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16:33 30th October 2011

Sheffield United 4 Exeter City 4

James Dunne earned the Grecians a deserved point with just four minutes to go of an unbelievable thriller at Bramall Lane this afternoon. Dan Nardiello's opener and a first City goal for David Noble gave the Grecians a 2-0 lead before Blackpool loanee Matt Phillips' deflected effort halved the deficit on the stroke of half time. His Tangerine team-mate Billy Clarke equalised before Matt Lowton gave the Blades the lead for the first time from close range. You can never write Exeter City off and Tisdale's troops proved that once again as they came back from a goal down (something they hadn't done all season until last Saturday) twice in the last ten minutes. First Nardiello's cross was headed home by John O'Flynn and after Phillips grabbed his second of the afternoon Dunne had the final say of a breathless 90 minutes when he superbly lifted the ball into the far corner to spark wild celebrations. It seems a long time ago now but Paul Tisdale was able to name an unchanged line up for the first time this season with the only change being on the bench where Callum McNish replaced the injured Guillem Bauza. The travelling faithful behind the goal were more preoccupied with the Grecians' canary yellow socks, borrowed from the home side after the wrong ones were taken from Devon! And the away side, complete with white shirts, white shorts and bright yellow bloomers earned the first chance of the game after just five minutes. David Noble won a corner infront of the away end after a smart one-two with James Dunne and Matt Oakley's back post delivery was headed over the bar by Troy. On Halloween weekend Sheffield United's 17-year-old goalkeeper George Long was left as white as a ghost after Nardiello profited on a horrible mix up between Long and left-back Marcus Williams to tap the ball into the back of the net from close range to give Exeter the lead. That was Nardiello's fifth goal in seven days and the easiest of them all. City started with what was effectively a 4-6-0 formation with Noble the furthest man forward, Nardiello and Jake Taylor on the flanks and the central midfield trio of Oakley, Dunne and Liam Sercombe. This new-look City continued to push forward with Nardiello sensing the chance of a second soon after when Long spilled Sercombe's drilled effort but the youngster grabbed the ball at the second attempt. But the Grecians, revitalized since last Saturday's 3-1 win over Rochdale, were in dreamland when Noble broke his City duck on 23 minutes. Scott Golbourne intercepted the ball on the half-way line and went on a dangerous run down the left hand side. He then teed up the former Bristol City man who took aim from 20 yards with a rocket that took a deflection before finding the top corner. The delighted caption showed off some dance moves infront of an ecstatic away end in what was his 61st appearance. It doesn't take a genius to work out why Blackpool gave so much game time in the Premier League last season to winger Matt Phillips and the winger was a danger all afternoon, only a fantastic block from Troy denied the 20-year-old on 31 minutes. At the other end Sercombe weaved through a number of red and white shirts before teeing up Taylor but his right footed shot was kept out by the diving Long. And his fellow keeper Artur Krysiak made his first real save of the afternoon on 39 minutes when Phillips' low drilled shot was kept out by the Pole low to his right hand side. On 44 minutes the majority of the 17,000 crowd were up on their feet, believing Golbourne should have been sent off for an incident with Stephen Quinn infront of the benches . But referee David Coote, who also refereed our amazing comeback at Oldham last season, just had a word with City's left-back. Just when it looked like City would take a two goal lead into half-time the home side made it 2-1. Williams' cross was fired home by Phillips via a big deflection that left Krysiak with no chance. And as the vocal City following mused over a hugely successful first half they couldn't have guessed what drama awaited them in the following 45. First Quinn whipped a ball in which Richard Cresswell could only head on to the roof of the net before Steve Tully nodded Phillips' dangerous cross behind for a corner at the back post. Golbourne's dead leg, which coupled with Billy Jones' fractured toe, leaves Tisdale with something of a left-back dilemma and on 51 minutes he introduced O'Flynn for Golbourne with Taylor moving to left-back and the Irishman joining Nardiello upfront. Taylor did extremely well playing out of position against one of the best players in League One and he made a number of vital blocks and challenges on the England Under 20 international shortly after swapping positions. The home side were upping the ante and were pinning the Grecians back in their own half. First Cresswell's flicked header forced Artur into a fine save and from the resulting corner the Pole dived to his right hand side to deny Neil Collins. Ched Evans was introduced by Danny Wilson and the Welsh international striker felt he should have been awarded a penalty when he was fouled by Troy after the City defender slipped on the left hand edge of the box. The resulting free kick was drilled at Tully by Evans. Clarke, who is no stranger to City fans having spent a loan spell at Brentford, then grabbed the leveller on 65 minutes when Phillips' pull-back found him and his drilled shot flew through the unlucky Krysiak's legs. And just six minutes later the comeback was seemingly complete. Quinn received a short corner and his cross caused havoc in the box before being eventually forced home from close range by Lowton despite the cries of handball from the away end. That set-back only seemed to slowly reinvigorate the Grecians and their second wind saw improved ball retention and they begin to push forward after a rocky spell. Then, after 82 minutes, we saw the next twist in this stunning game. Nardiello picked up the ball on the left-hand side and after weighing up his options the in-form forward pinged a perfect cross into the path of O'Flynn whose perfectly timed run to the back post was met with a header that went over the wrong-footed Long and into the back of the net. The away fans, stationed behind the opposite goal, endured that second or so of frozen-joy as they waited to see whether the linesman would flag for offside before going berserk. This football match was beginning to resemble a basketball game with both teams taking it in turns to fly forward. And with the game's next attack Sheffield United retook the lead with what seemed sure to be the winner. Evans knocked the ball down and Phillips half-volleyed the ball into the bottom corner. And then unbelievably just 69 seconds later Exeter's attack carved out a moment that none of the travelling faithful behind Krysiak's goal will ever forget as they scored the eighth goal of the afternoon with just four minutes left. Noble's searching ball bounced infront of Dunne on the left-hand touchline and in one motion he lifted a left-footed shot over the diving keeper from the angle which rolled into the far corner. The utter carnage in the away end will life long in the memory. This was a City side that had only scored six goals in 13 games before Rochdale came to town and here they were grabbing their ninth in seven days and their fourth of the afternoon away at one of the promotion favourites. A half-chance followed for O'Flynn and there was a few heart-in-mouth moments before the referee called an end to this pulsating encounter. Breathless from start to finish, this was one of the great away days since our promotion to League One.
    Data provided by Press Association