5,605 fans returned to St James Park to see Exeter City open the season with an entertaining 0-0 draw with a battling Bradford City.
Cameron Dawson marked his debut with a series of sensational saves to deny the ever-dangerous Lee Angol and earn a deserved Man of the Match.
Timothee Dieng, Jack Sparkes and Matt Jay tested Richard O’Donnell in the away side’s goal and Nigel Atangana went closest for the Grecians late on, but neither side could quite find the finishing touch.
After a moment’s applause for legendary Manager Terry Cooper and Life-long City fan and East-Devon Grecian John Lee, the 2021/22 season kicked off.
The visitors had the first sniff of goal. Lee Angol sprung the Grecians high line and teased a ball across the face of the Exeter box, though there was no one in in blue to prod home.
Jack Sparkes sliced way wide from distance soon after before almost turning provider. A looped ball from the Number 3 fell awkwardly for new club captain Matt Jay to blaze over.
Tim Dieng found himself in the book after twenty minutes. The debutant halted Angol baring down on goal. From the free kick, Bantam’s skipper Niall Canavan headed the ball down just to find Pierce Sweeney lurking on the line to head clear.
Midway through the first half, Cameron Dawson announced himself to the Exeter City faithful with the most outrageous double save.
Callum Cooke feinted on the edge of the Grecians’ box. His left foot effort was stopped by Dawson’s left paw and Agol looked destined to net in the rebound, just for the Sheffield Wednesday loanee to scramble across and tip over.
Angol nearly got through on goal on 35 mins only for Sweeney to deny the striker’s final touch with a wonderful sliding block.
With seconds to go in the half, Sparkes fizzed the Bradford ‘keeper’s gloves before Nombe fired high.
In the opening exchanges of the second half Callum Cooke hooked a free kick into the crowd as the Bantam’s looked to set the tone for the next 45 minutes.
Though Exeter responded with Timothee Dieng forcing the opposition shot stopper down to his left for a comfortable save.
Bradford piled on the pressure. Half time substitute Charles Vernham first coming close, but the visitors were only limited to pot shots from range.
Dieng once again was thrusted in the heart of the action. The ball fell kindly for the debutant whose 30-yard drive stung the hands of O’Donnell.
With 20 minutes left, Sparkes again troubled the Bradford back line with a powerful strike the Bradford keeper kept out, but from the counter- attack the Yorkshire side looked sure to break the deadlock, had it not been for a poor first touch from Striker Angol.
Dawson soon reacted well to rush down Alex Gillead’s close range chance before the Grecians had a glorious chance to snatch the points.
With seconds of normal time to go, a seemingly tame corner from MJ bounced right across the Bantam’s six-yard box. Nigel Atangana only had to connect with a toenail but somehow the chance evaded him.
A League Cup encounter with Wycombe follows on Tuesday evening before the league trip to the capital and Leyton Orient on Saturday.
Exeter City: Dawson, Sparkes, Atangana, Ray, Jay ©, Nombe, Key, Dieng (Kite 75’), Brown (Seymour 79’), Sweeney, Grounds
Subs: Lee, Caprice, Rowe, Dyer, Dodd
Bradford City: O’Donnell, Threlkeld (Vernham 46’), Ridehald, O’Connor, Canavan ©, Cooke, Cook, Gillead (Crankshaw 79’), Watt, Angol, Sutton
Subs: Hornby, Eisa, Foulds, Kelleher, Evans.
Referee: Sam Allison