Exeter City had the better of the game at St James Park but ultimately couldn’t force a way through a resolute Cheltenham Town defence as the game ended goalless on Saturday afternoon.
Grecians’ boss Matt Taylor made two changes to the side that started in the FA Cup match last weekend in Cambridge, as Craig Woodman and Tom Parkes were replaced by Dean Moxey, who captained the side, and Jack Sparkes.
It was a tight opening period to the game, interspersed with moments of real quality – Alex Fisher’s close control to beat two Cheltenham players perhaps the most impressive – but one devoid of any real chances; though City won several corners, they were defended strongly by the visitors.
Ryan Bowman had the first real opportunity of the game after 19 minutes, as Fisher’s strength allowed the ball to flow forwards, but the eventual shot on the half-volley rolled narrowly wide of Scott Flinders’ right-hand post.
Jack Sparkes’ cross-cum-shot three minutes later stung the palms of the Cheltenham goalkeeper, but ultimately to no avail for City who couldn’t pounce on the loose ball. Jonny Maxted was then called into action for the first time, smothering Chris Hussey’s cross just as Gavin Reilly looked to shoot.
City then had a great chance to go ahead as Randell Williams stole the ball deep down the Cheltenham left-hand side, but his early pass looking for Fisher was cut out by Flinders and the visitors were let off the hook.
The visitors’ goalkeeper was called into action again towards the end of the half, as Jack Sparkes’ driven cross was met by Pierce Sweeney on 42 minutes, but Flinders did well to hold on as the ball was diverted goalwards.
After half-time, City threatened again through Williams – his run following a short corner produced a save out of Flinders, who tipped the ball narrowly over his own bar.
Aaron Martin was required to produce a sublime last-ditch tackle on the hour mark to prevent the visitors from opening the scoring as Cheltenham forayed into the City half with more confidence than they had in the first period, but the Grecians defended valiantly and kept the Robins at bay.
Lee Martin then went down under pressure from the Cheltenham defence as a loose clearance from Hussey wreaked havoc amongst the visitors’ back line, but the referee waved away the Grecians’ appeals for a penalty as the game entered its closing stages.
Bowman then had another half-chance inside the area, but couldn’t get the ball under control as it squirmed away from his control and Cheltenham held on.
With 77 minutes on the clock, Randell Williams cut inside from the left flank and let fly, though his fiercely hit shot flew wide of the far post. There was a late scare for City as the ball broke for Conor Thomas on the edge of the box with just two minutes left, but his mishit effort was wayward and no trouble for Jonny Maxted.
The stalemate sees City stay above Cheltenham in the League Two table by a single point ahead of their return to FA Cup action on Tuesday night.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Atangana (Tillson 79), A Martin, Williams, Bowman, Jay (Woodman 87), Fisher (L Martin 63), Moxey ©, Sparkes, Collins. Subs not used: Visser, Richardson, Woodman, Hartridge, Seymour
Booked: Jay, L Martin
Cheltenham Town: Flinders, Long, Hussey, Tozer ©, Raglan, Thomas, Broom, Reilly (Addai 83), Doyle-Hayes, Greaves, Varney. Subs not used: Lovett, Clements, Reid, Sheaf, Ince, Smith.
Booked: Varney, Tozer.
Attendance: 4,956 (208 away)
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