Exeter City out of the Checkatrade Trophy following draw with Swindon Town
An attacking second-half performance from Exeter City was not enough to save them from exiting the Checkatrade Trophy following a 1-1 draw with Swindon Town.
A draw, and a win on penalties, would have been enough to see the Grecians through to the knockout stages.
However, a late goal for Oxford United at Stamford Bridge, against Cheslea under-21s, coupled with a defeat for Paul Tisdale’s side on penalties to Swindon meant they finished third in the group as the two League One teams progressed to the last 32 of the competition.
City made six changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s loss to Luton Town as James Hamon, Matt Oakley, Lloyd James, Ollie Watkins, Liam McAlinden and Joel Grant came into the side for Bobby Olejnik, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Lee Holmes, Jake Taylor, Ethan Ampadu and Jack Stacey.
The Grecians lined-up in a 4-4-2 formation with Robbie Simpson playing in unfamiliar centre-back role alongside Matt Oakley.
Former Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso had the first effort on goal, but shot narrowly wide of the goal for Swindon.
However, after that moment, it was City who had the better first half chances.
Lloyd James tested Will Henry with a low drive from a free-kick and then the Swindon Town keeper was in the right place to save the follow up effort from Reuben Reid.
David Wheeler then had a shot blocked, following good link-up play with Pierce Sweeney, before Robbie Simpson was hauled down in the area by Tom Smith as he tried to get on the end of a Liam McAlinden corner. It was a good shout for a penalty and the striker was left infuriated as referee Brett Huxtable shook his head and pointed for a goal kick.
It is not the first time this season that decisions haven’t gone City’s way and the home side were left cursing their luck even more when Johnny Goddard corner was headed goalwards by Luke Norris.
Keeper James Hamon and Craig Woodman attempted to stop the ball from crossing the goalline, but then referee’s assistant raised his flag for a goal and Swindon Town were a in front against the run of play.
However, lifted by the news that Oxford United were losing at Chelsea, Reid raced onto a through ball and forced another good save out of Henry.
Then Watkins had a shot saved in the closing stages of the half and David Wheeler and Joel Grant both had follow-up efforts from the edge of the six-yard box blocked as Swindon Town scrambled the ball clear.
City began the second half on the front foot, pressing high up the pitch and forcing the visitors into plenty of mistakes.
That gave Paul Tisdale’s side their best chance of the match to that point as Reid forced Henry into a hurried clearance that fell straight at the feet of Lloyd James but he could only hit a shot off the inside of the post.
However, City were level on 61 minutes as substitute Matt Jay cut in from the left and hit a great looping shot onto the crossbar that fell kindly for Wheeler in the area and he put home the rebound.
Simpson, playing in a striking role during the second half, then tested Henry with another low drive as the Grecians went in search of a winning goal that would guarantee them qualification for the knockout stages.
Watkins was next to go close as he sent a header from a Sweeney cross inches past the upright. Two of City’s substitutes then combined as Lee Holmes crossed for Jake Taylor to send a header arrowing towards the bottom corner, but Henry turned the effort around the post.
News then came in from Stamford Bridge that Oxford United had scored an injury-time equaliser. That meant the Grecians needed to find a winner in the final five minutes of the match or face elimination from the competition.
They were not helped as Swindon’s keeper went down with cramp, forcing a lengthy stoppage to play, but Jay, who was a constant thorn in Swindon’s side since coming on, then combined with Joel Grant to set up Taylor.
However, his header was saved superbly by the fit again Henry.
Jay then had the final chance, but his shot from inside the area was blocked by his own player on the edge of the six-yard box forcing the match into a penalty shootout.
The spot kicks were ultimately meaningless in terms of qualification from the group as Swindon and Oxford had already qualified based on the scores after 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge and St James Park.
However, Swindon scored all their penalties while misses for Lee Holmes and Lloyd James saw the Grecians miss out on the extra point.
Exeter City (4-4-2):Hamon; Sweeney, Oakley, Simpson, Woodman; Wheeler (Taylor, 66), James, Watkins, Grant; Reid (Jay, 58), McAlinden (Holmes, 77). Subs not used: Olejnik, Riley-Lowe, Byrne, Storey.
Swindon Town (4-4-2): Henry; Barry, Jones, Rossi-Branco, Brophy; Rodgers (Doughty, 45), Iandolo (Evans, 56), Smith (Kasim, 68), Goddard; Norris, Delfouneso. Subs not used: Vigouroux, Ormonde-Ottewill, Furlong, Young.
Booked: Smith, Jones
Attendance: 729 (143, away).