Scott Griffiths headed the Hatters in front after just two minutes – a lead they held on for 70 minutes when the Town left-back fouled the hosts’ Christian Ribierio and substitute Tom Nichols levelled the score.
Both sides came close to adding to the score in an entertaining game, with Ricky Miller and Jonathan Smith not far from nicking the three points for the Hatters late on.
It all started with John Still making two changes to the team that beat Northampton last weekend – Paul Benson and Jake Howells in for Alex Lawless and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu – the Town started brilliantly, taking the lead just after two minutes.
A tidy passing move in the opening minute led to a corner, and from Andy Drury’s left-wing inswinging corner Griffiths, on his 68th appearance for the Town, nodded home unchallenged to send the 1,043 Hatters fans in the away end wild.
In front, the Town sensed a second almost immediately and Howells’ direct free-kick from inside the D clipped the top of the Grecians’ wall.
After weathering the early Hatters storm the home side gradually worked their way into the game. And after a flurry of dangerous moments in the Town penalty area, Mark Tyler came to the rescue with a fine piece of goalkeeping on 18 minutes to keep it 1-0. David Wheeler’s flick-on from the edge of the box found strike-partner Graham Cummins but the forward’s low shot was well-saved by the sprawling Tyler.
Exeter remained patient in their play as they looked for a way past the Town defence, and home skipper Scot Bennett sent a curling shot from the edge of the box wide of the target on 35 minutes.
As half-time approached the game swung from one end to the other. Drury curled a shot into the arms of home goalkeeper Christy Pym on 36 minutes before Stephen McNulty bravely threw himself in front of a goal-bound drive from Bennett three minutes before the interval.
The Town had the first chance of the first half and they would end the first 45 minutes with the last. Drury was again instrumental, sending an inviting cross-field right-wing cross searching out Benson but the striker’s first-time shot rolled agonisingly across goal and wide.
After five minutes of exclusive Exeter possession at the start of the second half, Mark Cullen twice went close in as many minutes on 52 minutes, firstly blasting a left-footed effort over the crossbar before the Town’s leading goalscorer then tested Pym with a drive from the edge of the box.
Howells then shot wide on his right-foot after nutmegging his marker 20 yards from goal but on 58 minutes the Town had Tyler to thank for another fine save, this time from Cummins’ header. The Hatters then were relieved to see Bennett hook the loose ball over the bar from inside the six-yard box.
The chances continued to fall both sides’ way. Drury saw a free-kick pawed over by Pym just past the hour before home substitute Liam Sercombe wasn’t far away with a rasping shot from 25 yards that had Tyler scrambling across his goal.
Tyler then caught a Wheeler header before Still made his first change of the afternoon, introducing Luke Guttridge for Howells.
But still Exeter pressed and after a series of close calls the home side levelled via the penalty spot. Right-back Ribeiro darted into the penalty area and tumbled under pressure from Griffiths’ challenge and referee Whitehouse pointed to the spot. Substitute Nichols – only on a matter of minutes – stepped up and with his first touch rolled home the equaliser.
The Grecians sensed a winner. Tyler stopped a deflected shot as the hosts poured forward but after Ricky Miller’s introduction with 10 minutes to go the Town came back to life. Miller drew a decent stop from Pym from a snap-shot before Jonathan Smith’s left-foot effort from the edge of the box was also saved by the home stopper.
Both sides pushed for a late winner but a breathless and entertaining match ended all square – and with results going against the Town they dropped to second in the League 2 table…but stay unbeaten in 10 league games.
TOWN: Tyler; Harriman, Griffiths (sub Lacey 73), McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle, Smith, Drury; Howells (sub Guttridge 63), Cullen (sub Miller 80), Benson. Subs not used: Justham, Rooney, Whalley, Stevenson.
Attendance: 5,400, including 1,043 backing the Town.