Full-time report as United draw with the Grecians
United picked up a point in a tense encounter with Exeter, who remain third in the table, with United still fourth. Both sides showed that they will be in the shake-up come May as two good sides cancelled each other out in a very even 90 minutes.
Fielding the same side that finshed at Accrington, with Ryan Williams on the right wing in a 4-4-2 shape, United started with a good tempo and with both sides passing the ball around neatly it was a game that was easy on the eye. United were noticeably quick to close the visitors down all over the park and that gave them a slight edge in the first 20 minutes. It was John O'Flynn who had the best chance in the first quarter though, drilling in a low shot from a Liam Sercombe cross and forcing an excellent save from the ever-reliable Ryan Clarke.
With both sides comfortable on the ball it made for a fascinating tactical encounter, Exeter's flexible shape moving from a five-man defence to a four to a three at times; a puzzle that the intelligent movement of Dave Kitson looked most likely to solve as he dropped deeper and linked play. With thunder and lightning rolling around the Kassam Stadium there was plenty of tension but the closest United came to a goal in the rain-soaked first 45 minutes was a low shot from Sean Rigg on 40 minutes which Grecian keeper Artur Krysiak got down well to save as the ball zipped off the surface.
The same player flashed a 44th-minute shot wide of the right-hand post from the edge of the area but a half of patient football had failed to produce a breakthrough.
With their Yellow Army in full voice in the second half the head of Kitson nearly found that elusive goal on 51, the striker getting between two defenders but flicking his header jut wide from eight yards out. Exeter's Dave Wheeler then tested Clarke with a 25 yard piledriver on 53 which the keeper beat away.
It had been hard-fought but never dirty although a moment of silliness saw Danny Coles and David Hunt yellow carded and then Sercombe follow them into the book as tempers started to flare as the lightning flashed high above.
Constable really should have found the net on 62 minutes as he thumped a header over the bar from close range, then Rigg dragged a 71st-minute shot wide from the left corner of the box as United began to build up a head of steam. With results elsewhere placing the teams first and second at that stage there might easily have been a thought of 'what we have, we hold' but instead both sides started to open up. Crosses whizzed across both boxes, final passes went just behind runners, shots were blocked at source and either side could easily have edged it.
Tyrone Marsh was given the last ten minutes to try and get in behind the stubborn away defence but despite their imploring fans United could not find a winner. However the game ended on a sour note as Kitson tripped Arron Davies in injury time and was shown a second yellow to leave United a man light for the last three minutes. In the end it meant little on the night but he will now face a second suspension of the season.
Two good sides, a good battle and United remain in the hunt. See you at Wimbledon.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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