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Gary Caldwell claims Exeter thrived on Bristol Rovers’ fans’ half-time booing

Gary Caldwell said his side were buoyed by boos at half-time from Bristol Rovers fans (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Gary Caldwell said his side were buoyed by boos at half-time from Bristol Rovers fans (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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.”