A fiery League Two clash was interrupted early on as smoke was detected in the stands; after a delay of forty minutes, the game was resumed and Exeter City and Carlisle United fought to a 2-2 draw.
Exeter City started the brighter of the two teams, playing the ball on the ground, rather than opting for the route-one football that Carlisle looked to impose. Their early pressure paid off as J. Stockley tried his luck from just outside the box, firing a volley at the Carlisle keeper. Luck certainly played a part in this goal, as the ball bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper, who failed to get a firm hand to it and watched it deflect over him into his own net.
Shortly after, chaos ensued. This reporter, stationed at the back of the Grandstand, saw smoke emerge from the crevices of the fixture. It went unnoticed for a relatively long period of time, until the fire alarm informed the stewards of a potential problem. However, as soon as the problem was highlighted the stewards, and referees, acted with admirable efficiency. The whole of the stand was ordered to enter the pitch, and an evacuation took place. Fans, match reporters, players and referees all congregated around the centre of the pitch: the stand-still lasted forty minutes. Once the fire service had conducted their search, neutralised the problem and declared it was once again safe, the fans returned to their deserted seats. Fifteen minutes and a second warm-up later, play resumed. A first for me, and probably a first for most of those in the ground.
After the interval, Exeter continued the tone set at the start if the game, taking control. A venomous free-kick was inches away from finding the bottom corner. Yet, Carlisle would soon equalise, capitalising on a mistake from Exeter’s Harley. A nonchalant pass was latched onto by Wyke, who made no mistake in stroking the ball past the helpless Olejnik: the perils of attempting to play the ball from the back in League Two exposed for all to see. Despite this set-back the home side continue to press, with Brown wasting a one-on-one opportunity.
It was Carlisle who came out with greater intent after half-time as they saw a header tipped onto the bar by Exeter’s Olejnik. The game then progressed into a much more even affair, with both teams looking for a goal. It was Exeter who would take the lead once more; a composed volley from Wheeler sent the home fans into raptures. Six minutes from time, Carlisle would hit back through a goal from Hope. It was Gillead’s initial strike which will earn the plaudits, however: a stylish strike with the outside of his boot struck the bar, with the ball falling into the path of Hope, who headed into an empty net.
Both teams chased a winning goal, but that final touch of quality was amiss. Exeter have now picked up eight points from a possible twelve and will see this game as two points dropped, rather than one gained.
Final score: 2-2
Exeter City FC: Olejnik, Woodman, Ribeiro, Harley, Oakley, Holmes, Moore-Taylor ©, Wheeler, Watkins, Stockley, Brown.
Carlisle United: Gillespie, Miller, Atkinson, Ellis, Gillesphey, Hope, Joyce, Kennedy, Graigner, Wyke, Rigg.