FORGET Made in Chelsea, York City’s point-winning equaliser at Exeter might be best described as made in Cheltenham.
Keith Lowe leapt like a Gold Cup thoroughbred to head in his second goal of the season following an 82nd-minute corner from former Whaddon Road team-mate Luke Summerfield with City reaping the benefit of a dead-ball routine that was, no doubt, first honed at the Gloucestershire club.
The pair spent a season together with the Robins back in 2011/12 and, during 90 minutes at St James Park, centre-back Lowe could have easily claimed a hat-trick after getting his head to a quartet of Summerfield flag kicks on an afternoon when both defences looked vulnerable.
While the hosts’ zonal marking policy at set-pieces seemed ill-advised at Sky Bet League Two level, the visitors’ troubles in dealing with long-searching balls behind their back line will have been equally as disconcerting for City chief Nigel Worthington.
Dave Winfield was preferred to John McCombe in Saturday’s starting line-up but his partnership with Lowe looked a little flat-footed and a more threatening strikeforce than converted centre-back Scott Bennett and Graham Cummins, who has failed to net in a dozen matches, would surely have capitalised on such uncertainty and tentativeness.
Recalled keeper Michael Ingham also endured a tough opening during his first start since January.
Ingham’s misjudgement from Matt Oakley’s eight-minute cross gifted the Grecians an early lead, courtesy of David Wheeler’s header.
But City’s long-serving, shot-stopper, dropped for on-loan Charlton net-minder Nick Pope seven months ago and overlooked for selection at the start of the current campaign, did look more settled after the interval.
Whether he resurrects his Bootham Crescent career in coming matches could now depend on an ability to regain the self-belief that characterised six seasons of sterling service for the club prior to him becoming a negative keeper, by his own admission, last term.
Former Premier League midfielder Oakley, now 37, had already planted a fourth-minute corner on to the head of an unmarked Cummins before he delivered the telling cross from the inside-left channel that lured Ingham into no man’s land.
Whereas Cummins headed his chance over, Wheeler’s task was made all the more easier by Ingham’s error as he nodded into an inviting, unmanned net from ten yards.
City responded with an Anthony Straker drive into the sidenetting after a positive raid down the right wing by Tom Platt.
Lowe also headed wide from the first of his Summerfield-created chances on 31 minutes and Straker got his bearings wrong with n edge-of-the-box, half-volleyed opportunity.
City continued to probe on the restart with Summerfield curling over a 25-yard free kick after Jake Hyde had seen a promising break snuffed out by a touch of hesitancy and determined Exeter defending.
Hyde went on to curl a 15-yard effort too high from Michael Coulson’s lay-off, while Russell Penn sliced over from closer in on 80 minutes.
Seconds later, Lowe issued another warning for Paul Tisdale’s men when he brushed the top of the netting from a Summerfield corner before the pair combined again to level the scores with the visitors’ first on-target effort after Coulson’s positive raid through the left channel had been halted in its tracks.
This time, last season’s Press Player of the Year made no mistake, netting from a matter of feet with a downward header after charging purposefully into the Grecians’ six-yard box.
Bennett went on to miss the target with a rare 20-yard, second-half opportunity at the other end of the pitch but, after a bouncing volley by substitute Wes Fletcher was routinely saved by Christy Pym, Lowe still had a further opportunity to net from a Summerfield set-piece.
A split second before referee Steve Martin blew his whistle for full-time, Lowe popped up unchallenged in the home six-yard box once more but his close-range attempt was grabbed by a relieved Pym.
The save left City to reflect on an unbeaten start to the season that has seen them share the spoils in each of their opening four league fixtures for the first time in the club’s history.
The result also means, however, that the Minstermen have equalled their longest wait for a win at the beginning of a campaign in 20 years since the club went six matches without tasting victory during the early throes of 1994/95.
Worthington, who saw his team hovering above the relegation zone at the turn of this year following a run of ten draws from last season’s first 23 fixtures, knows all too well the importance of turning those points into maximum hauls.
Exeter 1 (Wheeler 8), York City (Lowe 82)
Michael Ingham 6 – looked anxious in early stages on his long-awaited recall, leading to his error, but settled after the break
Marvin McCoy 7 – solid throughout and played several positive forward passes from his full-back position
Keith Lowe 6 – constant threat from set-pieces and should have added to his goal, but got turned around a few times at the back
Dave Winfield 6 – looked ill at ease when Exeter tested him with long searching forward balls and partnership with Lowe didn’t convince
Femi Ilesanmi 7 – rarely beaten by his winger and provided a resolute presence throughout the afternoon
Tom Platt 6 – made some positive bursts in an alien position, but end product might have been better at times
Russell Penn 6 – skied a decent chance over the bar and not as prominent as usual in the middle of the park
Luke Summerfield: STAR MAN 7 – his excellently-delivered corners caused Exeter all sorts of problems
Anthony Straker 6 – missed the target with a couple or promising first-half opportunities and was replaced early in the second period
Jake Hyde 6 – lacked sharpness when bearing down on goal seconds into the restart and made few inroads in attack
Michael Coulson 7 – grafted away but more effective when he was move out of the centre and on to the left flank
Subs: Meikle 7 - positive (for Straker, 54), Fletcher 7 – eager (for Platt, 62), Ben Hirst (for Hyde, 78).
Subs not used: Jason Mooney, John McCombe, Daniel Parslow, Lewis Montrose.
Christy Pym, David Wheeler, Matt Oakley, Pat Baldwin, Andy Woodman, Aaron Davies, Liam Sercombe, Aaron Dawson, Matt Grimes (Jimmy Keohane, 80), Scott Bennett, Graham Cummins. Subs not used: James Hamon, Connor Riley-Lowe, Jordan Tillson, Matt Jay, Jason Pope, Ollie Watkins.
Star man: Oakley – solid at the back and also delivered telling balls into City box.
Referee: Steve Martin (Renfrewshire).
Rating: 7/10 – not a Hollywood performance but acted sensibly.
Attendance: 2,741 (141 from City) Shots on target: Exeter 3, City 3.
Shots off target: Exeter 2, City 10.
Corners: Exeter 5, City 9.
Fouls conceded: Exeter 9, City 9.
Offsides: Exeter 4, City 2.