Will Cafferky was at St. James Park to see Exeter City draw against Morecambe in acrimonious circumstances.
Referee Andy D’Urso took centre stage as Exeter saw a chance of victory cruelly snatched away from them in the 90th minute, extending their run of eight successive home games without victory with a 1-1 draw against Morecambe at St. James Park.
On the back of a morale boosting 3-2 win at promotion-chasing Southend, The Grecians were up against fellow mid-table side Morecambe, who hadn’t managed a win in their previous eight matches, both home and away.
Exeter manager Paul Tisdale gave a home debut to 18 year-old goalkeeper Christy Pym, whilst forward Elliot Richards was given his first game after joining on loan from Bristol Rovers earlier this month.
It was the youthful ambition of Exeter’s creative players that sparked a dream start for the Grecians, their one and only goal coming in the second minute as Richards teed up Nichols inside the box, who steadied himself and finished low to the keeper’s left.
As the tempo of the game settled following the goal, it was another of Exeter’s promising youth players who began to stamp his authority on the game. Matt Grimes at times looked on a different level to those around him, often collecting the ball from deep and driving forward looking for a killer pass.
Nonetheless, Exeter often found themselves outnumbered up front, especially in the box, where Morecambe’s captain Mark Hughes proved aerially dominant.
Whilst Exeter’s youthful midfield looked relatively composed on the ball, it was the experienced back line that faced the greatest degree of difficulty in the first half. Morecambe consistently attacked down the left hand side, in many cases, opting to test the nerve of home debutant Pym with long throws.
Nonetheless, Exeter held on to their lead with relative comfort in the first half, and started the second positively. Several strong tackles from Danny Butterfield on the imposing frame of Morecambe’s Jack Sampson suggested that Exeter had shaken off the initial defensive jitters of the first half.
Nonetheless, Morecambe equalised on the 53rd minute against the run of play, as Andrew Fleming’s through ball cut through the Exeter back line, allowing Padraig Amond to muscle off his marker and finish low into the far corner of Pym’s goal.
Exeter came back in a similar vein to the first half, working the ball well on the edge of the box, with Tom Nichols, Grimes and Eliot Richards exchanging some neat passes, but ultimately failing to deliver the final pass to open up the defence.
A chance did come from an unlikely source however, as Pym spotted the run of Nichols magnificently from a goal kick, who burst through and lashed the shot with his weaker left foot into the side netting.
Morecambe had a chance to seize the lead in the 73rd minute as Jamie Devitt burst through onto goal, only to see his deflected shot palmed skywards by Pym, and then headed off the line by Exeter captain Danny Coles.
Exeter finished the game on top, and it was this pressure that culminated in the undoubtedly controversial highlight of the game. In the 90th minute, Exeter substitute David Wheeler appeared to have been hacked down in the box. Referee Andy D’Urso initially appeared to give the penalty, a decision that resulted in a mass brawl between the two teams.
Once the officials finally managed to separate the players, the referee concluded a lengthy conversation with the linesman by sending off Morecambe’s Alex Kenyon for initiating the melee, and reversing the initial penalty decision, adjudging Wheeler to have dived.
It was a decision that undoubtedly overshadowed the match and left a sour taste in the mouths of Exeter supporters.
Aside from the controversy, it was a familiar tale for The Grecians, as they were undoubtedly guilty of trying to walk the ball into the box, whilst being too aerially inferior to cross their way to victory.
The main positive to emerge from the game was undoubtedly the stellar performance of Matt Grimes, who at only 18 years old, certainly looks like one to watch. But with mid-table mediocrity looking all the more likely, some may be wondering how long he’ll remain at the club.
In the immediate future however, Exeter will be hoping the next home match against Rochdale ends Exeters’ hoodoo at St. James Park.bookmark me