Match report: Exeter City 1 Oxford 1Exeter City’s search for a first win of the season continues as they were held to a 1-1 draw at St James Park by Oxford United.
The Grecians got off to the best possible start when Graham Cummins converted a penalty in the first few minutes, but the U’s hit back through Callum O’Dowda, who put Joe Riley’s cross beyond stopper Christy Pym.
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale made one change to the side which were beaten 2-1 by Mansfield Town at St James Park last time out, as Matt Grimes came into the starting eleven in place of Pat Baldwin, who was sidelined with a knee injury. David Noble, who rejoined the Grecians on loan from Oldham Athletic on Friday, took a place on the bench.
Michael Appleton’s Oxford United, who earned a 1-1 draw with Southend United at Roots Hall last week, made four changes to their own line-up, with David Hunt and Callum O’Dowda included, Michael Collins coming back in after being given compassionate leave last week, and loanee Tyrone Barnett given his debut with striker Will Hoskins due to be out until January.
With Scot Bennett utilised from the front right from the get-go, it was Graham Cummins who came close to carving out the game’s first chance with less than a minute on the clock. Had Cummins managed to keep his feet, he would have had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring, having got himself on the wrong side of Oxford captain Jake Wright.
Instead, barely two minutes later, City were through again, and George Long felled Alex Nicholls, with the Exeter frontman clean through. The United goalkeeper was very fortunate to escape further punishment when referee James Linington had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Cummins stepped up and side-footed the Grecians in front, sending Long the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
United defender Wright would have been in trouble again soon after, but for a last-minute challenge to deny Cummins a third chance to go through on goal in the first seven minutes.
Tyrone Barnett fluffed his lines when presented with Oxford’s first chance ten minutes in, as he ballooned his effort high and wide following the knockdown from strike partner Danny Hylton.
Despite City enjoying much the better of the early exchanges, the visitors struck back. With no City player challenging for a Christy Pym goal-kick, Oxford worked the ball out to their right wing, where Joe Riley delivered a perfect cross for Callum O’Dowda to hammer home the equaliser.
Liam Sercombe took a snapshot on the half-volley which went wide of George Long’s left-hand post on the eighteen-minute mark. A smart throw from Christian Ribeiro gave Matt Grimes the chance to unleash an effort that forced Long to Parry, while the keeper was on hand again to block from Jordan Moore-Taylor at the resulting corner, before catching Ribeiro’s goal-bound cross when under pressure from Cummins.
Christy Pym made his best stop of the game so far when he got himself in the way of Johnny Mullins’ header, after Tom Newey flicked on the goalscorer O’Dowda’s left-sided corner. Oxford’s six-goal top scorer had an effort deflected safely safely away as far as City were concerned with just under five minutes of the first half left to play. The half ended with Matt Grimes’ cross being directed just wide by Graham Cummins.
Half-time: Exeter City 1 Oxford United 1
George Long saved Liam Sercombe’s free-kick as the second half got underway. Alex Nicholls had what was arguably an even better opportunity when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the penalty area, but Exeter City’s number 23 shot wide. Tyrone Barnett became the first player to enter James Linington’s book when he felled Matt Grimes in the 57th-minute.
In a tactical change, Michael Appleton sent on an extra striker in Alex Jakubiak to replace David Hunt on the hour.
Christy Pym plucked the ball out of the air having had little time to think when Tyrone Barnett directed Danny Hylton’s flick goalwards. Barnett was involved again when he hit Callum O’Dowda’s centre over the bar four minutes later.
Going into the final twenty minutes, City defended two Oxford corners well in quick succession, before Liam Sercombe brought a save out of George Long at the other end. Paul Tisdale replaced Christian Ribeiro with returning Grecian David Noble in his first change.
The combined efforts of David Wheeler and Graham Cummins couldn’t find a way past George Long with the Grecians now on the offensive in the closing stages. Jimmy Keohane came on in place of Wheeler for City, while Tyrone Barnett left the field, to be replaced by Danny Rose for Oxford. Arron Davies came on for Matt Grimes in the Grecians’ final substitution, before Junior Brown came on for Oxford goalscorer Callum O’Dowda.
With three minutes of injury time signalled, Craig Woodman’s corner caused problems for the U’s defence, shortly before Cummins’ chipped effort cleared the bar. Joe Riley’s free-kick caused no problem to City, and that was the final action. 1-1 the final score, and the point takes Exeter City off the foot of the Sky Bet League 2 table.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Oxford United 1
Exeter City: Pym, Woodman, Bennett, Ribeiro (Noble), Oakley, Moore-Taylor, Sercombe, Grimes (Davies), Wheeler (Keohane), Nicholls, Cummins.
Subs: Hamon, Butterfield, Nichols, Tillson.
Oxford United: Long, Riley, Hunt (Jakubiak), Newey, Mullins, Wright, Hylton, Collins, Ruffels, O’Dowda (Brown), Barnett (Rose).
Subs: Crocombe, Raynes, Morris, Potter.
Attendance: 3,076 (434 away).
Referee: James Linington