A fantastic goal from Brandon Aguilera on his Bristol Rovers debut condemned Exeter City to a 1-0 defeat at St James Park in Sky Bet League One.

The Grecians have been vastly improved in recent weeks and opened up a cushion on the relegation places with a win at Rovers in the reverse fixture and a superb three points at promotion-chasing Barnsley.

In the early stages, City looked a confident outfit and a decent effort from Vince Harper was repelled by Rovers’ custodian Jed Ward. Aguilera, who has signed on loan from Nottingham Forest, then produced the decisive moment on 15 minutes, rifling a superb strike into the top corner from just outside the box.

Despite the excellence of the finish, City were understandably disappointed that midfielder Reece Cole was blocked by the referee as he attempted to thwart Aguilera.

The Grecians responded with another sweet strike from Harper that cannoned off the angle between post and bar before a smart save from Vili Sinisalo kept the deficit down to one.

After the break, Jack Aitchison fired inches wide and then slipped a lovely pass through the Rovers defence for Sonny Cox, but his finish lacked the sufficient power and placement to beat Ward.

Exeter continued to pile on the pressure in the closing stages, Cole forcing more heroics from Ward and then a deflected free-kick that struck the bar. There was no way through for Exeter, who follow up the midweek clash against Peterborough with a trip to Wigan.

City manager Gary Caldwell told the club website: "We started really well and played with good energy, but the first kick up the pitch we don’t deal with it well and they score the goal. There are moments where we have to do better, we have to be less anxious and went off script.

"In the second half we had some good chances but just couldn't score. We created chances but it was a classic at home in terms of going down 1-0 and then they slow the game down. We have to learn about the adversity of conceding a goal and how you react.”