26th April 1980
ECFC v Sheffield Wednesday
ECFC 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday
EXETER added to their reputation as the Third Division's chief bounty hunters with the prized scalp of Jack Charlton's Sheffield Wednesday. Most of the top teams have ridden into St. James' Park this season, but only League leaders Grimsby and fourth placed Chesterfield have gone away with something to show. All the rest have been shot down, with Sheffield Wednesday being no exception after a game of high tension, much drama and play that swung from end to end. It may have been difficult afterwards to comprepend just why the 5,000 travelling Wednesday supporters practically danced jigs of sheer delight.
But with Chesterfield having surrendered at Millwall, the Hillsborough club are now in the Second Division barring an unlikely mathematical miracle. Supporters piled on to the pitch, and Wednesday players re-emerged from the dressing room to acknowledge the cheers and hearty slaps on the back. Manager Charlton even had a few words for the Sheffield fans thanking them for their support yesterday and throughout the season. It was certainly a complete transformation compared to the actual 90 minutes of play, when City supporters, if anything, had out shouted the hordes from the north. They had every reason to cheer, especially in the first half when the game should have been put out of Sheffield's reach. Instead, City led by only one goal:scored in the 28th minute by Tony Kellow after keeper Bob Bolder had pushed a Peter Rogers' header into the air from Steve Neville's right-wing cross. Kellow pounced as only Kellow can, heading the ball in from almost on the goal line for his 17th goal of the season, 14 of them for Blackpool. Unusually, it was Kellow who squandered the best chances which should have put Exeter well in command before the interval. He missed with a header as early as the first minute, and then lost control in the 34th minute after a Peter Hatch pass had dissected Wednesday's defence. The boot was on the other foot in the second half when Wednesday adopted a clear policy of attack at all costs. And it was during the second period when Exeter's real hero emerged. Goalkeeper Ian Main was again magnificent. A first half save from midfielder Jeff King would have satisfied most, yet even that was surpassed by three stops that were later to stun the Sheffield fans packed behind his goal. Main, a student in mathematics at Exeter University, had all the right angles when he dived twice at the feet of Terry Curran and Andy McCulloch to get City off the hook. And he kept a five-star performance with a penalty save far to his left from 19-year-old defender Mark Smith after skipper John Hore had upended the raiding McCulloch. Left back Tony Mitchell also did a thoroughly professional job to cancel out 24-goal dangerman Curran while Phil Roberts performed well in what was for him an unusual role. He didn't play as a central defender but went into midfield to mark Ian Mellor. The fact that Mellor was withdrawn and replaced by substitute Dennis Leman nine minutes from time really told it all on an afternoon when some of Exeter's champagne football was followed by the real thing when Wednesday heard they had finally won promotion after five seasons in the Third Division.
Exeter City Team
Main, Mitchell, Hatch, Hore, Giles Roberts (P.), Neville, Rogers (P.) Kellow
Ref. C. Downey (Hounslow).