Town 0-0 Exeter City
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town needed a win to keep them in touch with the play-off positions but their hard work, particularly in the second half, was unable to break Exeter City’s defence and they finished with their eighth home draw of the season against one of the league’s form teams on the road.
Town came in to the match on the back of just one point from twelve and in danger of coming adrift from the play-off positions. Graham Alexander made two changes from last week’s defeat at Wycombe. Nathan Pond celebrated a two-year extension to his contract with a return in defence for the first time in seven games. Ryan Crowther replaced Steven Gillespie in a starting line-up which featured just one striker, Jon Parkin, but plenty of attacking potential from midfield to support him.
Neither side dominated the early stages but Town came forward with purpose. Parkin struck a free kick over Artur Krysiak’s crossbar in the 5th
minute and tested the goalkeeper three minutes later from a tight angle after Junior Brown had risen high at the end of a Gareth Evans cross. Exeter’s 20 goal striker, Jamie Cureton, saw little of the ball as Town continued to press but suddenly received a gilt-edged opportunity on the quarter hour. The ball from the left beat Town’s defence, leaving the striker free in a central position to place a shot on target which skipper Scott Davies saved well to his right. The Grecians, with eleven away wins this season, came into the game more, passing the ball more fluently and spending time in the final third.
Town came back with Evans, Parkin and Crowther putting the defence under pressure after 21 minutes, Crowther ending the move by firing high. Evans nearly squeezed a left-foot shot past Krysiak in the 27th
minute, the keeper saving to his left. Two minutes Arron Davies fired narrowly wide of Davies’s left post. Jimmy Keohane was catching the eye in midfield for Exeter and in the 36th
minute he provided for Cureton whose attempt curled narrowly over the crossbar. Soon after, Pond caught Keohane’s eye, the midfielder felled in a clash of heads.
Town’s midfield pushed forward at every opportunity but found the Grecians defence resolute. The first action of the second half saw John O’Flynn replace Kevin Amankwaah for Exeter. Pond committed himself forward in the 47th
minute, Davies racing through but Exeter were caught offside. Two minutes later the defender missed a header and O’Flynn had an early opportunity to test Davies who saved to his left.
Town had a chance in the 51st
minute. Parkin started the move with a nutmeg and was on the end of a Beeley cross, his header at the back post bouncing into Krysiak’s hands. Dean Howell pulled up in front of the Highbury Stand soon after and was replaced by Conor McLaughlin. Parkin fed Beeley with a beautifully-weighted ball, the full-back running on before delivering a cross just too high for Evans. The former Rotherham player was a busy contributor in a good spell for the home side who dominated possession. McLaughlin showed some assured touches in his less-familiar role at left back and Alexander’s men worked hard to get the breakthrough. Paul McKenna, prompting and cajoling thoughout, chipped a ball on to Parkin’s head in the 72nd
minute, the attempt just wide of the right post.
The only threat from Exeter, the league’s highest scorers away from home, came from occasional errors by Town’s defence. Jamille Matt returned to action for the first time in four games, coming on for Parkin in the 76th
minute. Town kept pushing forward with Evans landing a cross on to the roof of the net. The impressive McKenna made way for Barry Nicholson with seven minutes left and the Cod Army in the 2097 crowd willed their side on. Town forced successive corners in front of the Memorial Stand. From the second, Barry made ground from the short corner before firing a ball which was too quick for Evans to react, the ball rebounding clear off the midfielder’s head as he stood on the line. Matt became the game’s first booking with two minutes to go.
There was a late flurry from the Grecians with three corners and a free kick on the edge of the area. Davies was heroic once again, saving at point-blank range from O’Flynn, before skipper Danny Coles put his head in his hands as his shot went high.
TEAM: Davies, Beeley, Pond, Goodall, Howell (McLaughlin 55), Brown, Evans, Barry, McKenna (Nicholson 83), Crowther, Parkin (Matt 76)