Match report: Exeter City 0 Stevenage 0Neither Exeter City nor Stevenage were able to make a breakthrough in an hour and a half of play at St James Park, as the meeting ended 0-0.
Chances came and went at either end – and City substitute David Wheeler even hit the bar with a towering header midway through the second period for the hosts.
But ultimately the game ended without either goalkeeper needing to make a visit to the back of the net on Tuesday evening.
City manager Paul Tisdale named an unchanged starting XI for the Grecians’ fixture after the weekend win against AFC Wimbledon, meaning that Connor Riley-Lowe retained his starting berth.
New loan signing Lee Holmes started on bench while veteran loan signing Kevin Lisbie came straight in to start for Stevenage, having arrived earlier in the day.
Tom Nichols was slipped in early down the left but was flagged just offside, before the Boro started turning on the intensity. A dangerous ball in from the right by Tom Pett was met by Lisbie – his effort was cleared into the path of Charlie Lee, whose scuffed effort needed turning around the post by Clinton Morrison.
Exeter soon settled and a neat ball down the channel by right-back Arron Davies found Alex Nicholls on the run and it needed an important block from Bira Dembele to put the ball out. Nichols then nearly got in down the left before a saving tackle came in from Dean Wells.
Nicholls had a decent opportunity to open the scoring as he was first to Liam Sercombe’s corner, but he diverted the ball wide. Nichols then received a long diagonal from captain Matt Oakley but got under his effort on the half-volley.
Riley-Lowe had to put in an important block to deny Tom Pett’s shot after Dean Parrett had skipped through midfield and laid him in down the inside right, and then defender Wells brought James Hamon into action as he headed a corner goalwards from a tight angle, only to see it saved comfortably.
However Hamon was forced into a more spectacular denial when a clearance from Ryan Harley only found Keith Keane, and the Irishman’s lashed effort needed a fingertip save to turn it around the post.
Journeyman Lisbie had the sort of opportunity which he had gobbled throughout his career as he met Pett’s right-wing cross at the far post, but he made poor contact and City cleared.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Stevenage 0
Morrison came within a whisker of opening his Exeter City account early in the second half. After teams had exchanged forays into each other’s territory, Oakley did well to cut back for the forward and as he controlled and turned, Morrison struck with his left peg and it wisped by the far post on its way behind.
Boro midfielder Dave Martin squandered a good opportunity to test the City defence after Nichols was judged to have hand-balled – his free-kick from near the right byline was over the head of everyone and out at the far side.
After Morrison had pressured Dembele into conceding an avoidable corner, a whipped delivery from Sercombe found the head of Jordan Moore-Taylor but his firm effort was over the crossbar.
David Wheeler was introduced on the hour in place of striker Nichols, while Holmes was also involved for a debut as Nicholls made way.
Before long the two subs were having an impact – Holmes showed pace and a drop of a shoulder and nearly got to the byline, but for the intervention of Dembele.
And then when Holmes got a cross away from the left, it founds its way to Sercombe at the far side – his recycled ball was met by a towering Wheeler header, which went over via a cannon off the crossbar.
Boro were typically dangerous from set-piece situations and when Dave Martin whipped a left-footed corner in from the right, it was met with power at the back post by the head of Wells and somehow evaded a touch from anyone else in a crowded area as it missed across goal.
Hamon was forced into making a critical reflex save when Lisbie got the slightest of glancing headers onto a low cross from sub Bruno Andrade – the ball was eventually hacked clear by Morrison. Boro came again and Jerome Okimo struck with power from the edge of the area, only to see the ball blocked behind.
As the game entered five added minutes, Sercombe had a chance to deliver from the corner-flag as Holmes’ cross was deflected over – Wheeler attacked well but powered his header wide.
Andrade drew a late foul on the left and allowed fellow substitute Ben Kennedy to whip in, but it was cleared by Christian Ribeiro as the ref blew time on proceedings.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Stevenage 0
Exeter City: Hamon; Davies, Ribeiro, Moore-Taylor, Riley-Lowe; Oakley, Sercombe, Harley; Nicholls (Holmes 60), Morrison, Nichols (Wheeler 60).
Unused subs: Pym, Bennett, Keohane, Cummins, McCready.
Stevenage: Day; Henry, Wells, Dembele, Okimo; Pett (Andrade 80), Parrett, Keane, Martin (Kennedy 69); Lee (Johnson 73), Lisbie.
Unused subs: Beasant, Ashton, Conlon, Bond.
Attendance: 3,149 (54 away).
Referee: Kevin Johnson