Matt Jay’s first career hat-trick saw Exeter City get back to winning ways and move temporarily at least into the play-offs with a commanding 4-0 win at home to Leyton Orient.
Joel Randall with his first goal in three months gave City an early lead, firing past the keeper from close range, before Matt Jay doubled the lead minutes later when his effort squirmed through Lawrence Vigouroux’s arms.
The Grecians were totally in control and Jay made it three just before half-time, bundling home from close range after Randall hit the post, and the academy product sealed the win and his first career treble early in the second half from the penalty spot after Randall had been brought down.
It was no less than a dominant Grecians performance deserved, one of the most comfortable this season, and it was the 6th time this season English football’s top-scorers have hit four or more.
It could have been more against a desperate O’s side, who created next to nothing, as City kept successive clean sheets for the first time since January 2020.
After their 1-0 win at Grimsby Town on Tuesday night, Jobi McAnuff made just the one change for his O’s side, bringing in Dan Happe in the heart of the defence for the injured Adam Thompson.
Matt Taylor also made just the one change for the Grecians, with Ryan Bowman returning from suspension and going straight into the starting line-up, with Ben Seymour dropping back to the bench.
And Bowman was involved in an early chance for City, as after winning a header, he chased the ball down and squared the ball to Robbie Willmott. The winger couldn’t control it, but the ball bounced up and Jay in the follow-up went down under a challenge, but referee Charles Breakspear waved the appeal away.
With 11 minutes on the clock, Bowman was instrumental in the goal that gave City the lead. The striker flicked the ball over his head to Randall, who drove into the box and fired the ball through the legs of Vigouroux for his 9th goal of the season, but his first in 15 games.
Two minutes later, it was 2-0, after a howler from the Chilean keeper. Lewis Page squared the ball to Jay, who curled in a tame effort from 25 yards out, only to see it somehow squirm through his arms and into the back of the net for his 14th goal of the season.
City were dominant, albeit helped by the shaky performance of the O’s keeper, who nearly gifted the Grecians a third when he spilled a Jay free-kick, but fortunately for him his defence managed to scramble clear ahead of the awaiting Rory McArdle.
Bowman, back in the side, was bullying the O’s backline, and his physical presence again created a chance, but skipper Jake Taylor couldn’t capitalise, seeing a 25 yard effort blocked by a defender.
The Grecians had a good chance for a third just before the break. Taylor clipped a ball over the top and Randall chased it in down, he backheeled to ball to Jay, but a brilliant block from Jamie Turley kept the shot out. But City kept the ball alive, and Randall tried to catch out Vigouroux at the near post, but this time he made the save.
The third did come and from what was a goal of the season contender, although with an incredibly scrappy finish. It began when Josh Key made a brilliant challenge at one end of the pitch, and then turned past Danny Johnson to launch the attack. A slick passing move saw City go to the other end, and Robbie Willmott swung in a beautiful cross. Randall somehow managed to miss from point-blank range, bundling the ball off his chest onto the post, but Jay tapped home the rebound for his 15th of the season.
McAnuff brought on Conor Wilkinson at the break in a vain attempt to get something out of the fixture, but any chance vanished early in the second half when City were awarded a penalty. Taylor drilled a first time ball forward and Jay dummied and Randall was left in acres of the space, drove into the box, only to be stopped by Tunji Akinola tripping him.
Breakspear had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and up stepped Jay to roll home the spot kick, sending the keeper the wrong way, for his first career hat-trick.
Taylor sent on Jack Sparkes and Nigel Atangana to give Lewis Page and Archie Collins a rest, while Randall was hunting more goals and fired narrowly wide from the angle of the box after another flying run forward.
At the other end, it took until the 62nd minute before the O’s created anything. Skipper Craig Clay had a speculative effort blocked, and then after Wilkinson danced past two defenders, Jokull Andresson got down low at the near post to make the save.
The Grecians were hunting five, and nearly got there only when after another slick move involving Jay and Randall, the latter fizzed the ball across the face of goal and Taylor on the stretch was inches away from getting a connection and turning the ball home.
Jordan Dyer came on late for his league debut for the Grecians to cap a fantastic afternoon, as City, despite a recent apparent dip in form, have taken 14 points from the last 21 available, and did rise back to 6th place in the table ahead of the 3pm kick-offs.
And the thrashing gives them plenty of confidence ahead of the trip to Scunthorpe United on Tuesday before league leaders Cheltenham Town visit St James Park next weekend.
Exeter City: (4-4-2) – Jokull Andresson, Josh Key (Jake Caprice, 81), Rory McArdle, Alex Hartridge, Lewis Page (, Jack Sparkes, 51), Robbie Willmott, Jake Taylor, Archie Collins (Nigel Atangana, 51), Joel Randall (Jordan Dyer, 81), Matt Jay, Ryan Bowman (Ben Seymour, 78).
Subs: Harry Lee, Alex Fisher,
Leyton Orient: (4-3-3) – Lawrence Vigouroux, Tunji Akinola (Sam Ling, 53), Dan Happe, Jamie Turley, Joe Widdowson (Conor Wilkinson, HT), Craig Clay, Ousseynou Cisse, Nick Freeman, Dan Kemp (Tristan Abrahams, 53), Danny Johnson, James Brophy.
Subs: Sam Sargeant, Jayden Sweeney, James Dayton, Hector Krypianou, , Booking: Widdowson, Akinola
Bookings: Widdowson, Akinola, Turley, Clay