Report: Exeter City 0 Aldershot 0
Exeter City and Aldershot Town played out a 0-0 draw at St James Park in a tightly-balanced game.
Both sides had the ball in the net in the second half - Asa Hall for the Shots and Guillem Bauza for City - but neither counted, as the first was called back for a foul and the latter for offside.
The closest either team went to legitimately opening the scoring was Hall's header off the bar in the first half, but the game ultimately ended with the scoresheet blank.
City boss Paul Tisdale made a handful of changes to the starting line-up. Kevin Amankwaah slotted into the right-back position, whilst Jamie Cureton and Guillem Bauza started in attack. Tommy Doherty, Steve Tully and Jimmy Keohane all took a seat on the bench.
Mark Molesley was also handed a second start since joining from AFC Bournemouth, playing against the side for which he made eight league appearances on loan from the Cherries last year.
Meanwhile Asa Hall was making a debut after joining Aldershot on deadline day on a loan deal from Shrewsbury, with Namibian midfielder Oliver Risser also earned a first start for the Shots after making four substitute appearances.
The Shots might have been ahead within two minutes when some head-tennis in the City box, which Pat Baldwin had cleared for a corner. Danny Rose whipped one in for Troy Brown but the centre-half’s header squirmed wide of the target.
Cureton was nearly released with a ball hooked through by Alan Gow, but the striker was flagged for offside. Bauza was also arriving from a deeper position but the referee had already blown the whistle against Cureton.
Despite Aldershot having a good spell of possession, an up-and-under by Scot Bennett released Bauza again. After doing brilliantly to outmuscle Sonny Bradley, the Spaniard was tackled just in time as far as the visitors were concerned as Anthony Tonkin put in a recovery tackle as the striker shaped to shoot.
Exeter had another let-off soon after, shortly after Danny Hylton had his near-post header saved by Artur Krysiak. The ball spilled back to the right flank and was chipped into the box, but Hall’s header cannoned off the crossbar.
The Grecians had been unable to carve much in the way of openings until the half-hour mark, when Cureton was handed an opportunity to find the opener. A ball dinked through by Gow saw the 37-year-old escape the offside trap, but his curling effort was too central and was held comfortably by Jamie Young.
Gow then had two half-chances in quick succession for the Grecians – firstly Molesley’s cross from the right touchline just sailed over the Scotsman’s head, and then he shot right-footed after Bauza’s chest down but he pulled it wide of Young’s near post.
But when Mr Bond blew for half-time, neither side had been able to break the deadlock.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Aldershot Town 0
After a false-start, the second half eventually got underway and City were immediately on the attack. However a heavy touch in the Shots box by Molesley saw the midfielder lunge for the tackle. He had his name taken by the referee after he caught Sonny Bradley, who was left in a heap writhing with pain.
And Exeter had an injury worry of their own soon after when Cureton was left in a heap, having seemingly taken a blow to the head by the forearm of Bradley. However it wasn’t spotted by the referee and the City players made no great claims to have the Shots man penalised.
Down at the other end, Hall did eventually manage to beat Krysiak to find the net – but not before the whistle had been blown for a foul on Amankwaah.
The Shots’ movement and pressure was causing a few problems to the City back line, and Kieron Cadogan was found wide on the left wing by a raking cross from Rose. On his less-favoured left foot, he delivered a peach of a ball for Troy Brown to attack in the six-yard box – but it cleared the bar, under pressure by Danny Coles.
City went for a more direct approach as Amankwaah made his way to the byline after collecting from Krysiak’s throw. Unfortunately his first cross came back to him after failing to beat the first man, and his second attempt just evaded everyone at the far post.
Fans in the Big Bank thought that Bauza had netted soon after as he latched onto a ball through the middle and netted beyond Young – but it was City this time that had the goal disallowed, with the offside flag being waved on the far side.
Both managers made alterations to their squads, as Jake Gosling and Keohane were introduced for Molesley and Bauza for City, and Aldershot withdrew Cadogan and Hylton for Lionel Ainsworth and Craig Reid.
Oliver Risser almost had a chance to net a maiden goal for the Shots as he telegraphed a ball in the air perfectly to unleash a volley from the edge of the box – however the ball was down the throat of Krysiak who held well.
And then the Shots’ subs combined well as Ainsworth, linking with Ben Herd, crossed in towards Reid. It hit the striker’s thigh though and drifted wide of Krysiak’s right-hand post.
With lots of niggling injuries and stodgy midfield play, the clock ticked down quickly. A clash of heads between Amankwaah and Anthony Tonkin meant that the four added minutes had to be slightly extended.
But that’s the way the game ended, as neither team were able to draw blood.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Aldershot Town 0
Exeter City: Krysiak; Amankwaah, Coles, Baldwin, Woodman; Molesley (Gosling 78), Oakley, Bennett; Gow; Cureton, Bauza (Keohane 81).
Subs (not used): Evans, Tully, Davies, Doherty, Moore-Taylor.
Aldershot Town: Young; Herd, Brown, Bradley, Tonkin; Risser, Rose; Cadogan (Ainsworth 70), Hall, Vincenti; Hylton (Reid 78).
Subs (not used): Morris, Rankine, McNamee, Mekki, Forbes.
Referee: D. Bond
Attendance: 3,755 (246 away).