Exeter City ended 2022 at St James Park with an entertaining, yet goalless draw against Portsmouth.
Both sides had plenty of chances in the game, with City stopper Jamal Blackman putting in a deserved man-of-the-match performance to earn his first clean sheet in nine matches.
Following City’s loss to Bolton last time out, Gary Caldwell made three changes to the starting XI. Pierce Sweeney, Matt Jay and Jack Sparkes come in to replace Jonathan Grounds, Kegs Chauke and Josh Key, with the latter two missing out due to illness that has wreaked havoc at the Cliff Hill Training Ground this week.
A relatively slow opening ten minutes to the game at SJP saw very little chances for either side. However, the first chance fell to Harry Kite with the midfielder striking the ball from 25 yards with his effort stinging the hands of Josh Griffiths. The clearance from the keeper's save fell again to Kite, but this time his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
With 17 minutes played, a very bizarre piece of play occurred. After spilling the ball at the first attempt Jamal Blackman was able to smother the ball. However, in all of the commotion Blackman threw the ball straight to a Pompey player but they were unable to capitalise and hit the post with an open goal beckoning.
Not long after that scary piece of play, Blackman made himself the hero, with a spectacular one handed save down to his far right, keeping the score 0-0.
With the first half reaching its depths, Archie Collins made one of the tackles of the season sliding across the penalty area and taking the ball right off the toes of Pompey’s Ryan Tunnicliffe sending the ball behind for a corner.
Straight from the second half kick-off, City were on the attack immediately with Kite having the first chance of the half, but he struck the ball too well, with the ball just missing the goal.
The chances were coming non-stop in the second half from almost everyone on the pitch, with the 60thminute approaching it was the magic man Jevani Brown who ran the defence ragged and placed a ball across the box, but no one was able to connect to the cross.
From that, Portsmouth immediately went on the attack with Rocco Hackett-Fairchild hitting the ball from a good 20 yards but Blackman was able to get down and send the ball away at full reach.
With Stansfield on a yellow card, Gary saw it fit to take the youngster off and replaced him with Sam Nombe, for a straight swap in the attacking third. With the ball firmly in the City attacking third, the chances were not faltering, and this time it was Alex Hartridge who had a pop at the goal, but his effort was unable to trouble Pompey.
Now that the game was approaching its end, Gary made his second change of the game, another like for like change, this time it was Tim Dieng on for Matt Jay. With the game now in added time, Pompey found themselves on the counterattack and with them bearing down on the penalty area, Collins took it upon himself to take out two players, resulting in another yellow card.
The sides had to settle for a point apiece, with City perhaps the more pleased with the result.
The next game for City, is a short trip north up the M5 to take on fellow promoted side Bristol Rovers on December 29th.
City: Blackman, Caprice, Sweeney, Diabate, Hartridge, Sparkes, Collins, Kite, Jay © (Dieng), Brown, Stansfield (Nombe)
Subs not used: Lee, Harper, Grounds, Beardmore, James
Portsmouth: Griffiths, Hume (Koroma), Robertson ©, Pack, Tunnicliffe, Bishop, Pigott, Dale, Hackett-Fairchild, Raggett, Morrison
Subs not used: Oluwayemi, Swanson, Ogilvie, Curtis, Morrell, Jacobs
Referee: Alan Young
Attendance: 7779 (1143 away)