Three games of the season left. Eight points clear of third-placed Blackburn Rovers. We’ve definitely got one foot in the Premier League. But Blackburn can still pip us. A win and we’re guaranteed to go. However, we can lose all three remaining games and still get promoted. If I was the Blackburn manager, I’d be accepting that we’re going into the play-offs. As the Exeter manager, I’m concerned that’s where we’ll end up.
Date: Saturday 22nd April 2017
Opponent: Huddersfield Town (9th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Huddersfield Town=13/8
Weather: Dry, 12C
Referee: Mr. Mike Dean
We have a chance to get promoted in front of our fans with two games to spare, so an excellent position to be in. The important thing will be to achieve promotion. Jonathan Bond lines up for his 150th career league appearance and it could certainly be a memorable one.
Oliver Norwood has a couple of early range finders. He shoots just over from 20 yards in the 6th minute and wide from 25 yards in the 7th minute. Dalla Valle also has a shot from 25 yards in the 14th minute, but he’s unable to keep it down and threaten Bond’s goal.
16 minutes in and a chance inside the area is fashioned. Michel passes to Federico Cenci and he runs into the area. He shoots from 16 yards, but it’s wide. He’s the player I’d have wanted the chance to go to, so I’m a little disappointed he couldn’t at least get it on target. A minute later, Danalache shoots from 12 yards, but thankfully it’s straight at Bond and he holds on.
The game quietens down, with the next chance coming in the 35th minute when Danalache shoots from 16 yards. He beats Bond, but the crossbar keeps the scores level. The crossbar at the other end of the pitch does the same a minute later when Cenci, 6 yards out at the near post, heads an inswinging Norwood corner.
We finish the first half on the front foot. Cenci strikes a thunderous free kick from 30 yards in the 41st minute that Cervi beats to safety. Norwood goes to recover the ball and gets booked in the process. Bradley Johnson shoots from 25 yards two minutes before half time, but is unable to keep it down. On the stroke of half time, Cenci has his name taken by Mr. Dean for a foul on Geng.
Jagos Vukovic has his name taken by Mr. Dean a minute into the second half for a foul on Danalache. Johnson tests Cervi from 20 yards in the 48th minute and five minutes later, finds the side netting from 25 yards. A goal (and one that will hopefully seal promotion) seems to be coming…
Johnson passes to Cenci in the 56th minute. Cenci is 18 yards out. He shoots. It’s over. A minute later, Johnson passes to Cenci again. Again, he shoots from 18 yards. It’s on target. Cervi saves, conceding a corner. 61 minutes in and an outswinging Norwood corner is met 6 yards out at the near post by Cenci. His header is going in, but Cervi catches and keeps the score level.
We continue to look for a goal that could secure promotion. In the 68th minute, Alain Besse shoots from 18 yards and Cervi pushes it over the bar. Norwood takes the resulting corner. It’s an outswinger. Johnson is 6 yards out at the near post. He heads it. Over.
For all our pressure, the scores are level. I’m concerned that we’re going to get undone by a sucker punch. With 16 minutes to go, Copp shoots from 20 yards. Bond make a regulation save with ease.
The crossbar is rattled for the third time when the clock reaches 78 minutes. It’s Norwood who is denied from 25 yards. McDermott enters Mr. Dean’s book in the 79th minute for a foul on Gennaro Riccardi. Michel shoots from 18 yards in the 83rd minute and Cervi catches. With 5 minutes remaining, Johnson 6 yards out at the near post heads over an inswinging corner from Norwood.
In the final minute, Visser is 25 yards out. He looks up and unleashes a shot. It’s over. A point. Will it be enough?
Result: Exeter City 0-0 Huddersfield Town
Man of the Match: Gennaro Riccardi
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (7.2), DCR-D’Avanzo (7.0), DCL-Vukovic (6.7, booked), DL-Riccardi (7.3), MCR-Norwood (6.8, booked), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (6.7), AMC-Michel (7.0), AML-Besses (6.8), ST-Cenci (6.8). Unused-McCarey, Rentea, Spearing, Gazzoli, Marconi.
League Position: 2nd
We controlled the game and had the better of the chances, but ultimately could not finish anything off. It could be enough. Unless Blackburn have won, we’re promoted. Blackburn have…
We welcome back a number of players from loan spells: Charlie Hollett from Luton Town, Busao from Bristol Rovers, Richard Ibrahim from Plymouth Argyle, Nathan Holland from Yeovil Town and Dennis Judge from Newport County. We’re also likely to keep Will Keane and Ryan Mason, both of whom request to be removed from the transfer list.
At the bottom of the league, Barnsley become the second team to be relegate to League One. At the top, have we joined Birmingham? Are we promoted to the Premier League? We started the game 8 points ahead of Blackburn. A draw means that Blackburn need to have won to retain any chance of pipping us to promotion. They have. They are now 6 points behind.