Exeter City twice failed to hold onto a lead against struggling Stevenage, giving up a last-gasp equaliser in a thrilling six goal game at St James Park.
Exeter went into the game knowing that a win would move them to within one point of the play-off spots, while Stevenage would have been hanging precariously above the relegation zone by the same margin with a loss. The visitors went into this game on the back of five defeats in all competitions, having managed only one win in the league all season.
The home side got the game underway in front of 3,235 fans and almost took the lead within the first few seconds as former Irish international Clinton Morrison saw his effort go just past the far post.
City remained on the front foot for the first few minutes, culminating in David Wheeler turning in a cross from Lee Holmes to give Exeter a 1-0 lead.
Stevenage then took control of play for the next ten minutes. Steven Schumacher played the ball from the left byline, finding Tom Conlon who failed to pull the visitors level as he missed the target from 6 yards out.
Despite Stevenage’s dominance, it would be Exeter who scored next. Wheeler picked out Morrison with a cross from the right side, who then doubled the host’s advantage with an overhead kick. Fan-favourite Morrison was clearly elated with his first goal for the club, sprinting towards the dugout to embrace manager Paul Tisdale.
The Grecians missed out on a chance to take a three goal lead in the 28th minute, as Morrison again failed to convert a good chance from the edge of the penalty area.
Stevenage took charge for the rest of the half, and found a breakthrough in the last ten minutes before half time. With 8 minutes remaining, Dean Parrett found the top left corner with a free kick from just outside of the arc. Exeter failed to clear a 44th minute corner properly, and Ben Kennedy managed to get his head on the ball at the right post to send the visitors in level at the interval.
The second half started with the home side on the attack and controlling the tempo. In the 51st minute, Jamaican international Joel Grant broke away for Exeter, only to see his shot blocked by a sprinting Mark Hughes.
Exeter had a few more genuine chances over the following 30 minutes, but they consistently failed to bury them. On the other hand, Stevenage enjoyed a fair share of possession in the Exeter half but couldn’t muster any serious attempts.
It took until the 81st minute for another goal. David Noble picked out Wheeler in space, who didn’t disappoint with a shot from the corner of the penalty area which curled into the far corner of the net to put the hosts ahead. It was a sublime finish from the man of the match.
Despite falling behind, Stevenage didn’t give up. Tom Conlon came very close to equalising just two minutes later, although his free kick hit the woodwork. In the second minute of stoppage time, Chris Whelpdale scored a volley from 18 yards out to rescue a point and send the 97 travelling fans home happy with a 3-3 final score.
After the match, Stevenage manager Teddy Sherringham said “To come back from 2-0 and to get back to 2-2 was great from my team. I was very pleased to end up getting a result and getting a point out of that. You don’t always get what you deserve but I felt we did deserve something today.”
His Exeter counterpart, Paul Tisdale, said “It’s always particularly disappointing when you concede an injury-time equaliser. I suppose that over the course of the game I was a little disappointed with how we played, so I suppose that Stevenage deserved their point. When you’re two goals up in a game – and to give credit to Teddy and his team, who played some really good football in the last half-an-hour of the first half – we shouldn’t have squandered it.”
The draw leaves Exeter in 11th position in the SkyBet League Two table on 18 points. Their next match, which David Noble will miss after picking up his fifth caution today from referee Roger East, will be away to ninth-placed Carlisle on 17 October.