Grecians forced to settle for a point from Oxford clash
Exeter City returned from their trip to Oxford United with a point and their place in the top three of League Two intact after a goalless draw at the Kassam Stadium.
In a game of few chances, defences were very much on top with neither goalkeeper called on to make a decent save.
Oxford were reduced to ten men in stoppage time when Dave Kitson received a second yellow card, but despite plenty of effort from both teams, goals were in short supply.
The Grecians named an unchanged side to the one that started Saturday's win at Scunthorpe United and there were no changes to the bench either. However, they started in a 5-3-2 formation, but such is the fluidity of the City team, that soon became a 4-4-2 as the Grecians matched up to Oxford's system.
Fantastic offer at Swanson Ford, Newton Abbot. 3 Years FREE Servicing and 5 Years Warranty available on your BRAND NEW FORD FIESTA with the AWARD WINNING ECOBOOST ENGINE!!!
Terms: Limited stock available. Only whilst stock lasts
Contact: 01626 240583
Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013
Kick-off was preceded by a few flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder as the rain poured down, but there was nothing as spectacular on the pitch in the opening 15 minutes or so as the storm passed through.
Both teams probed and passed the ball well on a typically fine Oxford surface, but the only half-chance – if you could call it that – came when Danny Rose ran on to Kitson's pass, but his chest control let him down and the ball went behind for a goal kick.
Constable fired a cross across the face of goal and Sean Rigg was high with an effort from 30 yards as Oxford exerted some authority on the game.
Exeter were struggling to get out of their half, but you always felt they could do something on the counter – and so it proved. Alan Gow led the break before feeding Jimmy Keohane, who played the ball wide to Liam Sercombe. His low cross was perfect for John O'Flynn, but his finish was poor and straight at Ryan Clarke from eight yards.
Some good interplay down the Exeter left between Craig Woodman and Doherty ended with the full-back crossing to the front post, but again, O'Flynn was just unable to provide a finish.
The first half was very much a 'nearly' performance from City, who we defending well enough but it wasn't quite clicking when they went forward. The signs were encouraging, though, as they got in behind Oxford's midfield on a few occasions and threatened on the counter.
Doherty collected a yellow card for one foul too many as the thunder and lightning returned with spectacular ferocity.
Gow felt he should have had a penalty when he had his shirt pulled inside the box after taking down Sercombe's cross, but yet again this season, nothing was given.
Oxford responded with a surging run from Rigg that ended with a shot across goal from 18 yards that Artur Krysiak saved and Bennett just managed to keep out Ryan Williams after his waltzing run led to a half-chance for him.
Rigg pulled a shot wide from 20 yards and that pretty much concluded a cagey and tight first half. Both sides may have felt they could have been in front, but their defences were on top.
The second half started with David Hunt crossing from deep, but Kitson could only head wide and substitute David Wheeler forced a save from Clarke with a shot from distance for the Grecians.
Hunt and Danny Coles each received a yellow card – Hunt for kicking the ball away and Coles for pushing him in retaliation – before Sercombe was booked harshly for a foul on Kitson.
Constable headed over from a U's corner kick and City hit back with a Davies shot that was straight down the throat of Clarke.
Rose pulled a shot wide from 15 yards and again City struck back with a shot from O'Flynn that deflected wide.
Kitson was sent off as the game entered stoppage time for a silly foul on Davies, but despite the numerical advantage, the Grecians lacked that bit of quality in the final third and had to settle for a point.
Oxford United (4-4-2): Clarke; Hunt, Raynes, Wright, Newey; Williams (S Davies 68), Whing, Rose, Rigg; Kitson, Constable (Marsh 80). Substitutes (not used): Hall, Marsh, Crocombe, Bevans O'Dowda, Ruffels.
Bookings: Kitson, Hunt
Exeter City (5-3-2): Krysiak; A Davies, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Sercombe, Doherty (Gill 54), Keohane (Wheeler 54); Gow, O'Flynn (Parkin 80). Substitutes (not used): Pym (gk), Moore-Taylor, Tillson, Grimes.
Bookings: Doherty, Coles, Sercombe.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).