Shots return with a point from Devon

Rob Worrall reporting


After the heartbreak of the late FA Cup defeat at Middlesbrough seven days earlier, The Shots returned to League Two action with a trip to Devon to play the high flying Grecians, Exeter City. St James Park was the venue for the first of Shots' 18 remaining 'cup finals'.

After four substitute appearances, Oliver Risser was handed his first start for Aldershot Town, replacing Michael Hector, who returned to Reading in midweek and has subsequently gone out on loan again to promotion chasing Cheltenham. Asa Hall also made his Shots debut, having signed from Shrewsbury on loan until the end of the season. He replaced Craig Reid in the starting eleven. Anthony Tonkin returned at left back, replacing Aaron Morris, who was left out of the squad with a slight hamstring pull.

Exeter came into this match in fifth place, but with a relatively poor home record and Aldershot's recent fine form on their travels, Holdsworth's team and 246 travelling Shots fans, came into the game with plenty of belief that Shots could get something out of this match.

Grecians' manager Paul Tisdale surprised the home faithful with his team selection, leaving out Steve Tully, Tommy Doherty and Jimmy Keohane. Kevin Amankwaah, Guillem Bauza and the profilic Jamie Cureton came into the Exeter starting line-up.
Former Shots' midfielder Mark Molesley started for the Grecians.

Shots and Asa Hall in particular, made a lively start winning two successive corners in the opening minutes. Troy Brown sent a glancing header just wide from the second one. Shots did most of the early pressing and there were a full eight minutes played by the time Exeter broke forward with any real intention. Ten minutes in, Shots won a free kick some forty yards out, but Sonny Bradley headed Kieron Cadogan's delivery well over and wide.

On the quarter hour mark, Guillem Bouza's strong run saw him surge past Bradley. However, Tonkin, clearly relishing his return to the side, slid in with an excellent covering tackle inside the penalty area to rob Bauza of possession. Shots soon broke to the other end where Cadogan's twenty-yard strike was deflected wide for a corner and from that, a scramble ensued before Risser shot wide.

Shots dominated the opening half an hour, but had little to show for it. Their best opportunity to take the lead came in the 23rd minute, when Danny Rose's free kick caused havoc in the box. Krysiak punched clear Hylton's diving header, but the ball was only half cleared and as the ball was hooked back in, Asa Hall rose to head powerfully at goal. Krysiak was beaten, but unluckily for Hall and for The Shots, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.

As the 30 minute mark approached, the Grecians created their first worthwhile effort on goal. Cureton was rather fortunately (for him) adjudged to have beaten the offside trap but the in-form Jamie Young was equal to his 20-yard curled effort.

The pitch at St James Park was a little weather beaten to say the least and both teams had to adapt their game to suit. Fair to say that Shots adapted better in the first half, but when referee Darren Bond blew for the interval, the match remained scoreless.

The second half began with a touch of controversy. Molesley, having lost control of the ball inside the Shots penalty area, then lunged in two footed on Bradley. Molesley was perhaps a touch fortunate to receive only a yellow card.

Shots had the ball in the net on 54 minutes, Hall slotting a low shot home from an acute angle. However, as both Hall and everyone else at St James Park were well aware that referee Bond had already blown for a foul by Hall, on Amankwaah.

As the hour mark approached, a Vincenti cross from wide left, caused problems in the Grecians' defence and Matt Oakley headed narrowly over his own goal for a corner. Another corner soon followed on from this one from which Shots almost took the lead. Cadogan showed great control on the left, before sending over a perfectly weighted left-foot cross, which Troy Brown headed over at the far post.

Shots began to dominate proceedings. Cadogan, Hylton and Hall were all lively in their build-up play. They began to find and use Hylton far more frequently. However, with Shots pushing forward, Exeter had more space when counter-attacking and with the lively Cureton in their side, a goal on the break was always a possibility. With twenty minutes left, Cureton showed fleet of foot, tricking and skipping by two Shots' defenders but skipper Ben Herd, having a fine game in defence, got himself between Cureton and the ball, to draw a foul from the 37-year-old Grecians' striker.

Moments later, Cureton had the ball in the net for Exeter, neatly lobbing Young from inside the area, but to the dismay of the home fans, once again the goal was ruled out for offside.

Lionel Ainsworth replaced Cadogan on 73 minutes for Shots. Five minutes later, both managers made a further change. Craig Reid replaced Hylton. Jake Gosling came on for Molesley for Exeter.

Cureton's shot from 20 yards was well held by Young and then, up the other end, Oliver Risser stung the hands of Krysiak. The game was finally beginning to open up.

Into the final ten minutes and Keohane replaced Bauza for the Grecians. However it was Shots who asked the next question. Good build-up play between Rose and Ainsworth, before the latter swung the ball into the path of the onrushing Reid. Shots' diminutive striker couldn't quite control the ball and in the end, thighed it wide of the target. Exeter countered, Alan Gow dragging a shot just wide.

Neither team could muster an effort on goal in the four minutes added time and referee Bond confirmed the game would indeed finish goalless.

Shots were undoubtedly well worthy of the point they gained from this match - one that moves them back up to 21st place in League Two and leaves them just a single point clear of the relegation places.

Shots: Young, Herd, Brown, Bradley, Tonkin, Risser, Rose, Cadogan (Ainsworth) Hall, Vincenti, Hylton (Reid)
Subs nots used: Morris(G), Rankine, McNamee, Mekki, Forbes. Att: 3755 (246 away fans)

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