A stoppage time equaliser prevented the Grecians from a comeback win against Bristol Rovers in front of a sell-out crowd at St James Park.
After a not so entertaining first half, an enthralling second half resulted in four goals, two for either team. With the goals for City coming courtesy of Jevani Brown and Sam Nombe.
Following on from City’s huge 4-0 win over fellow promoted side Forest Green in their last game, Matt Taylor made no changes to the starting XI, with the only change in the squad seeing academy graduate Harrison King drop out of the squad due to illness, resulting in their being only six players on the bench
An exciting opening three minutes saw both sets of fans making themselves heard, with the noise deafening inside SJP. From the first set piece of the game Alex Hartridge and Jake Caprice both found themselves free at the back post but a lack of communication saw the ball cleared away for a Rovers counter attack. But that counter attack was quickly stemmed by wing back turned centre back Josh Key.
With 15 minutes played, referee Declan Bourne brandished his first card of the game, a lovely bit of pressure from Jack Sparkes led to a change of possession, as Sparkes was trying to get away, Rovers Antony Evans kicked out resulting in a free kick to City.
Only moments later, and the first chance of the game came for Rovers, pressure on the City back line resulted in a scuffed clearance, but with Rovers baring down on goal an excellent bit of pressure from Rekeem Harper led to the ball sailing wide of the post.
After 30 minutes played the game was still a stalemate, but the game was being played at fast speed with both teams wanting to play quick football, but City were very much the team on top with more chances falling to the City attack than there was for the Rovers equivalent.
The 33rd minute saw another a yellow shown by the referee, again to a Rovers player, this time for a ball being kicked away. Only moments later and a City player followed him into the book, Josh Key the culprit this time, committing a tactical foul on the half way line.
A heart in mouths moment for the home fans as the ball was given away by captain Sweeney on the 18 yard line, but his mistake lasted a matter of seconds as he composed himself to make a block from a Rovers shot, allowing the save to be much more tame for Blackman.
After a 15 minute break at half time, both teams came out completely unchanged with neither manager making a change at the break.
The first chance of the second half came to City, right in front of the Big Bank, a beautiful bit of play from Jevani Brown found Jay Stansfield on the right hand side of the penalty area, but with the goal right in front of him he unselfishly played the ball across the area but Rovers cleared for a corner.
Seconds later and another chance fell to City once again with wing back Sparkes having an effort from 25 yards deflected behind for another corner, with all of these chances you couldn’t hear yourself think due to the noise coming from SJP.
After a frantic opening five minutes from both sides, it was Rovers who broke the deadlock, after a mishap at the back from City a cross found Rovers John Marquis at the back spot, who cooly slotted the ball past Blackman in The Grecians net.
With 70 minutes played, referee Declan Bourne awarded a penalty after Sparkes was bundled over in the penalty area. With only one man for the job, up stepped last weeks hat-trick hero Brown who cooly slotted the penalty away past the diving Belshaw. With said penalty Brown equalled his tally of 8 for last season, what a season so far for the magic man.
Minutes later, the referee went to his pocket once again, this time a very dubious call led to captain Sweeney being awarded a yellow for a high foot, the home fans making it very clear they were not happy with that decision.
12 minutes after City’s opening goal of the game, they made it 2-1 with fellow frontman Nombe joining Brown in the goal scoring action. After Rovers keeper Belshaw came flying out of his area he mistimed a header, thankfully Nombe was on hand to walk the ball into the back of the net.
The final 10 minutes of the game saw City very much in control, but the slightest lapse of concentration saw Ryan Loft in loads of space, with him able to head the ball past Blackman, making the game 2-2 with only minutes left to be played.
The next game for City is a Papa Johns home fixture against Southampton Under 21s on Tuesday 4 October.
City: Blackman, Caprice, Key, Sweeney (C), Hartridge, Sparkes, Harper, Collins, Brown, Stansfield (Smith), Nombe
Subs not used: S. Brown, Jay, Chauke, Cox, Borges
Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Gordon, Finley, Marquis, Collins, Rossiter, Loft, Evans, McCormick, Hoole, Thomas
Subs not used: Jaakkola, Kilgour, Jasper, Coutts, Clarke, Saunders, Whelan
Referee: Declan Bourne
Attendance: 7816 (1232 away)