Exeter City and Torquay United settle for a point as penalties dominate Devon derby
Alan Gow's penalty kick seven minutes from time levelled the scores at 1-1 and earned Exeter City a point in the npower League Two Devon derby at Plainmoor last night.
The Scot struck what in truth was a deserved equaliser for the Grecians, who spent the second half camped inside the half of their close rivals.
Rene Howe had opened the scoring for Torquay with a penalty of his own on 15 minutes, in a half in which the Gulls were marginally the better team. But, with Exeter chasing a club record-equalling sixth straight away win, they did enough after half-time to warrant at least a point for their grand efforts.
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When the team sheets arrived, there were more than a few eyebrows raised at Exeter's XI. Guillem Bauza was handed a first start since the Johnstone's Paint Trophy clash with Aldershot Town on September 4. The Spaniard was joined in the side by Kevin Amankwaah and Tommy Doherty.
Gow, Matt Oakley and Jimmy Keohane were the men to give way and all three were on a strong Grecians' bench. Perhaps the manager's thinking was to win it from the bench during the second half.
Torquay made the one change and that saw Billy Bodin come into the side. Danny Stevens dropped to the bench.
With Exeter kicking towards their massed ranks behind the goal, it was they who threatened first. Bauza dragged a shot wide from 18 yards but referee Craig Pawson strangely awarded a corner-kick.
Torquay were quick to respond, with Nathan Craig delivering a fine cross, but Ryan Jarvis glanced his header wide of goal.
Lee Mansell tried his luck from distance and the ball took a deflection before looping narrowly over the crossbar.
Exeter suffered an early blow when John O'Flynn limped off after a hefty tackle by Damon Lathrope left him floored. Keohane was given an earlier than expected call to action.
The early stages were very frenetic, with little football played on a bog of a pitch. But the game burst into life when Craig's deep cross was aimed towards Howe and Exeter's Amankwaah was deemed to have handled.
Bennett received a booking for his protestations and Howe stepped up to plant the ball into the top right-hand corner for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Craig then tested Krysiak with a wicked in-swinging free-kick from 25 yards, which the Pole tipped over the bar, before Exeter put together their first decent move. That ended with Steve Tully firing wide with his left foot from the edge of the penalty box.
Howe was causing all sorts of problems to Exeter's central defenders with his strength, but it was Keohane who was next to go close for Exeter. Bauza and Tully combined well to fashion an opening for the young Irishman, but he dragged a good chance wide with his left foot from 15 yards.
Torquay were presented with a decent free-kick opportunity after Arron Davies felled Jarvis. It was perfect range for Kevin Nicholson and Nathan Craig, but Craig's attempt was somewhat disappointing and well wide of goal.
Out of nothing, Bauza had a good chance for City after breaking the Gulls' offside trap, but he took too long to decide what to do and was eventually tackled.
Exeter, who had conceded only one goal in their previous three games, looked vulnerable at the back and ,after Nicholson's cross had been flapped by Krysiak straight to Craig, the young Welshman cut inside and on to his left foot before firing his shot high over the bar.
All of Torquay's play was going through Howe and he shrugged off Amankwaah with ease before teeing up Bodin. However, the youngster did not get enough on his attempted chip and Krysiak saved easily.
Torquay were easily dealing with Exeter's weak attacking threat. The Grecians needed a lot more from their attackers, Bauza and Davies in particular, who were well off the pace. There was no doubt that City were missing the energy and work-rate of O'Flynn.
Howe caught the eye for the Gulls in the first half, but it was a pretty solid all-round performance from Martin Ling's side. Defensively, they looked assured and goalkeeper Martin Poke barely got his hands dirty, while they had the most potent attacking threat in the form of Howe.
It was no great surprise to see Gow come on for the second half, nor that it was Bauza who made way.
The Scot was straight in the thick of the action, but the problem now for the Grecians was that when the ball came into the box there was no one there.
Torquay, meanwhile, were quietly going about their business. The hustled and knocked Exeter off their stride and, when they had the ball, they used it well. When they played the ball wide to Nicholson, he crossed for Howe, whose volley was saved by Krysiak.
Paul Tisdale's final throw of the dice was to replace the poor Davies with Oakley and, gradually, the Grecians began to take control of matters.
Gow curled inches wide after good work by Oakley before Gow almost fashioned an opening after some breathtaking skill along the goal-line that bamboozled the Gulls' defence. Brian Saah saw the danger, though, and conceded a corner. Jarvis was replaced by Niall Thompson on 63 minutes, but it was all Exeter at this stage.
Gow was off target again with a curling shot from 20 yards, but still, Exeter lacked men in the penalty box.
Keohane almost brought Exeter level with a beautiful deft flick, but Poke got across his goal to make a superb save. However, the equaliser Exeter deserved came on 83 minutes.
Gow's trickery got him free inside the box, where he was brought down by Joe Oastler. The Scot took the penalty and put it in an identical spot to Howe in the first half.
With their 1,500 supporters in good voice, Exeter looked the more likely to win it, but home substitute Stevens thought he should have had a penalty when he went down inside the box in stoppage time.
Gow then dragged a shot wide as Exeter countered but, in the end, both sides had to settle for a point.
Torquay United (4-2-3-1): Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Mansell, Lathrope; Bodin (Stevens 78), Jarvis (Thompson 63), Craig; Howe. Substitutes (not used): Rice (gk), MacDonald, Easton, Cruise, Yeoman.
Goal: Howe (pen) 15.
Exeter City (4-4-2): Krysiak; Tully, Coles, Baldwin, Woodman; Tully, Doherty, Bennett, Davies (Oakley 56); Bauza (Gow h-t), O'Flynn (Keohane 9). Substitutes (not used): Evans (gk), Moore-Taylor, Reid, Anderson.
Goal: Gow (pen) 83.
Bookings: Bennett, Tully.
Referee: C Pawson (South Yorkshire).
PICTURES: Torquay United v Exeter City