May 7, 2011. The final day of the 2010/11 League One season. Exeter City, fresh from beating Devonshire rivals Plymouth Argyle, had to travel north to face Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Technically the match had nothing riding on it - City’s goal difference was inferior compared to Bournemouth’s, who occupied the final play-off spot, and Wednesday were comfortably sat in mid-table.
But still, hundreds of City fans made the 500-mile round-trip, hoping to see the Grecians achieve their highest post-war final league position.
Getting into the ground and going through the team sheets, some may have noticed one slight detail – City only named six substitutes instead of the usual seven. Most probably didn’t even give this a second thought.
Wednesday went ahead on 13 minutes as Jermaine Johnson beat two players and blasted home from 20 yards before Daniel Nardiello equalised 14 minutes from time.
Then, the Grecians went ahead late on through an unlikely figure. Picking up the ball mid-way inside City’s half in the 89th minute, imposing centre-half Troy Archibald-Henville began to charge at the Owls’ goal. And he didn’t stop.
The defender, who hadn’t scored all season, made his way through Wednesday’s back line before calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net, sending City fans into raptures.
As the Grecians looked to ensure the points were theirs, number 17 came on to the field in place of Tom Nichols. Number 17 being manager Paul Tisdale who came on for his first Exeter appearance in over 13 years.
Eight minutes were then added on by the fourth official as Tis and City looked to hold onto the lead and, despite ever increasing pressure from Sheffield’s attack, the Grecians held out for the three points, confirming that they would finish in 8th place on 70 points, meaning that just a single point separated the Grecians and a League One play-off spot.
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