Northampton champions as City continue unbeaten runLine-Ups
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman, Noble, McAllister, Harley, Nicholls, Moore-Taylor (capt), Watkins (Wheeler 90+1), Stockley (Reid 90+1’), Taylor, Brown.
Subs: Ribeiro, Davies, McCready, Tillson, Pym.
Northampton Town: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, D’Ath, Adams (Hoskins 62’), Holmes, Buchanan (capt), McDonald, O’Toole, Rose, Marquis (Collins 67’).
Subs: Clarke, Taylor, Byrom, Potter, Prosser.
Referee: Oliver Langford
JAYDEN STOCKLEY AND JAKE TAYLOR were both denied by the woodwork as Exeter City were held at home by newly-crowned Sky Bet League 2 champions Northampton Town.
In an end-to-end affair, both sides had chances to win the game with Stockley and Taylor coming closest for the Grecians, but in the end neither side could break the deadlock. Results elsewhere meant that the Cobblers were confirmed as champions, and that City now trail seventh-placed AFC Wimbledon by two points.
There was one change to the City side that overcame Yeovil Town at Huish Park last time out to make it nine games unbeaten, with Alex Nicholls selected to face his former club in place of Lee Holmes on the left side. There was also just one change for the recently-promoted visitors, as former Grecian loanee Lawson D’Ath was drafted in to feature alongside Nicky Adams and Ricky Holmes in an interchanging attacking three behind on-loan striker John Marquis.
With City knowing that a positive result could send them into the Sky Bet League 2 play-off positions and the visitors looking to secure the title, there was plenty riding on this one. Kicking towards their own fans, it was the Cobblers who worked the first opening of the game as Holmes’ well-struck effort from twenty-yards out forced Bobby Olejnik into an early save. The Grecians responded with a chance of their own in the eighth minute, though Nicholls’ sliced his effort well wide of the right post.
After Ollie Watkins and Nicholls had combined well to win the Grecians a corner from the left-hand side with a quarter of an hour played, Stockley rose well to meet the set-piece and force Cobblers’ keeper Adam Smith into a finger-tipped save. The visitors were beginning to see plenty of the ball by the mid-way point of the first half as they looked to break the deadlock. Holmes, who had looked a real threat in the final third, picked out Zander Diamond with a cross from the right in the nineteenth minute, but Olejnik was at hand to get down quickly and deny the ex-Aberdeen centre-half a first goal since November.
It was a case of you shoot we shoot as both sides’ desire to go for the jugular came at the expense of retaining the ball in the middle of the park. Stockley came close again in the twenty-seventh minute as he looked for his ninth goal in a City shirt, but a back-peddling Smith did well to push the ball wide of the post. The Grecians’s loanee marksman felt he had good grounds for a penalty in the fortieth minute following Diamond’s robust intervention, but referee Oliver Langford waved away his, and the Big Bank’s protests.
The hosts ended the first period on top with Watkins seeing more of the ball in advanced areas, but despite the best efforts of both sides to open the scoring, the score was still deadlocked at the interval.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CITY 0–0 NORTHAMPTON TOWN
The second half began in a similar vein to the first as both sides threatened within seven minutes of the restart. It was City who made the first move as Stockley saw his looping header strike the post having met Jamie McAllister’s inch-perfect delivery from the right. With Smith left stranded it was Jake Taylor who was first to the rebound, but the ex-Reading midfielder couldn’t squeeze past the near-post from an acute angle.
The visitors responded immediately with Marquis and Adams both spurning clear-cut chances at the other end, before Olejnik was called into action again on his fiftieth appearance for the Grecians, gathering well from Holmes’ deflected strike.
It was once again the woodwork to the rescue for the high-flying visitors as play-off chasing City came inches away from a deserved goal two minutes after the hour mark. It was the all-familiar combination of Watkins and Taylor that were responsible for this chance, but Taylor saw his header from from the youngster’s cross strike the underside of the bar with Smith beaten.
In the seventy-first minute Holmes’ ventured forward again for the Cobblers, this time cutting in from the left wing and dragging wide with his right. Taylor was at the centre of the action during the Grecians’ several breakaways, with his pearler of a cross from the right in the eighty-first minute forcing a hasty clearance from a Northampton defender. From the resultant set-piece Troy Brown rose well to get above his marker, but saw his header fly wide of the post.
Paul Tisdale decided to introduce some fresh legs for the remaining minutes as the Grecians looked for renewed attacking impetuous. It was David Wheeler and Jamie Reid that were introduced, and the former came close to making an instant impact as his knock-down narrowly evaded Jordan Moore-Taylor in the Cobblers’ area. That was to be the last action of the game, as the referee whistled soon after to bring to an end a somewhat frustrating afternoon for the Grecians.
Northampton's fans flooded the St James Park pitch following the match after news broke through that results elsewhere made them Sky Bet League 2 Champions.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 0–0 NORTHAMPTON TOWN
Attendance: 5,077 (876 away)
Man of the Match: Jayden Stockley