Plymouth Parkway 3 Exeter City 3 (Parkway win 5-3 on penalties)
The Grecians bowed out of the St Luke’s Challenge Cup in the semi-final at the hands of Plymouth Parkway, as the hosts won 5-3 on penalties after an enthralling game had finished 3-3 at the final whistle.
A young City squad – comprised largely from the under-18 team – begun boldly and an attack down the left by Ollie Watkins almost brought an early goal, but a low cross was blocked a fell to Matt Jay, whose follow-up was also closed down. Shortly after Jake Gosling had a chance to hit a free-kick from 25 yards but found a Parkway forehead in the wall.
And it was the hosts that went ahead as a direct ball began a good passing move, which was struck inside James Mitchison's post with aplomb from just inside the area by Levi Landricombe. The restart was somewhat delayed while a flare behind the goal slowly burned out.
Things went from bad to worse for City though as another ball over left Parkway striker Landricombe through on goal, and Hussein Heidari felled the attacker as he tried to cover, which reduced City to ten men and allowed Parkway to double from the spot – which they emphatically did.
City, looking shellshocked, had few changes to reduce the arrears be for the break. Ollie Watkins teed up Jacob Jagger Cane for an effort from outside the area which had ample power, but left something to be desired in its direction as it rose over the bar.
The hosts were the width of the post from finding a third just before the break, and then fired wide with a clear sight of goal as the young City team were grateful to have just a two-goal margin to make up in the second period.
Half-time: Plymouth Parkway 2 Exeter City 0
The Grecians looked much improved in the second 45 minutes – despite being a man light, the young side showed superiority in energy and began to retain the ball better on the deck despite a surface that was becoming increasingly choppy underfoot.
However it was a more direct ball forward that gave Exeter their route back into the game - Elliott Chamberlain latched onto a lofted pass, poked beyond the advancing goalkeeper, and the ball trickled just over the line despite the despairing efforts to recover from from Parkway defence.
And within moments the game was unthinkably level - it was Jordan Tillson that had advanced to get involved in the attack, and he pulled the trigger with a venomous effort which lashed into the roof of the net.
Connor Riley-Lowe was called into action at the back to claw a goalbound effort off the line, but the Parkway lead was soon re-established with another firm finish as they collected a ball in the City half for Ryan Richards to blast in.
Another clearance was needed to hook the ball out of the top corner of the net to prevent City shipping a fourth – and up the other end, City once again found a leveller. It was Jake Gosling that took the bull by the horns by charging downfield with the ball, picking out Chamberlain on the inside-left channel, and his side-footed effort squirmed through the goalkeeper’s grasp to allow Watkins to react quickest and turn in from close range.
With minutes remaining, it all got a little ugly as a mistimed tackle sparked a ruckus, which saw City’s Jason Pope and Parkway’s Gav Coulton each dismissed to leave it ten against nine for the closing stages.
The referee’s full-time whistle signalled that the game would have to be decided from 12 yards.
Full-time: Plymouth Parkway 3 Exeter City 3
Parkway’s Landricombe stepped up first and netted well, with Jake Gosling replying in kind with a panenka from the spot. Paul Herevan and Will Stringer netted the hosts’ next two well and Watkins and Jay both scored for City, the latter touching the glove of goalkeeper Ben Elphick on the way into the net.
Richards netted Parkway’s fourth, but Jagger Cane’s spot-kick saw Elphick guess correctly as it was City that blinked first. Lance Bailey stepped up to hammer in for Parkway to secure a place in the final against either Tiverton Town or Witheridge.
Plymouth Parkway win 5-3 on penalties.
Exeter City: Mitchison; Heidari, Tillson, Wannell, Riley-Lowe; Gosling, Jagger Cane, J.Byrne (Pope), Jay, Watkins; Chamberlain (Charles).
Subs: Read, A.Byrne, C.Gill.