On to the home run to the end of the season. Could the team pick itself up from the disastrous set of results in March. Was there any fight left in the team?
One highlight of the season has been the youth team. In the Youth Alliance league they have been top 4 team in their regional league. Then in the Youth Alliance Cup had made it to the Southern Area final. This was against Millwall and disappointingly held at their training ground. The game took place on Wednesday 4th. Millwall took the lead. However, an equalising goal from the promising Jamie Reid, meant the game went to penalties. Jake Viney in goal did his part, and Ollie Knowles scored the winning penalty to set up a national final against Doncaster Rovers at St James Park (match report).
James Dunne was voted Exeweb’s player of the month for March.
Good Friday (6th) saw City fans travel off to Lincolnshire to visit Scunthorpe. The home fixture saw a poor 0-0, would this be any better? Cureton and Gow available. Plenty of endeavour by City on a poor pitch, but yet again penetration was missing. The Western Morning News (WMN) reported:
Exeter City slipped a step closer to League Two as another error by goalkeeper Artur Krysiak saw the Grecians go down to a 1-0 defeat at Scunthorpe United. The Grecians had worked so hard until the 77th minute, but Krysiak let a soft Sam Parkin shot squirm through his hands and into the net for the only goal of a frantic encounter at Glanford Park.
Whilst this confirmed safety for Scunthorpe, for Exeter City it was one more nail in the coffin of City‘s League 1 status.
Scunthorpe 1 City 0. Att: 4,361
5 games left. Nothing less than 5 wins needed. Leyton Orient were the visitors on Easter Monday (9th). Their form had been dreadful recently, playing themselves in to relegation contenders. Jamie Cureton, as an Orient player, was not made available for selection. Alan Gow up to match fitness, started the match. City quickly out of the blocks. The WMN wrote:
A virtuoso performance from Alan Gow and two sublime strikes from Liam Sercombe ended a ten-match winless run as Exeter City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Leyton Orient at St James’ Park. Jake Taylor got the ball rolling for Exeter with the opening goal on four minutes before two sublime Sercombe strikes in the second half completed an emphatic win.
Of all the players Paul Tisdale has signed, Alan Gow was already proving one of the most influential. It was also City‘s first win since Bury in February 10 games ago.
City 3 Leyton Orient 0. Att: 4,142
8 Youngsters from the Development Squad offered professional contracts. Jamie Reid, Jake Gosling, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Jacob Wannell, Jamie Micklewright, Luke Roper, Jacob Cane, and Ollie Knowles. Excellent news, that the Club is putting its faith in youngsters.
Saturday 14th meant a visit to Spotlands to play fellow strugglers Rochdale. A win for the Grecians was absolutely vital. City started really well, a Nardiello penalty on 28 minutes, and Sercombe on 62 minutes confirmed City fully in command of the game, and should have been looking to take the 3 points back to Devon. Let us let the WMN to take up the story:
It was a display of real quality from Exeter and of near-dominance too. Neutral observers in the press box waxed lyrical about the Grecians’ performance and questioned why they ranked so lowly in the table. But then, City showed why in 11 ridiculous minutes.
To say City fans were devastated would be an under-statement. The 209 fans that travelled left totally gutted.
Rochdale 3 City 2 Att: 1,930
The Club confirmed that Rohan Ricketts had left the club. He played just the 22 minutes for City.
Its been 115 games since an opposition player was sent off! Southend’s Jabo Ibehre’s red card in a game back in December 2009 was the last opposition player to be sent off (our Barry Corr was also sent off) Quite an odd statistic. But that was about to change.
Another team struggling around the relegation zone, was Walsall. They visited the Park on Saturday 21st. Lenny Pidgeley in goal. Walsall opened the scoring on 30 minutes, and City fans had an agonising wait for Nardiello equalised in the 50 minute. However, just 5 minutes later Walsall went back in the lead. However, the game was turned on its head in the 66th minute, when Walsall‘s Smith received a 2nd yellow card, harshly, and off he went. From there, City with an inspired Alan Gow dominated the game. A brace from Gow, 69 and 77 minutes, with Sercombe adding one in the 88th minute.
The win means Exeter are still alive and kicking – just – in the battle to avoid the drop from English football’s third tier, after another fantastic performance which left observers questioning why the Grecians could not have played like this earlier in the season.
City with 7 goals in the last 3 home games. But reliant on what other teams do.
City 4 Walsall 2. Att: 4,307
The Exeter City Ladies, under the able tutelage of Steve Tully were having a great season. They ended as runners-up in the Devon Cup, and also won their Division and another promotion.
Scot Bennett commits to the club, by signing a new contract.
Just the 2 games to go. City‘s last away trip meant the long journey north to Cumbria to play play-off contenders Carlisle. On Saturday 28th April, make or break for City. Could they get the result they needed to keep their slim hopes of avoiding relegation alive?
Both sides needing a win. Both sides starting by throwing caution to the wind. The match would see stats of Carlisle having 20 shots to Exeter‘s 18. Carlisle went in at half time 2-1 up, another goal from Sercombe on 35 minutes meant he has scored 5 goals in 4 consecutive games. Carlisle went 3-1 up on 52 minutes, but City were offered a lifeline 2 minutes later when Gow was fouled in the box. However, Nardiello put the penalty against the crossbar. Carlisle complete the rout in the 77th minute and the scoreline finished 4-1 to the home side, and City‘s relegation was confirmed.
The WMN reported:
The 4-1 scoreline will suggest that Exeter went down with a whimper, but far from it. They were every bit as good as Carlisle and should have scored at least four themselves. The standing ovation they received from the humble home fans at full-time reflected that, but it was not Saturday’s game that relegated them.
Carlisle 4 City 1. Att: 6,029
Exeter City‘s Youngsters entertained Doncaster Rovers at St James Park in the national final of the Football League’s Youth Alliance Cup. A fantastic 1500 fans packed the Flybe stand. However they lost 4-0. Still, was a good season for the youth, finishing 4th in their league.
Final game of the season was home to high-flying Sheffield United. 1670 tickets had been made available to Blades fans by adding blocks L & M in the Flybe. Though a draw at home to Stevenage in last Saturday’s game, meant that they could only get automatic promotion if their rivals Sheffield Wednesday failed at home to already relegated Wycombe Wanderers. In the end, Sheff Utd did not take up their full allocation of away tickets, 1577 were officially in the ground. The biggest away attendance for many a season at the Park. Saturday 5th May, the final League 1 fixture for Exeter City for a while.
The away fixture had produced an 8 goal thriller, a highlight for those that travelled in a season littered with poor away performances. Could this game match that. Exeter City were playing only for pride and to ensure they did not have the added ignominy of being the bottom team.
What could have been a dull affair, turned out to be good entertainment. Gow opened the scoring on 24 minutes, Beattie was sent off in the 37th minute for quite a dreadful tackle on James Dunne. Sheffield United scored either side of the half time whistle, and just needed Wednesday to slip up at home. However, the reverse was true. The 2nd half was quite even, but City couldn’t penetrate the back line. However, Scot Bennett in the 3rd minute of added time scored a headed equaliser. A fair result on the day, and an impressive 6-6 on aggregate for the season!
The WMN said:
That made it three goals in just 15 games this season for Bennett – not a bad return for someone who has played either in defence or as a defensive midfielder this season. He is someone who will be a key player for Grecians as they seek an instant return to League One next year.
City 2 Sheffield Utd 2. Att: 6,045
After the game, news came through that Exeter City’s Director of Football, Steve Perryman, had been taken ill. He’d been rushed to the RD&E and overnight moved to Derriford where he underwent an emergency hearth operation. Get well soon Steve.
Despite a partial rally at the end of the season, City finished 23rd with 42 points, and averaged precisely 1 goal a game.
Alan Gow, unsurprisingly, won Exeweb’s player of the month poll.