Coles (60), Parkin (80)
A determined and dogged performance wasn’t quite enough for Rovers down at Exeter this afternoon. Trailing to a Danny Coles goal, scored on the hour mark, they hit back to equalise just eight minutes later through Eliot Richards, only to concede again ten minutes from time.
They almost snatched a second equaliser in the final minute of the game but some frantic defending by the home side denied them a point.
John Ward’s injury ravaged squad began their 2013/14 season missing a number of key players, including Matt Harrold and Matt Gill who missed out due to groin strains.
Physiotherapist Phil Kite explained that secondary injuries such as this often happen after a player has been out for a long time and we can only hope that both players are back and challenging for a first team spot in the near future.
Harrold’s absence meant that Mitch Harding made his first ever start in a Rovers shirt.
Before today he had made just six substitute appearances. The manager was only able to name six substitutes who, between them, had made just a total of just seven appearances.
The opening stages of the game produced little in the way of goalscoring opportunities, though home striker Sam Parkin did go close after 12 minutes when he connected with a corner from the left and saw his powerful header pass just wide of the upright.
Scot Bennett saw a shot blocked shortly afterwards but, by and large, the home side were finding it difficult to pierce a strong Rovers rear-guard. On the half hour mark John O’Flynn’s well struck volley flew over the bar and another opportunity fell to Parkin on 37 minutes.
Tom Parkes lost possession on the halfway line and Exeter played the ball forward quickly but when the ball was played in to the striker, he fired well wide when well placed. Rovers went close in the final minute of the half.
Firstly, goalkeeper Artur Krysiak dropped a cross under pressure, but Rovers were unable to capitalise.
Moments later Eliot Richards touched a short free kick to Ollie Norburn and his powerful drive only just cleared the bar.
There were two early chances for Ward’s side at the start of the second half, but O’Toole saw his effort blocked and a dipping volley from Ellis Harrison just cleared the bar.
Parkes also went close shortly afterwards when a clearance from Harrison’s header into the box reached the skipper, who fired narrowly wide.
Exeter opened the scoring on the hour when Craig Woodman’s corner from the right found Coles at the far post and the former Rovers defender headed back across Steve Mildenhall and into the net.
Eight minutes later Rovers were level when Harrison’s ball into the box was met by Richards, who swept the ball home with some aplomb.
Neither side seemed likely to break the deadlock at that point, but Exeter went back in front with ten minutes remaining when Parkin’s diving header from a cross from the left beat Mildenhall before nestling in the corner of the net.
Ollie Norburn and Richards went close to a second equaliser but Rovers were desperately unlucky not to score again in the final minute.
A shot from Richards was saved by Krysiak, O’Toole’s follow up effort was cleared off the line by Coles and the midfielder then saw another effort saved by the home keeper.
Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Tom Parkes, Mark McChrystal, Lee Brown, Ellis Harrison Shaquille Hunter, (84), John-Joe O’Toole, Ollie Norburn, Eliot Richards, David Clarkson (Tom Lockyer, 87), Mitch Harding (Alefe Santos, 64).
Substitutes: Conor Gough, Pat Keary, Josh Southway
Exeter City: Artur Krysiak, Craig Woodman, Danny Coles, Pat Baldwin, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Liam Sercombe, Arron Davies, Scot Bennett, David Wheeler, Sam Parkin, John O’Flynn (Alan Gow, 74).
Substitutes: Tommy Doherty, Aaron Dawson, Jamie Reed, Jake Gosling, Jimmy Keohane, Christy Pym
Referee: Mark Heywood
Rovers supporters: 1,232