Exeter City gained a point on the road at the hands of top-of-the-league Forest Green Rovers on an entertaining evening at the Fully Charged New Lawn.
The Grecians were the better of the two sides for most of the 90- with Josh Key, Tim Dieng and Matt Jay coming closest to breaking the deadlock on a cold night in Gloucestershire.
The 833-strong away support were treated to a valiant performance which had everything but a winning goal.
The defence were rarely threatened by the team who went into the day seven points clear at the top of the League Two table
Matt Taylor made two changes to the side with Matt Jay and Jonathan Grounds returning to the side against the league leaders. Harry Kite started on the right of a back three.
City tested the firm Forest Green defence in the opening four minutes. Jevani Brown showed great wit to get to the by-line but his cut back was put out for the first corner of the evening.
The Grecians took it short and Brown delivered a cross from a better angle, narrowly going over the bar.
Josh Key had a great chance on nine minutes. Brown again creating a bit of magic to backheel it into the path of Matt Jay. The captain strode toward the edge of the box and his shot was deflected to Key lurking. One touch and shot but inches wide of Luke McGee’s post.
MJ went for goal moments later but dragged his left footed effort wayward as City were dominating with an aggressive press. Podge Amond was close to the receiving end of an Archie Collins cross as City on the quarter-hour mark.
Against the run of play the table toppers came closest to opening the scoring. Nicky Cadden retrieved a loose Kite header and flashed one across the box. Any contact from Jamille Matt at the far post and City would have been behind.
Jevani Brown next tested McGee’s concentration levels, letting fly from the edge of the box only into the keeper’s mid rift.
Matt got on the end of a high FGR free kick but only worried the advertising hoardings on the top of the stand.
Matt Jay found himself with a great chance to open the scoring on 26 minutes. Brown’s first ball was blocked by the referee but as Brown had another chance to play through the ref played on. Jev fed his skipper and Jay was denied by a smart stop from the Rovers goalie.
Cadden stung the hands of Cam Dawson on the half hour mark. Former Grecian Kane Wilson showed a nice piece of skill to find his teammate, but the right footed shot was pushed wide by Dawson.
Amond almost headed the visitors in front five minutes before the break. Jake Caprice kept a loose ball alive on the left flank and delivered into the box. The Irishman peeled away, leapt high and headed into McGee’s thankful arms.
Desperate to fins a first half goal, the blues pushed on. Amond span in behind the Rovers defence and pulled a dangerous ball across the box. Only for some miraculous defending from Dom Bernard were Exeter not ahead.
On the stroke of half time City couldn’t have come closer to breaking the deadlock. Another short corner worked its way to Josh Key. Key shimmed into half a yard of space and curled an effort mere millimetres the wrong side of the upright.
The home side went close from a free kick just after the break. Cadden whipping one right of Dawson’s post.
Archie Collins tested the FGR keepers gloves with a free-kick of his own. From an acute angle the number 8 sent one fizzing underneath the crossbar but McGee was alert to deal with the danger.
The short corners were providing everything but a goal for City. Tim Dieng the latest to skim the crossbar with a header.
On 66 minutes, Matt Jay again went for goal. Ben Seymour recycled the ball expertly in midfield and played his captain in wide. A chop on to the right foot and drive was on the mind of the City number 7, but the connection was not clean.
City needed a little bit of luck. Tim Dieng’s deflected effort from range could have gone anywhere on 70 minutes. Fortunately for Rovers it was the gloves of the goalie.
Exeter couldn’t get closer if they tried on 79 mins. Dieng yet again denied by the feet of the Rovers keeper. It squirmed, it spun, but it just would not nestle in.
City pushed and probed but alas no goal but a real performance to be proud of.
Forest Green Rovers: McGee, Wilson, Bernard, Cargill, Stevenson, Aitchinson (Stevens 58’), Cadden, Matt ©, Moore-Taylor, Diallo (Sweeney 80’), March
Subs: Thomas, Sweeney, Stevens, Edwards, Young, Hendry Goodwin-Maliffe
Exeter City: Dawson, Key, Grounds (Stubbs 78’), Diabate, Kite, Caprice, Collins, Dieng (Taylor 90’), J. Brown, Jay, Amond (Seymour 64’)
Subs: S. Brown, Stubbs, Seymour, Taylor, Daniel, Dyer, Edwards
Referee: Benjamin Speedy
Attendance: 2631 (833 away)