Ahead of Exeter City’s trip to the Bank’s Stadium, we take you back to the not so distant past.
The extreme ups and downs of the 2019/20 season will be remembered for some time, including the wonderful home form City had amassed over the course of the season. In December 2019, Walsall looked almost certain to break the St James Park fortress in the opening 31 minutes, before a Grecians siege spearheaded by Ryan Bowman saved a point and moved Exeter within three points of top spot.
Exeter City 3-3 Walsall | St James Park | December 22, 2019
Exeter were unbeaten in 4 going into the festive season. Matt Taylor’s men were coming into the Walsall fixture off the back of impressive wins over Salford and Northampton. In contrast, The Saddlers were meandering about in mid-table but had found a somewhat purple patch for themselves, not losing since early November.
Dean Moxey captained the side on his 300th appearance in Red and White some 16 years after his first, when he came on as a sub in a 2-1 away win to Accrington Stanley in the Conference. A brilliant milestone for one of Exeter City’s true icons.
To the game and it was Darrell Clarke’s side that, as understatements go, came out of the traps quickest.
On 13 minutes, Cameron Pring retrieved a loose ball and looped a cross to the back post. Dan Scott fizzed a shot back across goal where the unfortunate Pierce Sweeney couldn’t sort his feet and the ball ricocheted into his own net.
The torrential weather played its part for goal number two on 18 minutes. Aaron Martin’s crucial slip allowed Caolan Lavery to steal in, and a place a right footed shot beyond Maxted, for the Northern Irishman’s second goal of the season.
The visitors looked out of sight shortly after the half hour mark. Wes McDonald found room on the left wing and delivered a ball that was well met by Gordon at the far post.
City had to get a foothold and respond immediately.
That they did through Ryan Bowman. Archie Collins’ cross following a short corner found Tom Parkes’ head which flicked the post but was smartly followed up by the City Number 12.
Four minutes before the break City had another. Great build-up play found Randell Williams on the edge of the box, whose inch-perfect pass was on a plate for Bowman. The striker had acres of space in the Walsall box to fire Exeter to within one.
After the break Guthrie forced Maxted into a smart stop and Randell William’s went close with an in-swinging free kick, but it was the tricky winger who helped create the equalizer on 64 minutes.
Brilliant ball retention by the 22-year-old on the right flank found Nicky Law in the penalty area. He played the ball into Lee Martin’s feet and still with a lot to do, turned his man and scrambled a left footed shot into Roberts’ net to restore parity, in front of a rapturous Big Bank.
City finished the stronger and had two big opportunities to win the points. Williams, the thorn in Walsall’s boots all afternoon, found Bowman on the edge. The striker’s side footed shot was saved superbly by the Walsall keeper. The final chance of the game fell to Williams. Sparkes’ delicious delivery from the left was met by the winger, who couldn’t find the target and both teams had to settle for a point.
A truly topsy-turvy encounter at St James Park and one to match some of the most exciting games at EX4. Matt Taylor was delighted with the point gained after being 3-0 down in 31 minutes, yet some might suggest Exeter could have, and maybe should have, won it.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Martin, Moxey (Parkes 28'), Williams, Atangana, Collins (Taylor 83'), Sparkes, Law, Martin (Seymour 83) Bowman
Unused: Ajose, Jay, Richardson, Arthur
Walsall: Roberts, Facey, Scarr, J Clarke, Pring, Gordon (Gaffney 80'), Kinsella, Guthrie (Bates 72'), Sinclair, McDonald (Sadler 45'), Lavery
Unused: Adebayo, Rose, Roberts, Holden
Ref: David Rock