the crossbar.
Rory McArdle’s outstanding goal-line clearance, when James Wilson tried to convert the rebound, was as close as Salford came to an equaliser and epitomised Exeter’s desire to keep the ball out of the net at all costs.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I have seen for a long time!” Taylor joked. “We won ugly, but the three points are everything.
“We are going into the last 10 games now and it is all about picking up points. The fact that we won ugly is something we have not done enough of this season, but we won ugly with a young team, with six academy players in the team, a 19-year-old goalkeeper and against the biggest-spending team at this level for years.
“I am absolutely delighted with that group of players. We have played well in the last three games without getting our rewards, but I felt we deserved to get something out of the game today.
“I would have been gutted for the lads if we had conceded and only got a point off the back of it, so to get the three points is the little boost that we needed.”
Salford manager Gary Bowyer was presiding over his first game in charge having taken the reins this week.
“The result was disappointing and the goal is a scruffy goal. We started the game well, the lads were on the front foot and caused problems,” he said.
“Then their goalie has made an outstanding save where he tips onto the crossbar from Ian Henderson, who I thought led the line brilliantly for us. Then he had another chance as well.
“We said to the players at half-time to keep on the front foot, keep that intensity. I liked the aggression we played with.
“The desire and the effort was there, just that final third we are going to have work on.
“It has certainly given me a lot to think about. What I do believe is that the quality we have got gives us the confidence to go forward and carry on in the next 10 games.
“I will take the positives from today and go game by game and have a right good go from the remaining games.”