EXETER even tried changing their goalkeeper at half-time – but it was to no avail.
Rampant Town went second in League I by registering four goals for the second away game running, with both Artur Krysiak and Lenny Pidgeley beaten twice.
In-form Jordan Rhodes rightly took the plaudits with a well-taken fourth career hat trick, taking his tally to 10 in four games after his double for Town at Brentford and five in two appearances for Scotland Under 21s.
But while Rhodes shone on his 100th career league start, Town produced a really solid all-round show, with keeper Ian Bennett marking his first game since turning 40, and 50th Town outing, with a clean sheet.
The handsome win stretched Town’s unbeaten league run to 38 games and meant they matched their best unbeaten start to a season of 13 games in Division II (now the Championship) in 1962-63.
Town didn’t have it all their own way against Paul Tisdale’s basement battlers, who pushed forward at the start of the second half, when they had a Daniel Nardiello strike ruled out for offside.
But with Damien Johnson, Tommy Miller and Scott Arfield working well, they had control of midfield for the vast majority of the game, and once again, some of the team’s crisp passing phases were a pleasure to watch.
The opening goal in the eighth minute was a great example.
Captain Peter Clarke stumbled as he brought the ball out of defence, but recovered well to play in Arfield.
He sent overlapping Jack Hunt away down the right and the cross fell perfectly for Alan Lee to net his fourth goal of the season and seventh for the club.
The big man was a big menace to the home side for the entire 59 minutes he was on the pitch – Lee Novak was the man to replace him – and centre-back Troy Archibald-Henville had an afternoon he’ll want to quickly forget.
Lee had a goalbound shot deflected just wide on 21 minutes before becoming the architect of Town’s second goal and Rhodes’ first of the day in the 26th.
Home pair James Dunne and Danny Coles got in a muddle and Lee lost his marker Archibald-Henville to chest down an angled pass and loft the ball into the path of Rhodes, who slotted home a right-foot shot.
Exeter tried to respond, but Clarke got in a fine block to thwart Nardiello before Bennett pulled off a brilliant reaction save as busy Spaniard Guillem Bauza slammed in a close-range shot in the 30th minute.
Then former Barnsley man Nardiello headed over from Steve Tully’s cross.
But it was Town who ended the first half on the offensive as Lee grazed the bar with a header from Gary Roberts’ cross then laid the ball off for Miller to test Polish stopper Krysiak.
One-time Bradford keeper Pidgeley spent his first 10 minutes on the pitch watching action at the other end as Tisdale’s side tried to get back into it.
But while Nardiello’s effort was chalked off with Jake Taylor the man ruled offside, Nardiello shot wide, Bauza’s header from Taylor’s cross was saved by Bennett and Calum Woods blocked Tully’s drive before making a superb penalty-area tackle on the advancing Dunne.
Tisdale brought on attacking midfielder Liam Sercombe in place of right-back Tully, but with 65 minutes gone, Exeter were three behind as Novak controlled Woods’ throw and laid the ball back for Rhodes to shoot home left-footed.
Bennett dived to deny Nardiello and ensure Exeter were blanked before Rhodes wrapped things up in the 89th minute with a cushioned header from substitute Danny Ward’s centre.