TONY MORRIN enjoyed his return to the North as Exeter ended Town’s hopes of a fifth straight victory.
Bobby Collins’ side, playing Fourth Division football for the first time in the club’s history, had hopes of making their stay in the basement a short one.
With four automatic promotion places up for grabs, they were fifth ahead of the West Country team’s first-ever visit to Leeds Road.
As well as chalking up successive league wins over Stockport, Darlington and Barnsley, Walsall had been beaten in the first round of the FA Cup.
Exeter, bossed by former Birmingham and Plymouth defender Johnny Newman, had dangermen in strike pair Alan Beer and Keith Bowker.
Former Swansea and Weymouth man Beer had 11 goals to his credit and Bowker, once of Birmingham, had notched nine.
But the man to condemn Town to a 1-0 defeat in front of 4,981 was Mancunian midfielder Morrin, who had joined Exeter from Barrow in 1971.
The former Bury, Burnley and Stockport man chipped the clincher over keeper Dick Taylor from Beer’s smart through ball in the 70th minute.
It was one of only a handful of chances in a game which provided Town fans with a reminder of how stubborn Fourth Division sides could be.
“If the length of a match report was governed by the amount of incident in the game, this account would have been over several words ago,” wrote the Examiner’s Martin Hardy.
Meanwhile manager Collins sighed: “Why does it always happen? Every time we get on a run, we fold it up as soon as the fans start returning.”
There was no shortage of effort from Town, with long-serving Steve Smith, below, trying harder than anyone to break through Exeter’s blanket defence.
But with little service from midfield, winger Jimmy Lawson had little chance to take the game to the Devon side.
Out on the right flank, Terry Gray saw more of the ball, but came up against a stubborn full-back in Peter Hatch.
As a result, Town’s strike pair Rod Belfitt and Colin Garwood saw little of the ball, and when Lloyd Maitland replaced the latter, he received just two decent passes in 12 minutes!
“I can’t think of one worthwhile shot on their goal,” said a disappointed Collins.
“Exeter didn’t have many more chances, and before the game I’m sure they would have been happy with a point.
“But they took one of the few they had and it was enough.”
Town: Taylor, Sweeney, Hutt, Smith, Baines, Simpkin, Gray, Dolan, Garwood (Maitland, 78mins), Belfitt, Lawson.
Exeter: Key, Joy, Hatch, Morrin, Saxton, Munks, Wingate, Bowker, Robertson, Beer, Jennings. Sub not used: Hodge.
Referee: Morris Baker (Wolverhampton).