Stevenage bowed out of the Carabao Cup after a frantic cup-tie at Exeter City - beaten on penalties.

Alex Hartridge put the home side ahead after just five minutes from a corner but Jordan Roberts got a deserved equaliser on 69 minutes to send the game to pens.

It wasn't to be though for Boro, Dan Butler's effort was saved to give City a 5-3 win but there would be plenty of positives for Boro to take.

There was always going to be one change, Nathan Thompson returning from a one-match ban while Jake Forster-Caskey starts a three-game suspension.

In total though there were six from the draw with Portsmouth on Saturday with the game also proving momentous occasion for four of them, although for differing reasons.

Elliott List, who featured late on against Portsmouth, made his first start since the opening day of last season against Tranmere Rovers.

Dan Sweeney was also back for his first minutes of the year after an operation at the beginning of the season.

And academy star, Theo Alexandrou, came in for his debut, with Harrison Neal getting a first start following his loan move from Sheffield United.

Taye Ashby-Hammond, Carl Piergianni and Jamie Reid dropped to the bench where they were joined by another youngster, David Hicks.

Aaron Pressley and Ben Thompson missed out altogether.

Understandably perhaps it took some time for the new personnel to come to terms with the pace of the game and each other and unfortunately it was in that period that they conceded in poor fashion.

Hartridge was left in acres of space at the back post and managed to force it home at the second attempt.

Neither were particularly impressive, a fluffed header blocked by Neal and then a shot bounced into the corner of the net with Hegyi on the floor having gone to block the original effort.

Pierce Sweeney forced the West Ham loanee into another save at his near post but apart from that the Grecians didn't have much to show.

A change in formation helped for Boro, Alex MacDonald moving from the right wing-back position and back to his familiar midfield role as Steve Evans changed it to a back four.

And with the balance of the side looking much better, they started to create pressure and chances.

A good run from Jordan Roberts took him down the left and when he pulled a low cross into the middle, it found Alexandrou.

Momentary hesitation before pulling the trigger allowed a defender to get a block in but the youngster impressed in the opening 45.

Boro's best effort fell to List out on the right side of the area but while he hit it sweetly with his right foot, Vil Sinsalo got down well to his right, pushing it away one-handed.

But the way Stevenage were biting into tackles, forcing Exeter to rush passes or go backwards, raised expectation for the second period.

Alexandrou didn't reappear after the break as Reid was brought on to make a difference.

It was one of two home subs that set the tone for the half though.

Dion Rankine had absolute pace to burn and created one chance for him and one for Jack Aitchison. 

It meant Evans had to make another tactical change, Reece Hannam coming on to double up of the speedster.

It blunted his blade and prevented Exeter from going further in front, although Krisztian Hegyi made a couple of good saves.

The breakthrough for Boro though was from another sub, Harry Anderson's cameo on debut providing the spark for the equaliser.

His cross was delivered perfectly for Roberts to guide home and Boro spent the next 15 minutes searching for a winner.

It didn't come though and Butler's scuffed effort from 12 yards proved the final nail in the coffin.

Match details

Stevenage: Hegyi, Butler, N.Thompson, D.Sweeney, MacDonald (Anderson 67), List (Piergianni 75), Roberts, Burns, Neal (Hannam 56), L.Thompson, Alexandrou (Reid 46).

Sub (not used): Ashby-Hammond, March, Hicks.

Goals: Roberts 69

Booked: Butler 63, L.Thompson 88


Exeter City: Sinsalo, Jules (Mitchell 46), Aimson, Hartridge, Trevitt, Cole (Beardmore 75), Nisakanen (Rankine 46), Cox, P.Sweeney, Aitchison (Taylor 63), Harper (Carroll 75). 

Subs (not used): Woods, Diabate, Borges, Richards.

Goals: Hartridge 5                          

Booked: Trevitt 8, P.Sweeney 30


HT: Exeter City 1 Stevenage 0

Added time: 9

Referee: Andrew Kitchen (Consett, County Durham)

Attendance: 4,006 (including 91 from Stevenage)