Report: Exeter City 1 Portsmouth 1
Liam Sercombe rescued a point for Exeter City right at the death as the Grecians drew 1-1 with Portsmouth at St James Park.
Jake Jervis side-footed Pompey in front in the first half, and the away side had for a long time looked like heading back to the South Coast with a rare three points after an open second period. But Sercombe had other plans, as his deflected effort at the end of second-half injury time saved the draw.
After joining the Grecians from Bristol Rovers in a two-way loan swap for Alan Gow on Friday, Eliot Richards was named on Paul Tisdale’s bench for the much-anticipated visit of Portsmouth to St James Park. Joining him on the list of substitutes was Matt Oakley, who continued his return from injury as he made the bench for the third consecutive game. Having made his first appearance of the campaign in the 3-2 defeat earlier this season as Fratton Park, Tom Nichols came back in to lead the line for the Grecians again. Wes Fogden returned to the Pompey line-up having started on the bench for last week’s 1-0 home defeat to Torquay United.
A very vocal away support were prime witnesses to see Arron Davies carve out the first real chance of the game as he wriggled away from on-loan Swansea right-back Daniel Alfei, though his cross was cleared away. Liam Sercombe had the first effort on goal moments later, bringing a save from Pompey goalkeeper Trevor Carson low down to his left on four minutes. Another former Swansea player in Marcos Painter had the away side’s first effort as he shot low but was denied with ease by Artur Krysiak in the Grecians’ goal. On the break, Jimmy Keohane’s through ball was just out of Nichols’ reach.
Portsmouth took the lead on eight minutes. Ricky Holmes delivered a free-kick from the left side of the penalty area, and after a knockdown Jake Jervis side-footed into the net for the breakthrough. City almost got back level immediately – Danny Butterfield delivered a dangerous cross after some loose Portsmouth defending, but Tom Nichols came just short of getting his head to it. Portsmouth hearts were in mouths as Carson produced an airshot on ten minutes, but luckily for him the ball rolled wide for a corner.
Matt Grimes rolled one wide just after the quarter-hour, before former Aston Villa, Reading and West Brom full-back Nicky Shorey came close to penetrating the Grecians’ backline with a neat chip and shot – Scot Bennett got himself in the way of it. With the wind picking up, Sercombe and Bennett both put in decent crosses which the away defence found difficult to deal with, and down the other end, Holmes fired over the bar. A surging run from Jimmy Keohane earned a corner, but again it came to nothing.
A good block from Pompey captain Ben Chorley prevented Nichols from testing Carson, but the keeper was called into action from the resulting corner, as Scot Bennett headed down low; the keeper making a smart stop to keep his team in front. Holmes was looking menacing for the blues, as again he carved an opening for himself before firing over with five minutes of the first half left to play. There was nobody there to convert for the Grecians as Tom Nichols centred on forty minutes, but Sercombe broke through seconds later and, after a block, Keohane was just beaten to the ball by the stretching Carson in Exeter’s best chance yet.
An injury to Portsmouth’s Joe Devara meant he was replaced by Sonny Bradley in first-half stoppage time. Striker Ryan Taylor shot wide for Pompey just before the referee blew for half-time.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Portsmouth 1
Paul Tisdale made a double substitution at the break as Eliot Richards came on for his Grecians debut in place of Pat Baldwin, while Jordan Moore-Taylor came on in place of Scot Bennett. Moore-Taylor had to defend straight away to nick the ball off the goalscorer Jake Jervis as he marauded through, a fine tackle as the last man from the young defender. Jimmy Keohane produced a tame effort that was of no trouble to Carson four minutes into the second half.
Ricky Holmes was allowed too much time to dribble goalwards following a fiftieth-minute Nicky Shorey corner, and luckily for the Grecians there were no Portsmouth players on the far post to meet the winger’s ball. Portsmouth sub Sonny Bradley challenged well to dispossess Nichols at the other end, before Keohane headed wide. With the game starting to open up, Holmes and Therry Racon both had efforts blocked, and the away fans thought their side had doubled their advantage when Jervis set up Holmes, but it was the side-netting that was found by Portsmouth’s number eleven.
Eliot Richards hit over the bar, before Nichols was flagged offside in a close call – he was tackled before he could pull the trigger regardless. Krysiak produced a brace of saves, with fifteen minutes to go, first punching away a corner then, after Racon’s shot through the crowd was blocked, getting down low to stop Nicky Shorey’s effort from just outside the area. David Wheeler replaced Keohane with just over ten minutes left, while Holmes was withdrawn for Andy Barcham five minutes later.
A downed Trevor Carson was lucky that the ball bounced into his hands in a crowded penalty area with Nichols and Richards waiting to pounce. Goalscorer Jake Jervis was replaced by joint-top scorer Patrick Agyemang with five minutes of normal time to play. Matt Grimes hit a free kick high and wide, before Ryan Taylor missed a golden opportunity for the away side’s second as Krysiak produced an airshot much like his opposite number had done in the first half. City had a goal ruled out in the last few minutes, much to the delight of the away following, before Krysiak saved well from Barcham. Grimes put one wide as the Grecians kept pushing for a way back into the match, with Sercombe’s effort having the same outcome in injury time.
Just as Portsmouth thought they had won it, Liam Sercombe silenced the away fans with the equaliser, as hit shot looped over Carson via a deflection right at the game’s conclusion.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Portsmouth 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Baldwin (Richards 46), Coles, Woodman; Sercombe, Grimes, Bennett (Moore-Taylor 46), Davies; Keohane (Wheeler 74); Nichols.
Subs: Pym, Oakley, O’Flynn, Parkin.
Portsmouth: Carson, Devara (Bradley 45), Holmes (Marcham 77), Painter, Alfei, Shorey, Fogden, Taylor, Chorley, Racon, Jervis (Agyemang 80).
Subs: Padovani, Ertl, Wallace, Smith.
Attendance: 5,221 (1,442 away)
Referee: Gary Sutton