Exeter manager Gary Caldwell hailed a terrific team performance as his 10 men took a giant leap towards League One safety with a 1-0 win over Burton at St James Park.

Reece Cole struck the only goal of the game, in the 41st minute, before Exeter’s Zak Jules was sent off as the players walked down the tunnel at half-time for an incident unseen.

But Exeter dug deep and held firm as Burton pressed for an equaliser, although the Brewers were just as vulnerable on the counter-attack in an end-to-end encounter.

“I thought we started the game really well and we should have scored in the first 15 minutes, we created real clear-cut chances and if we score one of them then the game is totally different,” Caldwell said.

“We then got a bit frustrated midway through the half before we picked it up again and scored an amazing goal with how we wanted to play.

“I didn’t see the incident at half-time, I didn’t see that, but we lost a player and in the second half, the character, the determination and team spirit and understanding of how we wanted to play the game and see the game out was absolutely outstanding.

“They had one moment where they hit the bar, but they didn’t create much else and the way the people inside the stadium stood up in that last 15 minutes when everyone was on their knees – myself included – was fantastic. The players on the park were putting everything in and they needed the supporters to get behind them and they certainly did.”

Deji Oshilaja and John Brayford both hit the bar for Burton, while Antwoine Hackford passed up a good chance.

Frustrated Albion boss Martin Paterson said: “It’s very simple to explain – it was one of the softest goals I have ever seen conceded, a simple give-and-go that can’t happen in professional football; wing-backs getting done on the inside, a cut-back and people not tracking their runners.

“All of a sudden, we are 1-0 down and the problem then is that we don’t score goals. I don’t know the statistic or how many opportunities we had inside the six-yard box to put the ball in the back of the net, I have to be careful I am not hanging anyone personally out to dry, but it will be me that has to take it in the chin.

“I have no problem with that, but the issue is that we don’t take opportunities to score goals. We have to find a way and it is hard to explain because we had, in my opinion, five or six clear-cut opportunities at goal and have not scored one.

“It’s unacceptable from myself and from the team. We broke them down, we had a one-v-one, John Brayford hit the bar and there were crosses that should have been converted but we didn’t score and it’s hard to defend that.”