18th October 1980
Sheffield United (a)
Sheffield steal the show
Sheffield United 3 Exeter City 1.
Exeter must still be wondering what hit them after dominating the first-half against a team with just three points from their last seven games.
Sheffield United gave a disappointing performance that produced a chorus of boos and catcalls from the Bramall Lane fans when they went off at the interval. Despite having four players in midfield they could make no impact on the slick Devon side who, in Steve Neville and Tony Kellow had two of the most dangerous marksmen in the Third Division. United played into Exeter's hands with long balls upfield that rarely found Trenton Wiggan or Bob Hatton. Exeter used the width of the pitch and were prepared to take on the home defence which often looked shaky, apart from the dependable Tony Kenworthy. United 'keeper Derek Richardson had to cut out a string of dangerous crosses, but for all their possession early on Exeter only created one real goal chance a Kellow header, palmed away by the 'keeper. City, beaten 3-1 at Bramall Lane last season, were on top for most of the first 45 minutes with United, one of the early season promotion favourites, playing like a team of losers. Exeter seemed to have forgotten the 4-1 hammering by Huddersfield, and two points were there for the taking.
There was little to cheer the home fans and player-coach Martin Peters, who has found the transition from First to Third Division soccer a difficult process, could not rally his players. Indeed, Exeter would have been better employed pouring even more men forward in the first half when United just could not string their game together. Strong words from United manager Harry Haslam at half-time put fire and aggression into his players and it was a different story after the interval. Exeter had hardly time to get back into gear when United struck. A scrambled goal by substitute Steve Charles put them ahead in the 47th minute and from then on they were in control. It was the first time the solid Exeter defence had crumbled; they failed to cut out a Hatton cross and paid the penalty. From being in a position of taking at least a point, and possibly two, Exeter were forced to get men attacking in an effort to regain the initiative. But the controlled football they were playing disappeared as United put a stranglehold on the game. Suddenly, the home side began using space on the wings. Slack marking brought about United's second goal in the 55th minute when Peters was given a free header to nod in another Hatton cross and the former England World Cup star doesn't miss gifts like that. Hatton found all the space he needed and the Exeter defence began to crumble as the much-travelled striker carried on causing problems. For a brief period the Devon side were back in the match when Kellow got his reward with a goal from close range (71 minutes). That man Hatton added the killer goal ten minutes from time to earn his man of the match tag.