Determined Grecians battle hard but fail to break dogged Gillingham
at St James' Park
Exeter City proved to be more than a match for Gillingham at St James' Park last night, but despite the Grecians' dominance, they had to settle for a point from a goalless draw.
Paul Tisdale's side created all the chances and enjoyed the majority of the possession, but it was a night to forget for their 20-goal leading scorer Jamie Cureton, who could have had a hat-trick against the Gills.
On the whole, it was a fine performance from Exeter and they can take plenty of confidence from it as the season enters the home stretch.
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The Grecians made two changes to the side that drew at Fleetwood on Saturday. Mark Molesley returned from his three-match suspension and Jake Gosling was recalled as well. Steve Tully and Jimmy Keohane were the ones that made were and were named among the substitutes. The Gills also made two changes with Deon Burton and Danny East starting. Danny Kedwell and Chris Whelpdale were the two that made way from the team that beat Plymouth last Saturday.
The Gills were quickly on the attack with Adam Barrett heading over from a corner. However, that was as good as it got for the Gills as they faded badly.
Exeter came into the game and created a good chance on 15 minutes when Craig Woodman picked out Cureton with a superb pass. The striker's first touch was brilliant, but he could not find a way past Stuart Nelson in the Gills goal.
However, the striker had an even better chance moments later when he was again found by Woodman's searching ball. The striker had acres of space, but elected to volley the ball first time and it drifted harmlessly wide of goal.
It was a really good spell for Exeter, who were playing some nice football. Molesley was next to try his luck, but his ambitious volley was high and wide from 20 yards.
The Woodman-Cureton link was again used to good effect on the half hour mark as the striker peeled away from his marker once more, but again, his finish was poor.
Gosling tried his luck from the edge of the box only for it to deflect onto the roof of the net and from the resulting corner, Scot Bennett's clever flick found Oakley and he smashed the ball narrowly over the bar.
The Grecians were creating all the chances and playing some lovely football. Bennett's low cross picked out Oakley and he teed up Cureton for a great chance from 12 yards, but again, City's 20-goal top scorer was off target and skied over the bar.
That was the final opportunity of a half that the Grecians had dominated, but they hadn't got the goal their play deserved. They had certainly created enough decent opportunities, but the worry was that none had been taken.
Gillingham looked anything but a side that had won 11 times on the road this season and are top of League Two, but they could not be underestimated.
However, Exeter started in the same vain after the break with more lovely football. Gillingham were defending well though and it took a brave block to deny Woodman, who tried his luck from 25 yards.
The Grecians suffered a huge blow when the influential Oakley was forced off after being fouled on the edge of the box. He was led straighyt down the tunnel with his arm in a makeshift sling, while the free kick came to nothing. Keohane was introduced for the unfortunate Oakley in a like-for-like change.
Molesley fizzed one over the angle of post and bar before Gillingham dangerman Danny Kedwell came on for the disappointing Antonio German. His first involvement was to hook a shot over the head of Krysiak, but it drifted wide of goal.
The Grecians' final throw of the dice was to swap Cureton and Molesley for O'Flynn and Bauza. The Spaniard teed up Bennett for a shot that was well hit but straight at Nelson before Bauza dragged a great chance wide from 18 yards.
City continued to press during four minutes of stoppage time, but for all their effort, they could not get the win that they deserved on the balance of play.
Exeter City (4-5-1): Krysiak; Amankwaah, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Gosling, Molesley (Bauza 74), Oakley (Keohane 57), Bennett, Davies; Cureton (O'Flynn 74). Substitutes (not used): Evans (gk), Moore-Taylor, Tully, Dawson.
Gillingham (4-4-2): Nelson; Fish, Legge, Barrett, Martin; Dack (Frampton 60), Gregory, Robinson, East (Lee h-t); Burton, German (Kedwell 65). Substitutes (not used): Forecast (gk), Whelpdale, Davies, Birchall, Kedwell, Frampton.
Referee: K Hill (Hertfordshire)