Player merry-go-round - Cureton and Nardiello return
There could have been no better way to end the season as Exeter City did the double over Sheffield Wednesday winning 2-1 on the day at Hillsborough, the historic home of the Owls, writes Gareth Hughes.
Whilst it was a disappointing end for the Owls, who had lost just once in the month of April and were keen to stretch their winning run at home to five games going into the close season, the victory again puts into perspective how far the Grecians have developed into a real footballing force.
The game, watched by 21,085 fans, allowed the Grecians to equal their best post war league finish of eighth place in the third tier of football.
For City fans, the game had everything, from their manager Paul Tisdale making his first football league appearance since 1998, the introduction of Tom Nicholls in his senior debut, the first goal for his club from Troy Archibald-Henville and another Grecian fight back after going 1-0 down in the first half.
In fairness, Sheffield bossed the first half, and it just took another half time team talk to get the Grecians into top gear and pile on the pressure, which produced the two winning goals in the last 15 minutes. Early in the second half, after a Nardiello shot, a scrambled goal line clearance from Nicky Weaver kept the score in Wednesday’s favour, which was then followed swiftly by a short spell of end-to-end football.
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With less than 15 minutes to go, Daniel Nardiello sent a well-placed low effort into the bottom corner, giving Owls keeper Weaver no chance.
It gave Exeter the momentum and they sealed the win in the final minute of normal time. Archibald-Henville waltzed through the wafer-thin Owls’ defence to seal the points.After the game, City boss Paul Tisdale enthused “I'm very proud of the team, very proud to be manager of a terrific club and, with all that, it’s just tinged with a little bit of disappointment that we've not finished seventh.
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It's been a great year and we've had to overcome numerous issues, most notably the passing of Adam Stansfield and we've come through it and we've done things in a very respectful way.” In terms of his own eight-minute contribution as a player, Tisdale said: “It's my first Football League game for 13 years since I last played for Exeter away at Scarborough. It was just a wonderful experience to be part of a team winning at Hillsborough - it was a great moment for me.”
As we move into the summer break we can reflect on being 8th in the table, one point off the playoffs and what was another fantastic and progressive season for the Grecians. The summer months will clearly bring changes which will include more work on the pitch, the release of some players and hopefully signings, which will, again, strengthen the team.The teams dropping from the Championship are Preston, Sheffield Utd and Scunthorpe, with Chesterfield, Bury and Wycombe being automatically promoted from League two and fingers crossed for Torquay who may make it through the playoffs.
The latest news on the player front include those leaving the club: James Wood, Jake Thomson, Paul Jones, James Norwood, Ben Watson, Ryan Harley, and Joe Heath. Retirees are Bertie Cozic, Rob Edwards and Marcus Stewart.
Amongst some of the names we hope to see back at St James after the summer break are Richard Duffy, Matt Taylor, Daniel Nardiello, David Noble and Jamie Cureton. These players have all played an important role and hopefully their futures will be agreed soon and new contracts signed. For the rest of us, watch out for the friendly dates and to avoid disappointment pencil them in the diary! A great red and white season and here’s to the next one. Come on you Reds.