• Kieran Horn

ASTON VILLA STAR OLLIE WATKINS EXCELLENT DEVON DERBY PERFORMANCE FOR EXETER CITY FIVE YEARS ON



For most followers of football, it was on October 4, 2020 at 7:55pm when they realised the amazing talent that was Ollie Watkins. However, four and a half years prior to his stunning first half hat-trick for Aston Villa against Liverpool, 5,513 Exeter City fans got the pleasure of watching Watkins’ brilliance in action.

For most followers of football, it was on October 4, 2020 at 7:55pm when they realised the amazing talent that was Ollie Watkins. However, four and a half years prior to his stunning first half hat-trick for Aston Villa against Liverpool, 5,513 Exeter City fans got the pleasure of watching Watkins’ brilliance in action.


“I got to know Ollie really well during his time at the club,” remembers Exeter City Marketing Manager Scott Palfrey. “And he would always go out of his way to support things in the community and engage with our fans.”


“He was the sort of chap who always asks ‘how's your mum?’, he was just that kind of guy, always pleasant and easygoing,” admits City’s Operations manager Andy Gillard.


Even before his heroics on the pitch, it was abundantly clear that Watkins was well spoken about by people who worked with him for years and his performances in red and white just further fuelled how much he was loved by everyone associated with the Grecians, highlighted by his memorable performance in 2016.



Exeter were heading into a huge Devon derby against Plymouth Argyle in the 2015/16 League Two season. The Pilgrims were looking to continue their push for promotion, while Exeter, who were lingering in mid-table, were seeking out a double over their bitter rivals after beating them 2-1 at Home Park earlier in the season.


“We had a good team back then and I think running into the game we needed the win,” says Gillard. “You look back and remember we had David Wheeler, Jayden Stockley and of course Ollie Watkins and they’ve all gone on to play higher up.”


The atmosphere in St James’ Park ahead of this game was a combination of excitement and nerves, made even worse by Plymouth’s dominance which soon led to a goal at the start of the second half.


A directionless punt forward caused mass confusion in the Grecians backline between Cristian Ribeiro and Craig Woodman - following some hassling from Reuben Reid his strike partner, Jamille Matt, capitalized on the poor defending to smash in the opening goal.

“I found the defending very funny,” reveals City supporter Moustafa Salem, who was sat in the Family stand. “But only for a few seconds until I heard the roar that came from the Plymouth away end which gave me goosebumps.”


It was the goal that all City fans feared and one that was so avoidable as well, but now it really felt as though the floodgates would open.

However, with just 13 minutes to go, Watkins stepped up to the plate smashing home an unlikely equaliser and Palfrey’s view from the press box was something to behold.


“It was a goal out of nothing for sure, I remember him turning and shooting and the ball squirming through McCormick and into the back of the net.


“The crowd reaction and noise was amazing and you could see how much it meant to Ollie and the team and it certainly changed the momentum in that minute and City were on top.”


From the astronomical noise inside the stadium and the ten City outfield players working at a new found intensity, only one team was going to win this game.


Every single time City came forward, in particular with Watkins, a low hush resided over the ground with thousands anticipating one final piece of magic to hand them a memorable Derby win, and they soon got their wish.

“I saw him Cruyff turn one of the defenders and was screaming ‘smack it with your left foot’ and hope for the best, but when he did it, oh my god call me a genius. The roar from St James’ Park was just unbelievable,” exclaims Salem.


“When it went in, I certainly let my emotions get on top of me and remember shouting ‘get in there’ in the very small press box, before composing myself.


“Over time you get used to remaining composed, but in that moment and also just how incredible a goal it was, I think everyone got carried away,” recalls Palfrey.


“As soon as he hit it, you just knew. This one wasn't going to clear the bar it's going to go in and it was just sheer perfection really,” admits Gillard.


It was just the perfect goal.


Skillfully getting beyond not one, not two, but three Plymouth defenders before reaching a position to shoot and swiping at the ball with his left foot and it perfectly nestling in the top right corner, simply extra-ordinary.


Watkins’ wand of a left foot had won the Devon Derby with the last kick of the game and while 90% will think of his hat-trick against Liverpool when looking back on his career, a small section of the South West will go back to this exact moment for their fondest memory of the Devon-born lad.