MATCH REPORT: EXETER CITY 1, STEVENAGE 1
Stevenage picked up a point and made it five games unbeaten after a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Exeter City this afternoon.
A superb solo effort from Jobi McAnuff just past the half hour put Boro 1-0 up at the break, with Reuben Reid equalising from close range seven minutes into the second half. Both sides had chances in an entertaining game but neither could find the winner as the points were shared.
Darren Sarll made just the one change from the midweek win against Cheltenham with Michael Tonge stepping up from the bench to replace the suspended Charlie Lee. Matt Godden started despite coming off early on Tuesday night, whilst there was a welcome return to the bench for both Kgosi Ntlhe and Ryan Loft. Dean Wells also missed out through illness.
With five consecutive wins at St James’ Park, Exeter understandably started the brightest and won a couple of early corners. From the second of these a Grecians header came in but Steve Schumacher was perfectly placed to clear off the line.
The highly-rated Ollie Watkins came into this game on 10 league goals and went close to an 11th with seven minutes on the clock. The winger spun his man 25 yards out, evaded a couple of other Boro players and hit a low shot which Jones got down to turn behind.
Boro gradually came into the game and after winning their first corner on 17 minutes, after good work out wide by Tonge, they went on to enjoy the best of the rest of the first half.
A low drive from Ryan Harley nearly found Reuben Reid at the back post on 29 minutes, but that was it for the hosts who fell behind 1-0 minutes later.
Jobi McAnuff has been in inspired form for Boro since his return to the team and after collecting possession midway inside the Exeter half, he ran at goal, skipped around a couple of challenges and slotted home coolly to give Stevenage the lead.
Josh McQuoid capitalised on a defensive mistake to charge into the box and nearly setup another chance for Matt Godden moments later and Darren Sarll’s men continued to look the more likely to score again for the remainder of the half.
The teams remained unchanged at the start of the second half and so did the pressure on the Exeter defence as Boro carved out the first chance. Godden released McAnuff deep in the Grecians half and when the winger looked up and spotted Schumacher heading towards the back post, he sent in a cross which just evaded the onrushing midfielder.
Just as it looked like Stevenage were going to kick-on, Exeter equalised. An initial counter-attack was cleared but when a cross came in from the right, Reuben Reid found the back of the net with a neat finish to draw the game level.
St James Park was suddenly alive and when the same player flashed a low cross right along Boro’s six yard box moments later, it looked like the game would be turned on its head, but nobody was there to convert.
Ben Kennedy and Henry Cowans replaced Josh McQuoid and Steve Schumacher just past the hour mark and that seemed to galvanise Stevenage, who created a number of chances in a matter of minutes. From a quickly-taken corner Matt Godden fired in a low cross that missed everyone, before Kennedy hit a low shot at Olejnik. Henry Cowans then ran onto a weak clearance and hit a low effort that was deflected behind for a Boro corner.
Jobi McAnuff saw a 68th minute shot blocked and appeals for handball turned down, before Exeter shot off on the counter. A dangerous cross came in from the right and in came David Wheeler for a tap-in, only for Luke Wilkinson to get back and cut out the loose ball.
Both sides went for it in the closing stages but neither could find that moment of quality to win the game. Sub Liam McAlinden and Jack Stacey both shot over for Exeter in the closing stages and when Watkins fired into the side-netting during injury time, half the stadium mistakenly thought they’d won it.
Considering Exeter’s recent home form, a hard-fought point in Devon after an entertaining game can be seen as a positive. Indeed with Boro now up to eighth place and just a point off the playoffs, Darren Sarll’s men can really set their sights on a push for the top seven in the final 14 games of the season.
Next up for Stevenage is a trip to Crewe next weekend, before Leyton Orient visit The Lamex Stadium on Tuesday 28th February. Tickets for both games can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman, James, Tillson (Grant 84), Harley, Wheeler, Watkins, Moore-Taylor, Stacey, Reid (McAlinden 75), Brown
Subs not used: Hamon, Oakley, Ampadu, Croll, Sweeney
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Franks, Wilkinson, Ogilvie, Schumacher (Cowans 63), Tonge, Pett, McQuoid (Kennedy 60), McAnuff, Godden (Hinds 87)
Subs not used: Day, Gorman, Ntlhe, Loft
Referee: Darren Handley
Attendance: 4,124 (145 away)