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09:53 8th May 2012

Exeter City 2 Sheffield United 2

So on a drab and overcast day at the Park, City spoil the Blades' promotion party with a last gasp goal to send 1500 travelling fans home disappointed after a 2-2 draw in front of an impressive 6045 crowd. City lined up: Krysiak; Jones, Archibald-Henville, Baldwin, Tully; Dunne, Noble, Gow, Sercombe; Nardiello, O'Flynn.

With United needing to better cross-city rivals Wednesday's result to guarantee an automatic promotion spot, and City already relegated it was somewhat of a surprise that it was City who opened the brightest and enjoyed the better of the early exchanges. Indeed, the first real chance of the game fell to City in the fourth minute when a surging Noble run to the box ended with a neat one-two with Gow and a flashing drive just over the bar from 15 yards out.

Five minutes later top scorer Nardiello neatly nutmegged Matthew Lowton before rushing into a huge space left behind by Lowton down the left channel. With fellow defenders covering Nards nipped inside to smash a drive towards the top corner that was deflected up and over a stranded keeper and onto the roof of the net.

With both sets of fans in good voice and the atmosphere building City took a deserved lead midway through the half. Noble from the half way line exchanged passes with Jones on the left before playing the perfect defence splitter through to Gow who'd timed his run to perfection leaving a flat footed and square defence floundering in his wake. As the keeper advanced Gow reached the edge of the box before hoisting an outrageous chip with the outside of his left boot up and over the keeper and swerving into the opposite top corner to put City 1-0 up with a goal of sublime quality.

On the half hour Noble played a raking 60 yard cross field pass to the charging Nardiello in acres of space down the left side. Once again Nardiello cut inside, this time drifting across the edge of the box before letting fly with a fierce shot that again was deflected, and this time just past the far post for a corner. Five minutes later things went from bad to worse for the under pressure Blades when Dunne miscontrolled a pass out from Krysiak. He chased after the loose ball, but so did portly striker James Beattie. Unlike Dunne however, who slid the ball away, Beattie lunged in with studs showing catching Dunne on the shin sending him flying with the ball well away. The referee immediately reached for a red card for Beattie, and amidst the inevitable Sheffield protests booked a team mate of Beattie's too for continuing the argument a little too vociferously.

But despite being reduced to ten men it was the Blades who ended the half happier drawing level in the dying moments when Lee Williamson slid the ball under Krysiak from close range to make it 1-1 at the break with City seemingly well in control.

The second half got even better for the visitors when they took the lead two minutes in. Blades' man of the match Kevin McDonald collected Jones clearance from a corner 20 yards out hitting a firm drive straight back in. Unfortunately for City it skimmed off the shin of Dunne and into the far corner giving Krysiak no chance whatsoever and putting the visitors 2-1 up in very fortuitous circumstances. Presumably still feeling the effects of Beattie's first half challenge, Dunne was immediately replaced by Bennett.

Content with their lead, and despite their opening period superiority, Sheffield decided to park the bus and spent the majority of the remainder of the half with all ten players behind the ball and pretty much camped in and around their own eighteen yard box. The invite to then enjoy pretty much all the possession and all the attack was taken gleefully by City, although Sheffield proved a near impossible team to break down with the keeper having little to do. He was very nearly called into action though in the 12th minute when Noble's raking cross to the far post was met by Nards who cut inside before shooting at goal only to see his shot blocked at source.

In the 17th minute Gow looked to check the keeper was still awake with a cheeky dig from the half way line after spotting the keeper off his line, but the ball sailed harmlessly over the bar. Baldwin then made way for Duffy and a minute later O'Flynn was replaced by Bauza as City looked for a way to get past an increasingly resiliant and determined Sheffield defence, but it was nothing doing as City pressed for the remaining 25 minutes of the half without success.

But then there was stoppage time! First Noble hit a dipping 30 yard drive that the keeper held at the second attempt, then at the other end Chris Porter expertly turned player of the season Troy before crashing a good looking drive across Krysiak and back off the inside off the post. Finally, in the 48th minute, City got a much deserved equaliser. Bauza got the ball down the right and from close to the corner flag whipped in a devilish cross that Gow butted powerfully towards goal. It looked as the chance - and game - were gone when the keeper pulled off a stunning save to palm the ball away, but he only succeeded in palming it straight to the diving Bennett who headed home into an empty net from ten yards to make it 2-2 with the last touch of the game.

So a good end to the game and once again a team from Sheffield is sent home disappointed, although normally it's neighbours Wednesday. However with them beating Wycombe it meant they would secure the final promotion spot consigning United to the tortuous play-off route. I guess the city of Sheffield will be glad to see the back of us now, having scored six against United this season and denying them four points in the process and beating Wednesday on three of the last four times we've played them.

But enough of that, what about us? Well, if we'd shown the form of the last month a bit more often we'd probably have been safe a long time ago. As it is, along with at times a crippling injury list, we've simply made too made stupid mistakes at crucial times and let in too many soft goals. Of course it might have helped had we scored a few more along the way, but our unprolific strike force might also point out the lack of credible opportunities created for them. But then again this is by and large the same squad that 12 months previous guided us to just about the best finish in the club's history so it can't be all bad.

Manager Tisdale has already stated his intent to hopefully keep the majority of the squad for next season so with a bit of tinkering and a couple of astute signings things should be a little rosier in League Two, especially if those stupid mistakes can be cut out. So, for now, it's goodbye to League One and hello to League Two, with, if things go our way, plenty of local opposition to lock horns with in a very southern-friendly division.

But until then enjoy the summer and enjoy the break - although there's the welcome distraction of the Euros to look forward to - before we all meet up again in July for the friendlies and we get to do it all over again. I can't wait!

    Data provided by Press Association