Match 06
1st September 1979
Sheffield United (A)


Sheffield United 3
Sabella, McPhail Matthews (pen)
Exeter City 1
L. Roberts
Attendance: 12,617

EXETER City's first ever League visit to Bramall Lane, brought defeat with honour. For City made a courageous first half comeback and were finally sunk only by a disputed penalty award. Sheffield United brought back skilful Argentinian Alex Sabella for his first senior game of the season after turning down a £500,000 transfer bid from Sunderland.

Sabella celebrated his first game in Division Three with a goal after just 13 minutes. Moving out of a deep. position he met a measured cross from Duggie Brown. With his back to goal he flicked a surprise shot past an outstretched arm of keeper Vince O'Keefe. City seemed undaunted by this early setback and carried the action to the other end, where two quick corners were forced. From the second David Pullar floated a long ball to the far post, and Lee Roberts was completely unmarked with the simple task of turning the ball low inside a post for the equaliser.

So Exeter were back in the game, and the goal inspired them to better things almost up to the interval. Lee Roberts shrugged off a yellow card warning for an early foul on United's £100,000 Dutch striker Len de Goey and, with his namesake Phil, he kept tight marking on the home attackers. O'Keefe had an anxious spell after colliding with Barrie Butlin in going for a high ball in the penalty box. He recovered after treatment, but almost immediately was penalised by Leicester referee Jeff Sewell for time wasting, when Phil Roberts went down hurt. From the free kick inside the box, Sabella drove a dangerous shot over City's crossbar.

United resorted to off-side tactics when Exeter tried to get moving. John Sims was City's main inspiration but they were repeatedly frustrated. Two minutes before the interval Sheffield forged ahead again through a harmless looking header by defender John McPhail from a corner by de Goey. The ball dropped just under the bar as at least three City defenders tried in vain to clear. John Delve and United skipper Mick Speight were both lectured by the referee when they clashed in midfield, and minutes later Speight was booked for a foul on another City player. A driving force in United's midfield was big John Matthews and several of his long range drives brought danger to Exeter's goal. As City fought to get on level terms again, Sims shot just over and Pullar had a back header well saved. But disaster struck Exeter on the hour. The tricky Sabella forced his way into the penalty box and appeared to fling himself down when Phil Roberts put in a challenge. The referee promptly pointed to the penalty spot and waved aside City appeals that Sabella had dived. Matthews' spot kick went home and Exeter threw in the towel. Only token resistance was offered as Sheffield played possession football, interrupted by the occasional break. In the final minutes the woodwork saved Exeter from complete humiliation as de Goey crashed in a shot from ten yards. So City's poor start to the season continues, though they showed in spells that they have the talent up front as well as in defence to bring in points.

Exeter City 
O'Keefe Roberts (P) Roberts (L) Hore Giles Hatch Neville Rogers Sims Delve Pullar



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