Exeter City 1
Burton Albion 1
Exeter City earned a point against potential promotion rivals against Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Burton Albion in the only League 2 match played on Saturday. In a tense, tight encounter with chances few and far between, the Grecians managed to claw back Burton’s breakthrough effort on the hour mark with a goal of their own, but couldn’t quite capitalise on their late momentum and take all three points at St. James’ Park.
Paul Tisdale’s Exeter outfit were boosted by the return of their captain Scot Bennett and with few injuries—besides long-term absentees Pat Baldwin, Jamie Reid and Jordan Moore-Taylor—Exeter were confident at the fixture’s outset.
To say that the first half was a slow burner would be something of an understatement; chances were scarce with little to choose from between the two sides.
Both defences came out on top, with a free kick in a good position on the edge of the area from Burton’s Jacob Blyth well cleared by the Exeter defence in the opening stages. Mistakes from Burton could have cost them early on, as Exeter responded to hunt down frequent loose balls, but regardless both defences held strong.
The Brewers invited pressure and allowed Exeter to attack them; City managed to have the lion’s share of possession in the opening 45 minutes. However, both sides lacked a cutting edge and potential Exeter chances were scuppered with loose, aimless long balls and a lack of intensity going forward. Of the few Exeter shots to be had, City striker Alex Nicholls’ shot flying high and wide was as close as City got to scoring in the opening 20 minutes.
Albion were equally wasteful when they had possession—a good run from Stuart Beavon to the by-line and the ensuing well-blocked cross was the best the Brewers could point to in terms of early opportunities. Burton’s frustration began to tell, striker Darragh Lenihan one of a few of the away side players to be pulled back by referee Patrick Miller for needless fouling.
Later in the half Burton managed to find their feet; after a nice passage of passing Lenihan fired wide of City keeper James Hamon’s right hand post, Robbie Weir had a volleyed effort blocked on the edge of the area and Alex Macdonald found the space on the edge of the Grecian area to fire off another wayward Albion effort.
Briefly, things became a little stretched towards the end of the first half, but both defences stood firm against toothless offensive play with Exeter looking dominant in possession, but Burton looking the more confident and clinical on the ball.
Neither side looked like potential candidates for promotion as the score remained at 0-0 at half time, and Burton again started slowly; their mistakes allowed Exeter to continue their dominance of possession as Graham Cummins found himself lashing a shot at the side netting at a tight angle.
Both defensive units appeared to progressively lose their confidence as the game again became stretched, and Exeter’s lack of bite began to tell. With their first major chance of the half, the Brewers scored the opening goal on the hour mark, as a good cross supplied by Damien McCrory was well met by Blyth, firing back across the face of goal past Hamon.
With nothing to lose, Tisdale used each of his three substitutes: David Wheeler, Scot Bennett and new signing Clinton Morrison all entering the fray. Attempts to slow the game down from Burton were met with a positive reaction from City; either team looked likely to score in what became enthralling end-to-end football.
Burton sat back the longer the match wore on—looking dangerous on the counter—but never retained their resoluteness in defence from the first half. In the end, the Brewers paid for their risky strategy, as a strong spell of Exeter pressure culminated in a goal from a corner ten minutes from time. The ball was floated in to the back post from Matt Grimes and headed well by City defender Christian Ribiero past Albion keeper Jon McLaughlin.
A seemingly generous 6 minutes of added time spurred on the Exeter team and their fans, but City ultimately had to settle with sharing the spoils with Albion as the match ended 1-1.
Both teams will see this match as a missed opportunity. Burton could’ve rocketed up to equal on points with the league leaders Wycombe Wanderers, and Exeter City failed to rise up to the play-off places without maximum points, but all in all a point was fair on both sides.
Harry Shepherd- Online Games & Tech Editorbookmark me