Visitors snatch late point at St James ParkLine-Ups
Exeter City: Olejnik, Noble, McAllister, Harley, Davies, Morrison (Wheeler 78‘), Nicholls, Moore-Taylor (capt), Nichols, Grant, Brown.
Subs: Butterfield, Reid, Hamon, McCready, Watkins, Tillson.
Goals: Nicholls 8’, Nichols 45’
Crawley Town: Flahavan, Walton, Bradley (capt), Edwards, Smith, Young, Ashton (Rooney 53’), Harrold (Barnard 78’), Deacon, Hancox, Murphy (Fenelon 70’).
Subs: Preston, Scales, Bawling, Tomlin.
Goals: Bradley 28’, Rooney 90+2’
Referee: Kevin Johnson
SUBSTITUTE LUKE ROONEY scored a stoppage-time screamer to deny the Grecians all three points in a hard fought game at St James Park.
Exeter twice took the lead, first through an Alex Nicholls strike and then a sensational volley from Tom Nichols, but were pegged back twice by a determined Crawley Town side.
The Grecians made two changes to the team that beat Didcot Town in the FA Cup last Sunday, with Joel Grant and Alex Nicholls coming in to replace David Wheeler and the injured Manny Oyeleke.
Following an impeccably-observed minute’s silence in memory of those who died during the events in Paris on Friday night, Exeter took the lead in the opening stages. Having been played down the left-hand side by Tom Nichols, Alex Nicholls blasted an unstoppable strike off the underside of the crossbar to beat Crawley goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan.
Crawley responded well to going behind. Left-back Mitch Hancox’s long-range effort went narrowly wide of Bobby Olejnik’s right-hand post, before a corner whipped in by Simon Walton was met powerfully by the head of captain Sonny Bradley to level the scores just before the half-hour mark.
Exeter twice went close to regaining the lead shortly after Bradley’s equaliser. Clinton Morrison had an effort tipped over the crossbar following a tricky run from Nichols. From the resulting corner Jordan Moore-Taylor struck on the turn only to see his effort deflected just wide.
After a spell of pressure, Exeter regained the lead just before half-time. Joel Grant fed the ball to Tom Nichols who spectacularly volleyed past the keeper into the bottom corner to make the score 2-1.
HALF-TIME EXETER CITY 2-1 CRAWLEY TOWN
Both teams were left unchanged following the half-time interval. Exeter created the first major chance of the half, as an in-swinging corner curled in by Ryan Harley found its way to Moore-Taylor. In a crowded penalty box Moore-Taylor connected with Harley’s set-piece, only to be agonisingly denied by the post.
Exeter failed to build on their positive start to the second half as Crawley began to take the ascendency. In a cagey second half, Gwion Edwards, Crawley’s current top goal-scorer, forced a save from Olejnik following a cross-come shot in the seventy-ninth minute, before Jimmy Smith landed a free-kick onto the roof of the net from the left-hand side of the Exeter area.
Crawley’s dominance in the second half was eventually rewarded in stoppage-time. Mark Yates’ decision to introduce Luke Rooney in place of Jon Ashton proved a masterstroke as the substitute fired a screamer past the helpless Olejnik to deny the Grecians the three points. Although Rooney’s equaliser meant that it was a difficult result to accept for the Grecians, this must be viewed as a point gained against a side who came into the match only outdone by leaders Plymouth Argyle in the current League 2 form table.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 2–2 CRAWLEY TOWN
Attendance: 3,664 (155 away)
Man of the Match: Tom Nichols