But this ground goes up to 12 (k)

A seven-goal thriller was the final game at St. James Park before the expansion work was completed. Would the first game with the increased capacity bring such excitement?

Date: Saturday 28th October 2017
Opponent: Sunderland (9th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=11/5, Draw-11/5, Sunderland=Evens
Weather: Dry, 9C
Referee: Mr. Alan Beck
Exeter City lineup:

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Sunderland lineup:

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As well as it being the first game at the expanded St. James Park, Jagos Vukovic makes his 125th career league appearance for the club. He’s been a stalwart at the back since joining us.

Thirteen minutes in, Federico Cenci passes to Rainer Breu. Breu passes back. Cenci instantly shoots low from 10 yards and…

a diving Gordon pushes the ball around the post for a corner.

It’s not a game full of end to end excitement. Thirty one minutes in, Cenci crosses from the left and the ball falls to Breu. He’s 8 yards and steadies himself. The steadying gives Paolo Andre the chance to get back and slide in, taking the ball off his toe at the expense of a corner.

Two minutes later, we win a free kick 30 yards out. Instead of electing to shoot, Cenci passes to Bradley Johnson. He’s 25 yards out and unmarked, but shoots first time, low and hard…

It’s his first goal of the season. He’s evidently been saving it for the increased capacity!

Nothing further happens in the first half and Sunderland look to change things up at half time in an attempt to get into the game.

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The 57th minute sees Sunderland have their first chance of note. Vossen is 20 yards out and shoots, but it’s safely over the bar.

Johnson finds himself 20 yards out in the 62nd minute. He’s got the taste and shoots again…

forcing a magnificent diving save from Gordon and we win a corner. Before it’s taken, Sunderland make their second change.

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Five minutes later, Sunderland make their final change in an effort to rescue something from the game.

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The change sees a chance a minute later. Johnson is 20 yards out again. He’s already had success shooting low, does it again and…

it’s straight at Gordon, who make a comfortable save.

Ortigoza enters Mr. Beck’s book in the 73rd minute for a foul on Breu. Two minutes later, Ilica Perak is 25 yards out. He shoots. He…

fires just over the crossbar.

With seven minutes to go, Ortigoza takes a free kick from the left. Djuricic is 4 yards out at the far post and heads in, drawing the visitors level. They haven’t really deserved it, but we haven’t really threatened enough to make the game safe.

With four minutes to go, Ortigoza enters Mr. Beck’s book for a foul on Cenci. Four minutes later, Cenci has evidently recovered. He plays in Jonny Hayes who is 10 yards out. He goes to pull the trigger, but Paolo Andre is alert and slides in to take the ball off his foot.

He’s put it past Gordon and surely scored the deciding goal! Plenty of late drama to mark the opening of the expanded stadium! Before Sunderland kick off, I make a change.

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It’s a defensive move as Marcel Hrubesch will play deeper. We see the game out and the larger crowd head home happy.

Result:

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Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos (6.9), Byrne (6.9), Ake (7.0), Vukovic (7.0), Riccardi (6.8), Perak (6.9), Matip (6.9), Johnson (8.1, G, sub 90), Hayes (7.3), Cenci (9.0, 2A), Breu (6.8). Sub-Hrubesch (on 90)
Attendance: 12,714
League Position: 13th
Match Stats:

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The increased capacity at St. James Park sees us set a record for gate receipts of £275,000.

Federico Cenci and Bradley Johnson get named in the Premier League Team of the Week.

Wrexham offer to loan Abraham Leggett for a month and he makes the switch. Yeovil Town would like Niklas Christensen on loan for a month and he agrees to spend time there. Crawley Town offer to extend Nicky Holmes’ loan spell by three months and all parties agree to the extension. I also receive and offer from Aldershot to extend Aaron Walker’s loan spell by three months, which I accept. Meanwhile, Bruno Pierrat returns from his loan spell at Carlisle United.

There’s good news on the injury front as Lubomir Zapotoka resumes full training.

Queens Park Rangers sack Julian De Guzman. The media make me the favourite to take over at Loftus Road and ask me about my interest. I tell them that I have no interest in taking the job.

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Federico Cenci comes third in the Player of the Month award. For Young Player of the Month, Rainer Breu comes in second place and Bertin Matip rounds out the top three. The League One Young Player of the Month award sees Josef Neckar, on loan at Reading, claim second place.

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