Exeter City picked up a hard-earned point in controversial circumstances against Cheltenham Town.
The Grecians had looked in control of the match early in the second half, having been given a lead at the break through Dean Moxey’s pinpoint strike.
However, Cheltenham were then awarded a dubious penalty for a collision between City keeper Christy Pym and striker Luke Varney to level the scores. And then to make matters worse Pym, having been booked for giving away the penalty, was then shown a second yellow card deep into injury time for pushing Billy Waters as he attempted to stop the keeper from taking a goal kick quickly.
City manager Matt Taylor rang the changes last weekend’s 4-1 defeat to Mansfield Town, with Ryan Bowman, Archie Collins, Troy Brown and Pierce Sweeney coming into the side for Hiram Boateng, Dara O’Shea, Lee Holmes and Donovan Wilson.
The game started at a frantic pace with both teams struggling to keep hold of possession in midfield. However, it was Cheltenham who went close early on as Chris Clements had an effort from the edge of the area before Kevin Dawson, scorer of two early goals when the side met at the Jonny Rocks Stadium early last season, dragging an effort across goal and wide.
City always carried a threat though and when Matt Jay did superbly well to spring the offside trap he was slightly unfortunate to see his shot from inside the box whistle past the post.
Then just past the half-hour mark Ryan Broom had a shot blocked from inside the box, by Troy Brown, before Waters reacted to the rebound to bring out a comfortable save from Pym.
Moments later Ryan Bowman looped a header onto the roof of the net, from a Kane Wilson cross before the Grecians took the lead on 35 minutes.
The goal came from a corner, that was half cleared, and Craig Woodman found Moxey with a neat ball to the edge of the box and he worked the ball onto his left foot before arrowing a shot into the bottom corner through a crowd of players.
However, the match was only eight minutes into the second half when the home side were given a controversial way back into the match as Pym came and punched clear under challenge from Luke Varney.
The City keeper’s follow through saw him collide with the Cheltenham Town striker, who left on a stretcher but, to the bewilderment of the defenders, referee Brett Huxtable pointed to the penalty spot to allow Connor Thomas the chance to fire into the top corner to level the scores.
After that, it was the home side who made most of the running as Pym, who was booked for giving away the penalty, tipped a Kevin Dawson shot over the crossbar before making a superb double save to deny substitute Rakish Bingham.
Nicky Law also had a shot blocked for City before Bowman’s angled drive was well saved by Scott Flinders with six minutes of normal time left.
Then Bingham and Dawson both headed good chances wide before the game went into nine minutes of stoppage time where referee Huxtable took centre stage once more.
Having not allowed City to make their final substitution, bringing on Lee Martin, the ball went out for a goal kick with seconds left on the clock.
Waters attempted to hold up play by keeping the ball from Pym and received a push in the back from the City shot stopper. Huxtable showed Pym his second yellow card. That meant James Hamon came off the bench instead, and had to make one final save of the match before the referee blew his whistle for full-time.
Cheltenham Town: Flinders, Hussey, Tozer, Boyle, Raglan, Broom (Long, 86), Dawson, Thomas, Clements (Maddox, 58), Waters, Varney (Bingham, 58) Subs not used: Lovett, Lloyd, Forster, Pring.
Exeter City: Pym (Hamon, 90+8), Sweeney, Woodman (Boateng, 82), Law, Bowman, Jay (D Wilson, 66), Wilson, Moxey, Taylor, Collins, Brown. Subs not used: O’Shea, L Martin, Holmes, Williams.
Attendance: 4,709 (1,102, away)