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13:20 30th January 2011

Swindon Town 0 Exeter City 0

Exeter City were held to a goalless draw for the first time this season at a bitterly cold County Ground this afternoon.

In a match of few chances the closest City came to breaking the deadlock came via the right foot of the returning Ryan Harley when his 25 yard free kick smashed off the crossbar.

Paul Tisdale made two changes from the team that beat Walsall 2-1 at The Park last week, Harley and John O'Flynn returning for James Dunne and Richard Logan.

In the build up to the match the home supporters were reeling from the departure of leading goalscorer Charlie Austin to Burnley but their side's new-look attack showed little signs that they were missing their key striker.

They carved out the first real chance of the match after nine minutes, Alan O'Brien flew down the left hand flank and his perfect cross was met by the diving Matt Richie but his header crossed off the woodwork with Ben Hamer beaten.

Hamer was by far the busier of the keepers and he had to be at his best five minutes later to deny the Robins with a fine double save. First he leapt to get a hand to O'Brien's teasing cross and then when the ball well to Jonathan Douglas he did very well to tip his effort over the bar.

Then an ambitious effort from former Pompey man Ritchie forced Hamer into a low save infront of the 951 travelling fans.

An from the resulting corner Hamer got his body in the way of another effort from Douglas as the home side looked to avoid drawing a blank for the second home game in a week.

Jamie Cureton was looking to impress against his old side and he had Exeter's first real chance on 18 minutes as he leapt to meet John O'Flynn's right footed cross but his header was wide of the far post.

But Cureton's afternoon came to an end on 36 minutes when he suffered a hamstring strain and had to be replaced by Jake Thomson. Thomson slotted in at the right hand side of midfield to help Steve Tully who was being severely tested by man of the match O'Brien.

Swindon then thought they'd taken the lead when Kevin Amankwaah fired a low shot in front close range but the offside flag halted his celebrations, but that didn't stop the PA man at the County Ground pumping out the usual post-goal music!

As the match wore onboth sides began to create less chances, the closest either team came to a goal before the half-time break was Harley's stunning right-footed free-kick that thudded off the bar.

City's number seven, who was making his first start since New Years Day, also had the first chance of the second half when his effort deflected just wide of Phil Smith's goal.

Exeter's next half chance came from a goalmouth scramble following a Dan Nardiello run but the ball just wouldn't fall at the feet of David Noble inside the 18 yard box.

Hamer was barely tested during the second half but he really should have been by Thomas Dossesvi, the big striker heading wide at the far post after a cross from the left hand side.

Otherwise Matt Taylor and Richard Duffy were doing a good job at keeping the Swindon strike-force quite.

Logan was then introduced for O'Flynn as City looked for the cutting edge they'd previously lacked during the 80 mintues but all the key moves seemed to break down at vital times.

Duffy then pulled off a stunning sliding challenge to stop a dangerous Swindon attack and that was the last either side offered as the encounter fizzled out.

So another game unbeaten against last season's Play Off Finalists, a side with obvious quality who are sitting at the wrong end of the table for their liking. Hamer and his new defence will be delighted with their afternoon's work and they'll be happy to reflect on the club's first clean sheet for a while.

Three very tough tests await over the next nine days, starting with Southampton at The Park on Tuesday night but Tisdale can take plenty of positives from today's encounter, especially at the back.

    Data provided by Press Association