Report: Exeter City 1 Cheltenham Town 1
Exeter City notched up another important point towards the aim of League 2 survival with a 1-1 draw against Cheltenham Town at St James Park.
it also represented the first point the Grecians had ever registered against the Robins at the tenth time of asking.
Jordan Moore-Taylor’s first professional goal came in the 12th minute as he arrived on the end of Craig Woodman’s deep delivery, but the visitors were back all-square as Byron Harrison netted his 15th goal of a prolific season with 26 minutes played.
There were chances at either end after the break, but neither team could break the parity and it was a superb save from stopper Christy Pym deep into added time that kept a point for Exeter.
No less than six homegrown players were named amongst Paul Tisdale’s starting XI for the visit of Cheltenham – Aaron Dawson, who began against Bury last weekend, stepped down to allow right-back Danny Butterfield to return to the right-back berth.
Matt Grimes and Christy Pym both returned to the starting XI, with Matt Gill and Artur Krysiak placed on the bench. Captain Danny Coles missed out completely through a one-match suspension and was replaced by Pat Baldwin, who took the armband. Meanwhile former Exeter City players David Noble and Jamie Cureton began for the Robins.
Scot Bennett began the game as a partner to Tom Nichols in attack, and immediately gave the Robins defence something to think about and forced an early corner. The centre was cleared only as far as Butterfield, who rifled a volley inches wide from 30 yards.
Sido Jombati, at right-back for the visitors, came close to turning in Liam Sercombe’s low cross into his own net as he sliced at the ball, and shortly afterwards Sercombe saw a shot deflected into the side-netting.
But with 10 minutes played, City broke the deadlock which had been merited from their early dominance. Craig Woodman’s corner was initially cleared but it broke back to him – and his deflected delivery was turned in at the back stick by Moore-Taylor.
City had an opportunity to double the lead when Eliot Richards hooked a ball forward on the turn for Nichols to run onto – but Scott Brown was out at the edge of the box to collect with the striker bearing down.
In a rare foray forward, Noble hit a ball on the bounce which took a deflection out of play, after Moore-Taylor’s header had reached the edge of the area.
And Exeter were made to pay for not turning the dominance into a more substantial lead, as Harrison latched onto a loose ball in the box and stabbed a toe at it – and the ball crept just inside Pym’s post for the equaliser.
Cheltenham took on a lot of the initiative, and began to see the Grecians penned into their half a lot more. Grimes sliced a shot narrowly wide when Sercombe teed up his midfield teammate as Exeter progressed upfield.
Cureton was having a fairly ineffectual half against a defence marshalled by Baldwin, though he provided a reminder of his threat when he touched a glancing header just by Pym’s post as Sido Jombati delivered from deep on the right-hand side.
Another good break from City just before the interval could have resulted in a goal, but for the good low take by Scott Brown cut out Liam Sercombe’s low cross. A raking cross-field ball had set Butterfield away to lay in the midfielder.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Cheltenham Town 1
Harrison was denied a second by Pym early after the break – the Robins forward got the second header on a corner but could only divert it towards the goalkeeper.
Exeter were showing a lot of good possession and ball retention, but couldn’t carve much in the way of clear openings. Matt Oakley found space to shoot left-footed, but Scott Brown got down to it well.
The Big Bank held its breath collectively when Jermaine McGlashan went down under the attention of Woodman, but the referee waved away the protests. Immediately at the other end, Bennett played a one-two with Nichols and hammered a shot a few yards wide.
Bennett had a golden chance to put Exeter back in front when Grimes’ shot was spilled by the goalkeeper, but the makeshift forward poked the rebound wide of the goal.
The ex-City men both had half-decent chances – Cureton twice missed the target with first-time efforts under close attention, and Noble lashed a half-volley high into the Big Bank.
David Wheeler was introduced for Nichols on the hour, and City has refreshed impetus. A ball from Sercombe for the sub was almost perfectly weighted, but a fine Tory Brown tackle denied him.
Moore-Taylor came close to getting his and Exeter’s second when he headed a clipped cross from Richards just over the bar, and Sercombe’s venomous shot forced a good save from Brown.
Cureton was withdrawn to warm applause for Zack Kotwica, and the substitute’s first involvement was to force a fine save from Pym as he latched onto a ball into the channel, having somehow escaped the offside trap.
Cheltenham substitute Sam Deering had the last clear chances to register a winner – first came as he was teed up outside the area, but Pym was well-placed to save and hold.
His second opportunity came deep, deep into stoppage time when possession was conceded lightly by the Grecians – Deering was teed up 12 yards out, and Pym somehow saved and held to ensure City kept a point for their efforts.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Cheltenham Town 1
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield, Baldwin, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe, Grimes, Oakley, Bennett, Richards; Nichols (Wheeler 61).
Subs: Krysiak, Davies, O’Flynn, Keohane, Parkin, Gill.
Goal: Moore-Taylor (12).
Cheltenham Town: S.Brown; Jombati, T.Brown, Elliott, Braham-Barrett; Noble, McGlashan, Richards, Williams (Deering 61); Harrison, Cureton (Kotwica 76).
Subs: Roberts, Gornell, Kotwica, Ihiekwe, Brundle.
Goal: Harrison (26).
Attendance: 3,353 (206 away).
Referee: L. Collins