Exeter City's pre-season preparations came to an end with a late defeat to Championship side Coventry, despite a brilliant performance from the Grecians in front of a crowd of over 5,000.
Vince Harper's intended cross levelled the game following Matty Godden's second half opener, but Ben Sheaf's goal deep into stoppage time put paid to what would have been hard fought and deserved draw.
With this being the last game of pre-season, it was the last time for players to make an impression in front of the first team staff, with all places up for grabs as the first game of the season was only a week away. An important takeaway for the squad was the return of Kyle Taylor, named on the bench for the first time in 16 months following his horrific knee injury.
It was a quick start to the game for both sides, with attacks coming at both ends courtesy of Sam Nombe and Sheaf, but either keeper stayed untested.
A dangerous ball over the top from Carroll found the chest of Aitchison on the left-hand side whose ball into the box found James Scott, but the Scotsman was unable to make anything of the effort as he was tackled, and the ball cleared away. Shouts for a penalty from the home side but waved away by the referee.
There was a raucous applause from the Big Bank as the City back line and Sinsalo all stood firm after a Coventry barrage almost had the away side taking the lead. A triple onslaught had Sinsalo and Aimson standing firm chucking their bodies on the line to keep the score at 0-0.
It was a big chance from a dead ball situation for Coventry as Palmer was felled on the edge of the box by Carroll, but the away side were unable to do anything with the chance as Palmer fired the effort into the City wall.
A corner for City halfway through the first half with both wing backs taking charge of their respective wings, this time it was Rankine with his magic feet taking the Coventry defence for a ride. From the resulting corner, a ball chested down at the back post by Scott was half volleyed by Aitchison for a first shot on target for City, but it was well gathered by Collins.
After a huge clearance from Hartridge which sent the ball clearing the Big Bank, Coventry had a huge chance. A corner to the back post found the head of Thomas but his headed effort was only good enough to find the side netting.
The Sky Blues were on the attack again only moments later with Matt Godden forcing a superb save out of Sinsalo in goal for the Grecians, with his arms outstretched he was able to claw the ball away.
After the half time break Gary made his first change of the game James Scott being replaced by Reece Cole.
Coventry had their first big chance of the second half in the 55th minute as Godden was able to get a header on target but Sinsalo was able to match it and gathered with ease.
City went straight down the other end with an attack of their own, led by the marauding Rankine down the right-hand side, he played a ball into Cole who played a peach of a ball through to Nombe, but his attempted cutback was cut out by a collective of Coventry defenders.
City made their second change of the afternoon on 64 minutes as Mitchell was replaced by Vincent Harper, a straight swap in the left wing back position.
Coventry were starting to find their feet as the second half wore on with multiple efforts on the City all spearheaded by Palmer. And in the 67th minute they took the lead, a corner into the box found the head of Godden who was able to head past Sinsalo.
It was a double change for City in the 71st minute as Hartridge and Carroll made way for Pedro Borges and Zak Jules, with the latter making his debut for the Grecians.
Moments later and City made a triple change with Trevitt, Aitchison and Nombe replaced by Sonny Cox, Mitch Beardmore and a massive welcome back after 16 months to Kyle Taylor.
City equalised just after the 80th minute with a wonderful goal from Harper. Far out on the left-hand side the wing back sent a cross-cum-shot to the back post which alluded everyone bouncing off the back post and nestling into the back of the net.
With City about to walk away with a well-earned draw, up-stepped Sheaf to spoil the party, as the Coventry midfielder struck from range to earn Coventry the win right at the death.
It is back to league action for City in their next game as the first game of the season is an away trip to the Adams Park, to take on Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday 5th August.
City: Sinsalo, Sweeney, Aimson ©, Hartridge (Jules), Rankine, Carroll (Borges), Trevitt (Taylor), Mitchell (Harper), Scott (Cole), Aitchison (Beardmore), Nombe (Cox)
Subs not used: Woods,
Coventry: Collins, Dasilva, Thomas, McFadzean, Sakamoto, Simms, Sheaf, Latibeaudiere, Godden, Eccles, Palmer
Subs: Moore, Binks, Kelly, Bidwell, Burroughs, Howley, Hamer, Eghosa, Obikwu
Referee: Lee Swabey