Exeter City held npower League 2 leaders Gillingham to a 0-0 draw at St James Park with a strong all-round performance.
The defence were rarely troubled throughout the fixture, with the Grecians’ best chances coming in the first period – however Jamie Cureton
couldn’t quite profit in his personal duel with Gills stopper Stuart Nelson.
A hooked effort in the second period by Danny Kedwell was the closest that the Gills came to breaking the deadlock midway through the second period, but eventually the result was another entertaining goalless draw for the Grecians.
There were two switches to Paul Tisdale’s starting XI when the League 2 leaders turned up at St James Park – Mark Molesley
, returning from suspension, was given a starting berth in midfield, as well as youngster Jake Gosling
. That meant for a seat on the bench for Steve Tully
and Jimmy Keohane
On a bitterly cold evening, the game got off to a lively start and the visitors won a succession of corners in the opening minutes, which City dealt with well. The Grecians might have profited when a high ball into the channel by Craig Woodman
as Leon Legge and Stuart Nelson had a breakdown in communication – but the defender eventually recovered well.
Woodman then hit a rather optimistic effort from 30 yards on his right foot which didn’t trouble Nelson, and soon after he released Cureton again with a ball that the striker controlled and poked goalwards without any backlift, but Nelson saved low.
The same ball time and again was catching out the Gills’ rear-guard, and Cureton didn’t realise how much time he had when the left-back found him once again with the raking straight ball – the forward tried a flicked effort on the volley when he might have controlled, and it floated wide.
Gillingham were barely showing signs of the kind of team that merited being top of the table, as City camped out in the visitors’ half and looked by far the more threatening of the teams.
had been totally untroubled until the half-hour mark, when Deon Burton finally mustered a tame effort which the Polish stopper fielded without concern.
The Grecians continued to pile on the pressure and had another efforts in quick succession – firstly Danny Coles
played in Matt Oakley
after the latter had put in a corner, but the effort fizzed over the crossbar – then Oakley turned provider as he turned Arron Davies
pass into Cureton’s path, but his effort also cleared the goal.
Just as the fourth official was lifting the board to signal a sole added minute, Woodman found Cureton with another strafing ball, but the striker was flagged marginally offside.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Gillingham 0
City started the second half much as they finished the first, on the offensive. A brilliant bit of interplay by the Grecians saw Oakley nearly release Oakley inside the area, but for a much-needed intervention by the Gills defence.
Woodman, one of the outstanding performers in the first period, charged forward unchallenged and was eventually invited to shoot – and it looked to be sailing in, until a great block came in by captain Adam Barrett.
The Grecians were dealt a blow when a tackle by Steven Gregory outside the box sent Oakley up in the air – and the City man landed heavily on his arm. After much deliberation, Oakley had to withdraw with Keohane the man to replace him.
The game became a little disjointed with the play being interrupted by a number of substitutions. One of the Gills subs was Danny Kedwell, who missed a glorious chance to hook in when he latched onto a bouncer inside the box. The ball drifted over Krysiak but harmlessly out of play on the far side.
With around 15 minutes left on the clock, City had two chances in quick succession to finally break the deadlock. Firstly Gosling did superbly to escape on the left touchline and laid back into the path of Keohane, whose 20-yard effort was blocked. Then Scot Bennett
hit a first-time strike from fully 30 yards with his left footed which Nelson managed to pluck expertly out of the air.
and John O’Flynn
were two of Exeter’s late subs and a ball up to the Irishman wasn’t properly dealt with by Barrett, allowing Bauza to hit a loose ball first time – however the Spaniard’s shot was dragged wide.
As the fourth official’s board went up – signalling four additional minutes – the Grecians were trying to steal a late winner. A delightful ball into the six-yard box by Kevin Amankwaah
needed a crucial intervention with City players queuing up to turn in.
But it finished in a goalless draw for the second successive game for City, as neither team managed to find the back of the net.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Gillingham 0
Exeter City: Krysiak; Amankwaah, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Gosling, Molesley (O’Flynn 74), Bennett, Oakley (Keohane 57), Davies; Cureton (Bauza 74).
Subs (not used): Evans, Tully, Dawson, Moore-Taylor.
Gillingham: Nelson; Fish, Barrett, Legge, Martin; Gregory; Dack (Frampton 60), Robinson, East (Lee h-t); German (Kedwell 64), Burton.
Subs (not used): Forecast, Whelpdale, Davies, Birchall.
Attendance: 3,608 (237 away)
Referee: K. Hill