Exeter City and Fleetwood Town played out a thoroughly entertaining 0-0 draw at Highbury Stadium.
The scoreline didn’t reflect the amount of chances that either side created, with both teams having opportunities to take the victory.
One of the best openings for City came deep into stoppage time in the second half, as Danny Coles
couldn’t get over a loose ball and saw his effort clear the bar – but the teams both merited a point from the clash in Lancashire.
There were two changes to Paul Tisdale’s starting XI after the midweek fixture against Bristol Rovers. A back injury to Tommy Doherty
kept him out of the squad completely, meaning Steve Tully
started for the first time in almost two months. He began on the right of midfield, with Matt Oakley
stepping into the centre alongside Scot Bennett
The other change saw Jimmy Keohane
recalled into a starting berth, with John O’Flynn
taking a seat on the bench. Alongside him in the dugout sat Jamie Reid
, who was drafted into the matchday squad.
The first attempt of the day fell to the home side, as a headed clearance by Steve Tully
invited a strike from Anthony Barry, but the midfielder sliced his strike and it drifted well wide of goal.
A foul by Pat Baldwin
on Gareth Evans then allowed Fleetwood to line up a free-kick 20 yards from goal, and Jon Parkin’s effort had plenty of power but no direction.
The first quarter of an hour had played out rather evenly, despite the Cod Army having the more evident chances. And City’s first real effort soon came, as a cross by Craig Woodman
from the left found Jamie Cureton
in the box – the striker swivelled and hit a left-footed effort from 12 yards, which a diving Scott Davies clawed away at the last moment.
The hosts had had a fairly anxious start, and a visibly agitated Graham Alexander was urging his troops to push out. They responded down the right flank as Gareth Evans showed neat feet to step inside and feed Parkin. His initial effort was blocked and fell into Ryan Crowther, who cut in from the left and shot over.
Down at the other end, Keohane picked the pocket of the Cod Army’s defence and had two quick shouts for a penalty as the ball firstly ricocheted against a defender’s hand and then he was bundled to the ground by Shaun Beeley in the box, but the referee waved away both counts.
Keohane’s jinking runs in possession were giving City plenty of incisiveness into opposition territory. A foray all the way from the halfway line a little after the half-hour mark saw him eventually tee up Cureton, whose curling effort cleared the crossbar.
Never one to shy away, Keohane put his head in where it hurt when challenging Nathan Pond for the ball. The Irishman drew a foul but was laid out for his trouble – and after a nervy few moments without movement, he groggily got back to his feet.
Half-time: Fleetwood Town 0 Exeter City 0
City emerged from the tunnel for the second half without Kevin Amankwaah
, and John O’Flynn
’s number was raised to see the striker introduced. It made for a reshuffle, as Tully dropped into the defence with Keohane going wide-right – meaning a more orthodox 4-4-2.
And almost immediately the substitute was in on goal – a ball pumped forward was completely misjudged by Pond, allowing O’Flynn to break clear. After some interplay with strike partner Cureton, the Irish forward drilled a shot goalwards, which Davies had to punch clear.
After a very bright start to the second half, City were almost caught cold on a swift counter for the first time. It needed a great intervention by Tully to prevent the cross coming in, and it took a touch off the Fleetwood attack to roll away for a goal-kick.
The Cod Army had to do a little restructuring of their own early in the second period, when Dean Howell pulled up holding his hamstring. After a moment’s deliberation, he was withdrawn for Conor McLaughlin.
Exeter had to be thankful for Parkin’s wastefulness midway through the second period. A loose clearance by Danny Coles
was gobbled up by Paul McKenna, who hung a cross up at the far stick, but the rotund striker headed wide of the near post.
It was Parkin’s last action of note, as he was shortly withdrawn in favour of Jamille Matt. With Keohane having had less influence in the second period, he was also removed from proceedings and replaced with Jake Gosling
Soon after his introduction, the teenager hit a superb raking ball across the field to find the stride of fellow sub O’Flynn, but the move broke down when Cureton drifted marginally offside to receive the pass.
The substitutions by both managers served to take the tempo out of the game, and the hopes of getting a winner for either side seemed to be ebbing away.
However the Grecians continued to press and piled on the pressure in the final minutes and won a succession of corners, and came oh so close to nicking a victory in the dying embers of the game.
With the ball spending some time bouncing around in the box, the ball eventually came out to Coles but his firm effort cleared the crossbar as an entertaining game ultimately ended goalless.
Full-time: Fleetwood Town 0 Exeter City 0
Fleetwood Town: Davies; Beeley, Goodall, Pond, Howell (McLaughlin 56); Brown, Barry, McKenna (Nicholson 83), Crowther, Evans; Parkin (Matt 77).
Subs (not used): Lucas, Fontaine, Atkinson, Ball.
Exeter City: Krysiak; Amankwaah (O’Flynn h-t), Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Tully, Oakley, Bennett, Davies; Keohane (Gosling 80); Cureton.
Subs (not used): Evans, Bauza, Dawson, Reid, Moore-Taylor.
Referee: R. Madley