A stoppage time leveller from Pierce Sweeney secured a hard battled point on the road in a 2-2 draw at Fleetwood Town.
Jack Marriott scored twice either side of Kevin McDonald's third of the season, before the Irishman poinced at the back post in the first minute of eight additional minutes to tie a game which was marred by a worrying injury for Jay Stansfield.
After a strong performance at home to Barnsley in City’s previous fixture, Gary made only the one change to his starting XI with Sam Nombe coming in to replace James Scott, with the only other difference being Kegs Chauke returning from international duty in place of Josh Coley.
City were quick out the blocks and immediately put pressure on the Fleetwood back line, with the Grecians almost taking the lead twice in the opening two minutes. Flying in the back post for the first effort was Josh Key but his effort was excellently saved by Jay Lynch. The next effort on goal came from the opposite side with Demetri Mitchell getting a shot away on goal after a mazy dribble down the left-hand side, but again Lynch matched it.
With the pressure all coming from City, Fleetwood hit on the counterattack, and in the 15th minute had their first shot on goal, but other than Blackman scrambling across the goal, there was no danger of it amounting to a goal and it went away for a goal kick.
Fleetwood’s next attack did however end in a goal for the home side. A lapse in concentration from City’s defence allowed Marriott all the time in the world and he was able to bury the ball in the bottom corner.
The home side were close to making it 2-0 soon after minute but a wonderful save from Blackman from point blank range kept it to a one goal deficit.
It was only minutes later, and City had themselves back into the game, Mitchell played a short corner out to Collins whose effort on goal was going wayward until it was poked back across goal and there in waiting was McDonald to tap it home for close range for this third strike in nine matches.
The lead wasn’t to last too long as Fleetwood made it 2-1 just six minutes later as a well worked piece of play down the left-hand side led to the ball being served on plate for Marriott by Shaun Rooney to get his and Fleetwood’s second of the game.
With the home side sitting pretty a goal up on City, the pressure was upped from the Grecians with both wing backs, Stansfield and Nombe starting to cause lots of trouble as the first half neared its end.
City started the second half with one change in the ranks as Harry Kite was replaced by Joe White in the centre of the park.
A tremendous sliding tackle from Collins as the second half was well underway stopped an almost certain third goal for Fleetwood, not only the challenge, but able to keep the ball and smash it away from danger.
Fleetwood seemed to have scored a third in the 62nd minute, however the linesman adjudged a Marriott to have committed a foul in the box and former City striker Jayden Stockley’s goal was ruled out. A quick free kick was taken, and City were on the attack up against a Fleetwood defence who were still thinking they had scored, however, quick thinking stopped a promising attack.
With a goal very much needed, Gary made his second change of the game bringing on Scott for McDonald. Not long after the second sub, Gary was forced into a third, as Stansfield was through on goal he seemed to stumble after getting his foot trapped in the turf and went down clutching his knee. All four sides of Highbury stood in applause for City's number nine, though there will still be natural concern for the player. After being stretchered off the young loanee from Fulham was replaced by Jack Sparkes, with Mitchell pushing further forward and Sparkes going to his normal left wing back spot.
City were seemingly still coming to terms with the Stansfield injury as they were switching off and giving lots of time and space to the Fleetwood attackers especially Stockley, with the giant of a forward causing lots of problems in and around the City penalty area.
With the clock ticking down and having entered the final ten minutes of normal time, everything was going the way of Fleetwood. If it was not for Sweeney taking a full pelt shot to the abdomen, Fleetwood should have had a third, but the tough tackling Irishman took it like a champ and the ball was cleared away.
Just as it looked like the game was slipping away from City, that man Sweeney who just denied a goal down one end, smashed home an equaliser right in front of the away support sending the travelling Grecians crazy.
The next game for City is a 3pm kick off on Good Friday as City welcome Bolton Wanderers to SJP.
Fleetwood Town: Lynch, Wiredu (Johnston), Vela ©, Stockley, Marriott, Warrington, Holgate, Patterson (Batty), Rooney (Ndaba), Macadam (Hayes), Earl
Subs not used: McMullan, Johnson, Quitirna,
City: Blackman, Key, Sweeney, Aimson ©, Hartridge, Mitchell (Chauke), McDonald (Scott), Kite (White), Collins, Nombe, Stansfield (Sparkes)
Subs not used: Lee, Grounds, Harper,
Referee: Lewis Smith
Attendance: 3,568 (Away 375)