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17:05 5th May 2012

Exeter 2-2 Blades - match report

The Blades recorded a last day draw, with ten men, and in the process took the points tally to 90 to secure a play-off spot.

Alan Gow disputedly gave Exeter the lead before James Beattie was sent off in the first half. The Blades hit back with goals from midfielders Lee Williamson and Kevin McDonald before Scot Bennett's last gasp goal denied United maximum points.

A total of 1,577 Blades, many in fancy dress as is tradition on the final day, were in Exeter to see the game, whilst thousands more were at Bramall Lane to watch live pictures beamed back.

Boss Wilson made three changes to the starting line-up at St James' Park, which included a new front line in the form of Beattie and Cresswell. Flynn also started, whilst O'Halloran, Porter and Quinn dropped to the bench.

Despite the Blades supporters making plenty of noise, Exeter were the quickest out of the blocks. Noble fired over after good work from a throw-in, needlessly given away by the visiting defence, whilst on the break, after nine minutes, Nardiello's shot was deflected onto the roof of the net by Collins.

Williamson was the first in the referee's book, after a late lunge on Noble, who recovered to smash the subsequent free-kick over the crossbar. United, though, began to assert some pressure on the home side and caused problems from the first two corners. McDonald was unable to get enough power after Maguire had headed down the first and Beattie's glancing header from the second failed to find the target.

Richard Cresswell

The next two opportunities, on 17 and 19 minutes, both fell to Williamson. His header, from a standing start, was comfortable for goalkeeper Krysiak, who then came through the back of Cresswell as the rebound fell to Williamson, whose shot was blocked by a defender.

It had been a good period for United but disaster struck on 24 minutes when the home side grabbed the lead. Whilst players and fans appealed for offside, GOW, from a position wide on the left, hit a first-time curler beyond the despairing dive of Simonsen.

Next, Nardiello's shot from the left was deflected wide by the studs of Williamson, whilst United hit back with two efforts that were straight at Krysiak - Maguire's header from a corner and Williamson's left-footer.

James Beattie

But further problems were to follow for the Blades when Beattie was sent off for the second time this season, his foul on Dunne adjudged to be a red card offence by referee Linington. Doyle was also booked for protesting as Beattie trudged down the tunnel.

However, after recovering composure, the ten men levelled with the next chance, which arrived on 44 minutes. McDonald's crossfield pass paved the way and Lowton whipped in a cross from the right, which WILLIAMSON diverted past Krysiak.

Before the break Exeter's Dunne and United's Simonsen were both booked as the referee took his card count to five, whilst soon after the interval Mr Linington was pointing back to the centre spot as the Blades took the lead.

The first action of the second half saw United win a throw on the left, deep into Exeter's half, and from Taylor's delivery, the ball was fed back to McDONALD, who, from the edge of the box, saw his shot deflected beyond Krysiak's left hand.

Not disappointingly as far as United were concerned, the goalmouth action somewhat curtailed with only Nardiello's shot being blocked by the head of Collins the only noteworthy chance. Exeter used all three of their substitutes, whilst Porter replacing Cresswell at the midway point was Wilson's first change.

Maguire was the next to block from Nardiello, whilst United's next chance, on 78 minutes was a Collins header from a corner by Williamson - in the aftermath of Krysiak's save, he bowled out to a defender, which was cut out by McDonald, but the midfielder was unable to convert.

Quinn and Hill replaced Flynn and Williamson in the final ten minutes and Exeter pressed for a leveller, with Simonsen forced to have two bites before collecting Noble's long-range effort. Three minutes of added time saw Porter strike the bottom of a Stevenage post after getting past Archibald-Henville and Duffy, before the Blades were denied victory with a goal with the last significant touch.

A cross from the right was well met by Nardiello, who forced Simonsen into a fantastic save, but BENNETT was ideally placed to nod home the rebound. There was just time for the Blades to restart before the referee signalled the end of the regular season.

Exeter: Krysiak, Tully, Jones, Dunne (Bennett 47), Archibald-Henville, Sercombe, Noble, Nardiello, O'Flynn (Bauza 67), Baldwin (Duffy 66), Gow.
Unused: Pidgeley, Fortune.

Blades: Simonsen, Lowton, Doyle, Beattie, Flynn (Quinn 81), Williamson (Hill 85), Collins, Taylor, Cresswell (Porter 67), Maguire, McDonald.
Unused: Howard, O'Halloran.

    Data provided by Press Association