Report: Exeter City 1 Morecambe 1
Following a bizarre finish which saw referee Andy D’Urso awarded the Grecians a penalty before changing his mind, Exeter City’s Sky Bet League 2 match against Morecambe ended 1-1 at St James Park.
Tom Nichols fired City in front with barely a minute on the clock, but Padraig Amond found a second-half equaliser.
The big talking point, though, was the final few minutes, as David Wheeler went down in the box, and was initially awarded a penalty before that decision was overruled. Jamie Devitt was dismissed for violent conduct after some unpleasant scenes following that decision.
Christy Pym made his home debut for Exeter City, having made his first start in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Southend United at Roots Hall. Otherwise, Paul Tisdale made two changes to his weekend starting line-up, with Eliot Richards coming in for his first Grecians start and Tom Nichols coming back in to lead the line as duo Jimmy Keohane and John O’Flynn took a place on the bench.
For Jim Bentley’s Shrimps, Andy Wright and Ryan Williams were included having signed new deals with the Globe Arena club on Monday, though joint top-scorer Kevin Ellison started among the substitutes.
This encounter was originally scheduled for mid-January, but after a downfall of biblical proportions put paid to that, this was a much drier occasion at SJP. Evidently eager to get underway having waited over a month for this one, the Grecians flew out of the traps, as Tom Nichols, fed by Liam Sercombe, worked his way away from some slack Morecambe defending and thumped an excellent finish beyond Barry Roche after just two minutes for the opener for his fifth goal of the season, and his first in 2014.
Eliot Richards turned and fired a shot wide from about 20 yards a couple of minutes later, the Grecians looking very positive in the early exchanges.
Richards was a man on a mission on his first start, producing some magic to ghost past Shrimps left-back Robbie Threlfall, but Sercombe’s effort at the conclusion of the move was blocked by Morecambe captain Mark Hughes. Arron Davies brought a routine save out of Roche from the left-side of the penalty area on nine minutes, but made him work harder with a second effort from a similar position. The rebound eluded the offside Nichols, but Sercombe reclaimed possession and gave it back to the young striker, Roche less troubled by this one.
Andrew Wright’s attempted ball-over-the-top was headed away by Scot Bennett as Morecambe started to edge their way back into things around the 20-minute mark. Padraig Amond wriggled away from Bennett only to drag one wide five minutes later, before Jamie Devitt struck one over the bar. Jack Sampson used his long flow to bring the Grecians’ defence into action on a number of occasions, but the backline marshalled by Danny Coles held firm.
After a deft backheel from the unlikeliest of candidates in Craig Woodman, Tom Nichols was denied a stonewall penalty as at least two Shrimps defenders made more contact with the City striker than anything else as he was about to pull the trigger. Arron Davies headed over from a Danny Butterfield cross as Eliot Richards blew Threlfall out of the water as both ran onto a ball played beyond the Morecambe defence.
An offside Mark Hughes then headed a Ryan Williams free-kick over the bar before Barry Roche tipped a Davies strike over the bar. Matt Grimes’ free-kick brought a comfortable save out of Roche as the half drew to a close.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Morecambe 0
Morecambe equalised eight minutes into the second half when Andy Fleming sent the dangerous Amond clean through on goal, and the 26-year-old Irishman made no mistake in putting away his eighth goal of the season.
Arron Davies shot straight at Roche as Exeter looked for an immediate response, before Robbie Threlfall became the first player to enter Andy D’Urso’s book for dissent. David Wheeler replaced Arron Davies on the hour.
Craig Woodman had to be wide awake as he chested wide for a corner with Jamie Devitt on his shoulder. After the resulting corner came to nothing, Christy Pym showed some quick thinking to release Nichols on the break, but the Grecians’ number 20 could only find the side-netting.
Joe McGee replaced Chris McCready and Stewart Drummond came on for Ryan Williams as Jim Bentley made a 65th-minute double substitution. Mark Hughes almost got caught out as he tried to leave the ball for his goalkeeper, oblivious to the presence of Sercombe over his shoulder, while a goalmouth scramble involving Nichols and a host of Morecambe players ended harmlessly for the visitors as they got a goal-kick.
There was a let-off for City as substitute Joe McGee was afforded too much time in Christy Pym’s penalty area, but his 73rd-minute effort was lashed just beyond the far post, the young goalkeeper would have been beaten though had the shot been on target. They were counting their chickens again moments later as Amond went through, but Pym saved to deny the Morecambe man a second of the game before Scot Bennett headed off the line.
Matt Gill and John O’Flynn replaced Matt Oakley and Tom Nichols for the final ten minutes, while Jack Sampson was replaced by Kevin Ellison during the same break in play. Sercombe was just unable to carve an opening for himself as the Grecians surged forward, and the midfielder hit one wide shortly after. Ellison looked to go down easily as he linked with Amond on the break, before there was nobody there to convert as Sercombe crossed dangerously with the game entering its final five minutes.
City had another penalty appeal waved away before O’Flynn headed fellow sub Matt Gill’s corner into Roche’s hands. Joe McGee was booked for kicking the ball away following his own handball with two minutes of normal time left. Danny Coles blocked well from Amond before Andrew Wright was booked for cynically pulling back a breaking Sercombe.
What had been a game played in good spirits exploded as time ticked over into injury time. Wheeler was brought down in the area and D’Urso, at the third time of asking, awarded a dramatic late penalty. A melee broke out, ending in Jamie Devitt being sent off for violent conduct, and then D’Urso, having consulted with his assistant, changed his mind, awarded Morecambe a free-kick instead and booked Wheeler for simulation. That was the last action, the match ending in a 1-1 draw.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Morecambe 1
Exeter City: Pym, Butterfield, Woodman, Bennett, Coles, Sercombe, Grimes, Oakley, Davies, Richards, Nichols.
Subs: Hamon, Moore-Taylor, O’Flynn, Keohane, Parkin, Wheeler, Gill.
Morecambe: Roche, Threlfall, Hughes, Wright, Sampson, Williams, Devitt, McCready, Fleming, Parrish, Amond.
Subs: Arestidou, Diagne, Redshaw, Ellison, Drummond, McGee, Doyle.
Attendance: 2,620 (30 away)
Referee: A. D’Urso