Exeter City gave away a two goal advantage in the Emirates FA Cup at home to Hartlepool United.
The Grecians had been leading the match 2-0, thanks to goals from Ryan Bowman and Nigel Atangana but a wonder goal from Nicky Featherstone and then a calamatous second cost City the win.
Manager Matt Taylor made just the one change from the side that won at Crawley Town last Saturday, with Ben Seymour replacing Lee Martin in the attacking third.
The visitors had the first clear-cut chance as Gime Toure broke through beyond the City defence, but his effort at goal under pressure from Aaron Martin lacked quality and went wide of Jonny Maxted’s goal.
The Grecians responded, and Jack Sparkes combined with Nicky Law after 13 minutes to craft the first opportunity for the home side with the latter in a position to cross, but Hartlepool cleared from Law’s low ball into the six-yard box.
The Grecians were not to be denied, however, and opened the scoring with 21 minutes on the clock – Randell Williams and Ben Seymour combined to create space for Nigel Atangana to cross, and the Frecnhman’s delivery was inch-perfect for Ryan Bowman to head home from close range.
Atangana would be on hand to double the Grecians’ lead just before the half-hour mark as well following a corner from Williams – Dean Moxey met it at the back post to produce a superb save from Killip, but the Hartlepool goalkeeper could only watch as Atangana lost his man and latched onto the loose ball to poke home and score his first goal for the club in front of the Big Bank.
City were put under pressure as the half drew to a close, but resolutely defended two dangerous set-pieces from wide positions to go into half-time with a clear two-goal lead.
The Grecians were made to work hard to defend their advantage, and a succession of excellent blocks from the Grecian backline were necessary to prevent the visitors from gaining a foothold in the game on the hour mark. The reliable back three of Pierce Sweeney, Aaron Martin and Dean Moxey all played their part in preserving the two-goal lead.
City nearly added to their lead at the other end as Archie Collins hit Hartlepool on the counter, finding Bowman, but the striker was denied a second of the game after a good save from Killip, who palmed the ball directly at Ben Seymour – fortunately for the visitors, the Exeter man knew nothing about it and couldn’t direct the ball goalwards.
A spectacular triple save from Killip somehow denied City a third – Williams, Jake Taylor and Lee Martin all saw efforts blocked – before Hartlepool broke and Nicky Featherstone found the top corner from 25 yards out to bring the visitors back into the game just seconds after City should have killed it off.
Killip was called into action on 78 minutes as Williams’ cross-cum-shot looked to be curling into the top corner, before Hartlepool again broke and this time equalised – substitute Kabamba tapping home from close range to bring the visitors on level terms.
Randell Williams’ acrobatic overhead kick nearly saw City retake the lead as the game entered its final stages. Jake Taylor was the next Exeter player to go close – his effort from the edge of the box hitting the post and going wide – as City pushed for a winner. They ultimately couldn’t find a way through, however, and will head to Hartlepool later this month for the replay.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Atangana, A Martin, Law (Taylor 68), Williams, Bowman, Moxey ©, Sparkes, Collins, Seymour (L Martin 69). Subs not used: Visser, Parkes, Jay, Fisher, J Richardson.
Booked: Sparkes, A Martin
Hartlepool United: Killip, Kitching, Raynes (Cunningham 72), Kerr, Donaldson ©, Featherstone, Hawkes, Mafuta (Kabamba 72), K Richardson, Toure, James. Subs not used: Muir, Holohan, Crichlow-Noble, Kennedy, Grey.
Attendance: 3,683 (133 away)