After our capitulation in the last 10 minutes of our League Cup tie at Brighton, we return to league action with a home fixture. As long as we’re leading by four goals with 10 minutes to go, I’m confident we can get something out of the game.
Date: Saturday 24th September
Opponent: Sheffield United (11th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Sheffield United=7/4
Weather: Showers, 12C
Referee: Mr. Lee Mason
The first team regulars return to action, resulting in Gennaro Riccardi making his 50th league appearance. Three minutes in, Federico Cenci shoots from 30 yards. It’s straight at Joronen and seems harmless enough, but it somehow finds its way under him and into the net for Cenci’s 5th goal of the season. A great start and Cenci is evidently aware that Marconi is returning to the fold. We continue to pressure and Bradley Johnson unleashes a rocket from 25 yards in the 15th minute. Joronen is alert and does just enough to tip the ball wide. Four minutes later, Harvey takes an inswinging corner. Our defence has switched off completely and Keene is unmarked 6 yards out. He meets the ball with a header and Jonathan Bond is able to parry the ball. It’s still heading towards the net, but Riccardi clears off the line, determined to make his 50th league appearance successful. Keene does find the net a minute later from 20 yards, but it’s the side netting and we remain in the lead. Bertin Matip takes an inswinging free kick in the 25th minute. It rebounds off a defender and falls to Cenci. He’s 6 yards out and makes no mistake, doubling his and our tally with his 6th goal of the season. Keene has another chance for Sheffield United in the 29th minute when Ephraim crosses from the left. He’s 4 yards out, but he heads wide. Eight minutes later, Michel plays in Cenci and he shoots immediately from 18 yards. Joronen saves and parries the ball and it appears to be going out for a corner, but Jonny Hayes picks up the rebound on the byeline. He stands the ball up into the danger area. Cenci has remained alive to the chance and gets to the ball, completing his hat-trick with a header from 6 yards. With a minute to go until half time, Matip takes an outswinging corner and it reaches Cenci at the near post. He flicks the ball on and the flick-on reaches Luca D’Avanzo, who registers his first goal for the club from 3 yards to end a dream first half.
Ten minutes into the second half, Ephraim crosses from the left and Bageta hits a first time effort from 12 yards to reduce Sheffield United’s arrears. I respond with a substitution five minutes later as Florian Koch comes on for Hayes. Rentea picks up a knock, but I give him the chance to run it off. Davies outpaces Rentea in the 64th minute and shoots from 12 yards, but hits the side netting. It’s a sign that Rentea is struggling and I take him off a minute later, with George King his replacement. King goes in at centre back, with D’Avanzo shuffling across to right back. The substitution follows Harvey entering Mr. Mason’s book for a foul on Michel. My final substitution comes in the 75th minute when Jay Spearing takes the place of Johnson. The match peters out and we secure a convincing win.
Result: Exeter City 4-1 Sheffield United
Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Rentea (7.0, off 65), DCR-D’Avanzo (7.8, G), DCL-Vukovic (7.3), DL-Riccardi (7.2), MCR-Matip (8.8, 2A), MCL-Johnson (7.0, off 75), AMR-Hayes (7.2, A, off 60), AMC-Michel (7.1), AML-Varga (7.0), ST-Cenci (9.6, 3G). Subs-Koch (6.5, on 60), King (6.8, on 65), Spearing (6.8, on 75). Unused-Spasov, Langer.
League Position: 6th
It’s a convincing win and just what was needed after our League Cup loss. It’s no wonder that Rentea was outpaced as he’s pulled his hamstring and will be out for 3 or 4 weeks. Team of the Week is named and after such a good performance, we have three players named in it – Luca D’Avanzo, Bertin Matip and (unsurprisingly) Federico Cenci.