Grecians held by the Bees at SJPLine-Ups
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman, Ribeiro (Nicholls 84’), Harley, Oakley, Holmes, Moore-Taylor (capt), Wheeler (Taylor 74’), Watkins, Stockley, Brown.
Subs: McAllister, Morrison, Tillson, Pym, Grant.
Goals: Stockley 20’
Barnet: Stephens, Pearson, Johnson (Gambin 39’), N'Gala, Nelson, Champion (Gash 72’), Weston, Taylor, Nwogu (Shomotun 46’), Yiadom (capt), Akinde.
Subs: Stack, Sesay, Togwell, Stevens.
Goals: Weston 26’
Referee: Trevor Kettle
JAYDEN STOCKLEY'S eighth goal in the red and white was cancelled out by a Curtis Weston header as Exeter City drew 1-1 with Barnet at St James Park.
A goal apiece meant that the two sides began the second-half on level terms, and despite the best efforts of both sets of players the result would ultimately remain that way, with Bobby Olejnik’s penalty save from John Akinde in the sixty-fourth minute proving valuable for the home side.
Paul Tisdale named an unchanged starting eleven for the fourth game running as City looked to follow up their 4-1 victory over Notts County last weekend. There was one change on the bench, as Alex Nicholls was deemed fit enough for a place amongst the seven substitutes having been ruled out for the past three weeks with a facial injury sustained during the home draw with Portsmouth. The visitors lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation as they aimed to bounce back from a 3-0 home defeat to Oxford United last time out. Fifteen-goal top-scorer John Akinde was handed the task of leading the line, with Curtis Weston, to date the youngest player to have ever featured in an FA Cup final with Millwall in 2004, deployed in a supporting role in-behind the lone striker.
After an impeccably observed minute’s silence in memory of those that lost their lives in the terror attacks on Brussels last Tuesday, some good work down the left-hand side by Lee Holmes worked City the first chance of the game in the third minute. After the winger’s cross was only half-cleared by Michael Nelson, Ryan Harley was first to the loose ball but lifted his shot over the crossbar from ten yards out. Another good chance came the home side’s way soon after, as David Wheeler’s driven effort was blocked by a Bees defender before spinning narrowly away from Ollie Watkins who was ready to pounce from close-range.
The Grecians bossed the opening exchanges as they maintained the high-tempo attacking football that was the catalyst to their convincing win at Meadow Lane. Harley threatened again in the tenth minute, but Barnet keeper Jamie Stephens was well-positioned to easily gather the midfielder’s miscued effort.
Just as the away side were beginning to gain a foothold in the game, City broke the deadlock with twenty minutes gone. Matt Oakley whipped in a wonderful ball from the right-hand side, and it was once again Jayden Stockley on the other end of it as he got across his marker and headed home from close-range. Another text-book header from Stockley to add to his rapidly-growing collection of goals in City colours.
Six minutes after breaking the deadlock, the Grecians were pegged back as Barnet equalised with their first shot of the game. Elliot Johnson’s cross from the left was met by Weston, who made no mistake in heading past Bobby Olejnik from inside the six-yard box.
A spree of chances followed with ten minutes of the half remaining. In the thirty-fifth minute, Jordan Moore-Taylor had an effort cleared off the line following a Lee Holmes corner, before academy product Watkins couldn’t quite release a shot on goal having burst into the box from centre midfield. David Wheeler came close in the thirty-eighth minute, as he forced Stephens into a sprawling save to his right after stooping low to connect with Craig Woodman’s cross.
After a frantic spell, the remaining minutes of the first period were played out without any further chances as the two sides, who began the day in neighbouring positions in the Sky Bet League 2 table, went in for the break on level terms.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CITY 1-1 BARNET
City came agonisingly close to re-taking the lead four minutes after the restart as after James Pearson was adjudged to have handled the ball on the edge of the Barnet area. Stockley’s curling effort from the resultant set-piece rattled the upright with the keeper left stranded. Four minutes later Jordan Moore-Taylor’s speculative effort sailed over the crossbar and into the vocal contingent of City fans in the Big Bank.
The Grecians’ good work was almost undone in the fifty-fifth minute as Akinde’s powerful drive from the edge of the area only narrowly cleared Olejnik’s right-hand post. It was Holmes to the rescue six minutes later as the City winger got back to make a vital tackle on substitute Fumnaya Shomotun after the attacking-midfielder had been sent through on goal by Akinde.
Two potentially game-defining moments passed during the mid-way point of the second-half as the scores still remained level. In the sixty-fourth minute the away side were awarded a penalty after Moore-Taylor felled Akinde in the area. After dusting himself down it was Akinde who stepped up to take the spot-kick in front of the away supporters, but the Bees’ top-scorer fired his penalty straight down the throat of Olejnik who stayed put to gather easily. Immediately after, Harley was presented with a fantastic opportunity to fire City into the lead but couldn’t keep his effort low enough to hit the target from close range.
Akinde’s miss from twelve yards out sparked the second half into life as the Grecians chased a second goal. Chances for Watkins and Wheeler were spurned, before substitute Jake Taylor’s attempts to emulate his immediate impact at Meadow Lane fell short as his ambitious shot on the bounce flew over the crossbar. Taylor was at it again in the seventy-ninth minute, this time heading narrowly wide after connecting well with Stockley’s cross from the left-hand side.
Neither side looked happy with a point as the game entered its closing stages. Stockley came close again in the eighty-second minute as he saw his inventive effort on the half-volley fly marginally over the crossbar. Another long-range effort from Harley followed Stockley’s attempt, with Stephens doing well to deny the midfielder a fifth goal of the campaign. The Grecians thought they had good grounds for a penalty of their own in the ninetieth minute, but referee Trevor Kettle waved away the Big Bank’s appeals for handball.
Three minutes of stoppage-time followed, but it wasn’t enough time for either side to find a winner as an entertaining encounter ended on level terms.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 1-1 BARNET
Attendance: 4,389 (228 away)
Man of the Match: Jayden Stockley