Two goals on his full debut by Jamie Reid helped Exeter to a 2-2 draw away to AFC Wimbledon in front of a record crowd at Kingsmeadow.
The Grecians twice went ahead through the youngster, but Luke Moore brought the hosts level on both occasions as the game ended all-square.
Reid’s first came deep into the first half as he smashed in from the edge of the area, but Luke Moore had the Dons level with a similar strike early in the second period. It sparked off a feast of goalmouth action as Reid netted another with a shot across the face of goal, and Moore’s second – which came in a similar fashion to his first – completed the scoring.
The squad was given something of a shake-up by manager Paul Tisdale ahead of kick-off. The most notable addition to the starting XI was the inclusion of Reid for his first ever senior start for the Grecians in a three-man attack, alongside Jamie Cureton
and John O’Flynn
was also recalled back into the starting XI after missing the previous two games with a broken toe, and Alan Gow
was also included in the matchday squad for the first time since February on a return from his ankle injury.
The hosts started brightly in an electric atmosphere at Kingsmeadow, and when the game was just minutes old Kevin Sainte-Luce had a powerful shot blocked from the inside-right channel.
However the Grecians came fighting back and were almost ahead within minutes as Reid cut in off his left-hand forward position to pounce on a bobbling loose ball in the box – however it was blocked and deflected into the arms of John Sullivan, with Cureton in close quarters.
And it was Cureton that had a golden opportunity to put the Grecians ahead soon afterwards. Craig Woodman
floated in a perfect ball for the City striker to control – and after stepping inside, his effort looked goalbound all the way until Sullivan produced a magnificent save to deny him a 22nd of the season.
If Sullivan needed to produce something good to deny Cureton, then he needed something quite exceptional to keep out Arron Davies
. Lawson D’Ath
earned the opportunity with a series of one-twos in the build-up before picking out his midfield team-mate – so it needed something right out the top-drawer by the goalkeeper as Davies seemed destined to curl a right-footed strike beyond his reach.
The Dons were showing plenty of willingness to play the ball on the deck despite the wet and windy conditions, and they might have taken a lead when Sainte-Luce was teed up outside the area, but his left-footed effort was shanked well over the frame of the goal.
City might have been gifted an overdue stroke of luck when Artur Krysiak
’s ball upfield wasn’t dealt with by Chris Hussey – who played an airball – and it almost bobbled into the path of O’Flynn. However the Dons defence held the City attack up long enough to regroup, and Cureton’s cross was eventually overhit when it came.
The deadlock was finally broken in a frenetic opening period when the attacking trio combined to give City an opening. O’Flynn’s first-time layoff found Cureton, who pinged a ball out to Reid on the left flank. The youngster showed magical feet to skip round his man and launched an effort on goal – and via a deflection and a bobble, it crept beyond Sullivan and into the goal for a City lead.
City were pressing well but might have been pegged back before the interval when Jack Midson rose highest to meet a looping ball into the area, but Krysiak gathered well.
Half-time: AFC Wimbledon 0 Exeter City 1
Exeter came steaming out of the block in the second half with O’Flyn replaced by Scot Bennett
, and were unlucky to not have scored within the first few minutes of the restart. The first effort came from D’Ath, who cut in from the right and hit a swirling left-footed effort that the goalkeeper fisted clear.
Seconds later Davies nearly doubled the Grecians’ lead as he was fed by Reid, who had bulldozed his way through the Dons defence. After stepping around the goalkeeper, who looked to have over-committed, he tried to place one low – only for Pim Balkestein to hack it clear off the line.
All of a sudden, the game stepped up a gear and goals were coming thick and fast. The first goal of the second period came for the hosts as Luke Moore hit a strike hard and low through the crowd and it nestled agonisingly into the bottom corner.
The Wombles were inches away from being two ahead just moments later when Hussey’s cross from the left was met by Harry Pell at the apex of his leap, but a quite staggering save by Krysiak turned the ball a whisker over the bar.
Straight down the other end, City went ahead for the second time through Reid. Davies showed great chest control to divert the ball into the path of the striker on the right flank, and he shot speculatively hard and low across the face of goal – and the ball found the corner of the net to send the 815 travelling Grecians into raptures.
But instantaneously the scores were at parity again, once again through Luke Moore. In much the same manner as their first equaliser, their second was also smashed hard and low from the edge of the box to escape beyond the reach of Krysiak.
Charlie Strutton, just on as a sub, went unbelievably close to putting the Dons ahead straight after when he was released by a long ball over the top – however Krysiak got his angles right to make himself big and keep out the striker’s effort.
Tis rolled the dice by introducing Gow with ten minutes left to play, in place of D’Ath who had taken a few tough challenges. It nearly paid an instant dividend when he fed Davies on the right flank, who dinked into the path of the onrushing Cureton – but his header was palmed over the bar by Sullivan.
City thought they had grabbed a winner when Cureton turned in an effort by Reid, who was looking for the hat-trick goal, but the flag went up as soon as the net rippled to deny City a crucial third.
The Grecians continued putting in plenty of endeavour to try to snatch a winner – though might have conceded late when Jesse Darko headed marginally wide on the stroke of full-time.
But the game ended in parity to send City back to the South West with what could prove to be a crucial point.
Full-time: AFC Wimbledon 2 Exeter City 2
AFC Wimbledon: Sullivan; Mitchel-King (Strutton 56), Balkestein, Bennett, Hussey; L. Moore, Pell, Meades, Sainte-Luce (Darko 56); S. Moore, Midson.
Subs (not used): Antwi, Jaimez-Ruiz, Younga, Long, Yussuff.
Goals: L. Moore (58, 63).
Exeter City: Krysiak; Tully, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Davies, Doherty, D’Ath (Gow 80); O’Flynn (Bennett h-t), Cureton, Reid.
Subs (not used): Evans, Dawson, Chamberlain, Molesley, Moore-Taylor.
Goal: Reid (36, 61).
Attendance: 4,749 (815 away).
Referee: S. Martin