Grecians put in assured performance in narrow defeatLine-Ups:
Exeter City: Olejnik, Noble, McAllister, Ribeiro, Harley, Oakley, Holmes, Davies, Nichols, Wheeler, Brown.
Subs: Butterfield, Nicholls, Reid, Oyeleke, Hamon, McCready, Tillson, Jay, Watkins, Read, Egan, Down.
Goals: Nichols 56’
Sheffield United: Howard, Basham, Murphy, Baxter, McNulty, Collins, McEveley, Campbell-Ryce, Freeman, Higdon, Woolford.
Subs: Long, Dimaio, McGahey, K. Wallace, McFadzean, Scougall, J. Wallace.
Goals: Collins 14’, Adams 80’
Referee: Kevin Johnson
A BRAVE Exeter City just missed out on a draw with League 1 Sheffield United in their final pre-season friendly at St James Park before the big kick-off in two week’s time.
The Grecians named a strong-looking line-up for this one, one which looks very like that which may take to the field to begin the 2015/16 League 2 campaign against Yeovil Town.
Blades boss Nigel Adkins, who brought Reading to St James Park for a pre-season fixture one year ago, switched goalkeepers after handing in the teamsheets, with George Long, the former Motherwell loanee, replacing Mark Howard in the starting eleven.
David Wheeler was a man very much in the thick of the action in the opening exchanges, dispossessing United’s Jose Baxter on the edge of the Blades’ penalty area only for a covering visiting defender to clear. The tricky Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who was wearing a shirt so large that he had half of his shirt number tucked into his shorts, switched wings regularly, giving City full-backs Jamie McAllister and Arron Davies plenty to think about.
Wheeler put one over the bar, before the Blades struck to take the lead. Debutant Martyn Woolford put in the corner which Neil Collins headed expertly beyond Bobby Olejnik. Arron Davies delivered a special pass for Lee Holmes to take in his stride before hitting the ball just wide, the Grecians coming close to a quick equaliser.
The closest the Grecians came in the first half was when Tom Nichols curled the ball just beyond George Long’s far post on the half-hour.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CITY 0-1 SHEFFIELD UNITED
David Wheeler was the creator as City got themselves back into it just over ten minutes into the second period. It was Wheeler who nipped in front of Neil Collins to burst free, before the Sheffield United goalscorer laid him out with a clear-cut foul. Penalty awarded, and Tom Nichols sent George Long the wrong way from the spot.
Bobby Olejnik was on hand to stop the Blades from immediately reinstating their lead when he pulled off a diving save to keep Martyn Woolford out. Minutes later and just after the hour, all nine remaining Sheffield United starters were subbed, while Tom McCready replaced Matt Oakley for the Grecians. Of these new introductions, Callum McFadzean nearly made the quickest impact when he broke free of the City defense, only to find the side-netting.
Eight simultaneous Grecians subs made it all the more difficult for those in the press box to keep up, with the likes of Alex Nicholls, Jamie Reid, Will Hoskins, Danny Butterfield, Kyle Egan, Toby Down, Josh Read, Manny Oyeleke all coming on. United’s Che Adams crossed for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to head down and onto the roof of the net as the Blades sought an equaliser, City valiantly holding on against their higher-league guests.
But the late winner came ten minutes from time. Che Adams found a pocket of space in the Grecians’ penalty area and fired through a despairing Olejnik’s legs. It was hard on City, but they can take solace in that they pushed League 1 opposition all the way.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 1-2 SHEFFIELD UNITED
Attendance: 1,122 (192 away)
Man of the Match: David Wheeler