A stunning free-kick from Matt Grimes consigned Accrington Stanley to a 3-2 defeat at home to Exeter City.

The England under-20 international fired home from 25 yards and it proved to be the winner in a topsy-turvy contest that saw some spectacular goals.

Liam Sercombe’s terrific volley in first-half stoppage time had given the Grecians the lead and another stunning strike from Tom Nichols doubled the lead four minutes into the second half.

John O’Sullivan’s 30-yard piledriver halved the deficit shortly after the hour mark but Grimes’ set-piece put the visitors back in command.

Substitute Shay McCartan pulled another goal back for the Reds but it was not enough as Paul Tisdale’s side held on for their fifth win in seven visits to the Store First Stadium.

Stanley boss John Coleman named an unchanged team from last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Cambridge United with the match-winner, Piero Mingoia, retaining his place on the left wing after bagging a brace against the U’s whilst captain Luke Joyce made his 250th appearance for the club.

Within the opening few minutes the sides had already traded chances as Alex Nicholls side-footed wide from the edge of area for the visitors and John O’Sullivan saw a rasping 25-yard drive well held by James Hamon.

Nicholls, who rejoined the Grecians on loan from Northampton following a similar spell earlier in the season, threatened again as he latched onto Sercombe’s cross at the back post but could only guide it into the side-netting of Jack Rose’s goal.

Coleman’s men took control of the contest but were unable to convert their chances and open the scoring. A shot from Sean Maguire shot found its way to Andy Procter, who put a header onto the roof of the net.

Maguire had another chance as O’Sullivan found his fellow loanee at the end of a mazy run but the shot was blocked by a defender and another opportunity fell the way of the Reds minutes later as Crooks extravagantly flicked a Maguire cross goalwards but it was off-target

Michael Liddle saw a shot blocked; Graham Cummins fired over the bar for Exeter and Joyce hit an effort wide from 25 yards as both sides tried and failed to break the deadlock.

Visiting captain Matt Oakley was alert to block Joyce’s low shot from a well-worked corner routine which saw Maguire dummy O’Sullivan’s pass.

After soaking up a lot of Stanley pressure, the visitors struck a telling blow in stoppage time as Craig Woodman’s cross was met perfectly by Sercombe, who crashed his volley past the despairing Rose and into the top corner.

Maguire immediately tried to bring the Reds back on level terms but his shot on the turn flew over the goal and the Clayton End as the Grecians took a one-goal lead into the break.

Just four minutes after the interval, the lead was doubled as Nichols picked the ball up, shifted into space 20 yards out and rifled his effort into the top corner with Rose again helpless to stop the shot.

It was almost 3-0 when Christian Ribeiro’s shot from a narrow angle was deflected wide via a combination of a Stanley defender and the post.

Instead, Stanley raced down the other end and reduced the arrears with O’Sullivan’s 30 yard rocket taking a slight deflection and flying into the top corner to give Stanley hope of mounting a comeback similar to the one Exeter had produced last weekend against Shrewsbury Town.

But less than five minutes later, the lead was back to two as Grimes showed his class, curling curl a 25-yard free-kick past Rose.

Substitute Shay McCartan brought the difference back down to one goal, caressing into the bottom corner from the edge of the area for the third goal in eight minutes.

McCartan fired over the bar from the edge of the area and Rob Atkinson flashed a header wide as Stanley bombarded the Exeter penalty area but they could not find an equaliser and fell to only their second home defeat since Coleman returned to the club.

Stanley: Rose; Winnard, Aldred, Atkinson, Liddle; Joyce, Procter; O’Sullivan, Maguire, Mingoia (Naismith 84); Crooks (McCartan 61).
Subs not used: Simpson, Hunt, Barry, Gray, Carver.

Attendance: 1,443 (158 away)