After our mid-week victory at Norwich, we continue our league campaign at the weekend.
Date: Saturday 1st October 2016
Opponent: Sheffield Wednesday (10th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Sheffield Wednesday=13/8
Weather: Dry, 18C
Referee: Mr. Kevin Friend
For the second Saturday in a row, we welcome a team from Sheffield to Exeter. Lubomir Zapotoka makes his debut for us and it’s his first ever league game in his career. Adriano Gazzoli makes his league debut for us, whilst Dacian Varga reaches his 325th career league appearance. We start well and two minutes in, Michel tries to chip Flinders from 20 yards, but he backpeddles and pushes the ball over the bar. Three minutes later, Zapotoka plays in Federico Cenci and he shoots from 12 yards, but straight at Flinders. There’s a rebound, but the ball gets headed safely back to him by a defender. Sheffield Wednesday’s first chance falls to Upton in the 10th minute, but he shoots wildly from 14 yards and the ball flies wide. A minute later, Gazzoli is played in by Michel, but his shot from 18 yards is easy for Flinders, who doesn’t even have to move to make the save. Luca D’Avanzo enters Mr. Friend’s book in the 16th minute after a foul on Atajic. The game quietens down, with the next chance coming in the 32nd minute when Varga has a chance to mark his milestone from 12 yards, but only shoots at Flinders who holds onto the ball. A minute before half time, Michel crosses from the right. Varga comes steaming in at the far post and connects with a diving header 6 yards out. It flies in for his second goal of the season. What a way to mark your 325th career league appearance!
We start the second half as well as we ended the first; Bertin Matip takes an outswinging corner in the 49th minute and Cenci, 6 yards out at the near post, gets his 8th of the season. Cenci has an opportunity to double his tally in the 56th minute following a through ball by Michel, but Flinders is able to parry his fierce drive and Sheffield Wednesday clear the ball to safety at the expense of a throw. Michele Marconi’s re-introduction to first team football following his injury continues in the 67th minute when he replaces Gazzoli; Marconi goes upfront and Cenci moves out to the right wing. Matip has a drip from 25 yards in the 71st minute, but Flinders keeps it out and the defence clear to safety. Malone fouls Vilhjalmsson in the 78th minute and joins D’Avanzo in Mr. Friend’s book. Jay Spearing comes on in the 82nd minute to replace Bradley Johnson as we look to see the game out. We go close to adding a third in the 85th minute – an inswinging Matip corner is met by Cenci at the near post, but his header from 6 yards goes just over. Mr. Friend makes a third booking in the 89th minute after Connolly fouls Cenci and I make a final substitution in the 90th minute, bringing on George King for D’Avanzo as I don’t want him sent off in a game that’s now won.
Result: Exeter City 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday
Man of the Match: Michel
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (7.6), DCR-D’Avanzo (7.1, booked, sub 90), DCL-Vukovic (7.1), DL-Malone (7.0, booked), MCR-Matip (7.8, A), MCL-Johnson (6.9, sub 82), AMR-Gazzoli (6.3, sub 67), AMC-Michel (9.0, A), AML-Varga (7.7, G), ST-Cenci (7.6, G). Subs-Marconi (6.7, on 67), Spearing (on 82), King (on 90). Unused-Spasov, Koch.
League Position: 2nd
A pleasing performance and result, especially the debut of Lubomir Zapotoka who looks as though he could provide some competition for Catalin Rentea when he returns from injury. Michel and Bradley Johnson both played well enough to be included in Team of the Week, with Johnson’s mid-week performance and Michel’s weekend performance being crucial in winning the two matches. Gazzoli hasn’t made the most of his chance and considering the number of chances we had, a couple of more goals would have been nice, but overall, we go into the international break in good shape and with a couple of players due back from injury when we return to action.
Slaven Bilic is, unsurprisingly, appointed the manager of Derby County. At Norwich, Brian Laws steps into the hot seat.
Leeds United return with their loan offer for Philipp Langer, removing the ability to buy him through the loan spell. All parties agree and Langer joins them for three months. Richard Ibrahim joins Plymouth Argyle on loan for a month. Coventry City and Millwall make offers to loan Clement Baud for a month; I accept both offers and he chooses to go to Millwall. MK Dons offer to loan Martin Brandt for a month and he joins them, whilst Wycombe Wanderers would like Miltos Makris on loan for three months – I agree, but he doesn’t want to join them. There are offers to extend loans and I agree to them both – Burton and Sasha Chirico (he rejects the extenion) and Ivan Byram at Newport County (he accepts the extension).
I make a couple of signings; both are young players who I hope will develop at the club and become important players in the future. I sign both players on free transfers and they are Tunisian midfielder Amine Ben Ahmed and Czech midfielder/attacking midfielder/striker Miroslav Smejkal.
On the Saturday of the international break, I arrange a friendly against Manchester City to keep the players match sharp and earn some extra money. The game is televised, so we earn even more from the fixture. We record a 4-0 victory, but George King strains his groin and will be out for approximately 3 weeks.
With things going well at the club, I approach the board with a request to improve the training facilities at the club. The board agree with my reasoning, but advise me that there is currently no money to make the improvements so have to reject the request.