IT IS impossible not to admire the cut of Paul Tisdale’s jib.
Sporting a natty flat cap and paisley cravat combo, the Exeter City manager appealed to footballing purists and fashionistas alike at Bramall Lane on Saturday afternoon.
But while he was at his sartorial best, Sheffield United’s performance was part Paul Smith and part Primark as, having rescued a seemingly irretrievable situation, they then proceeded to twice throw away the lead during a dramatic crescendo to this enthralling contest.
It left Danny Wilson, Tisdale’s rival across the technical area, bemoaning his team’s generosity and Billy Clarke, whose first strike in United colours had earlier levelled the score after Daniel Nardiello and David Noble appeared to have set the visitors on course for a famous victory, paying tribute to its character but also rueing yet more costly lapses in concentration.
Together with fellow Blackpool forward Matt Phillips, Clarke has transformed Wilson’s side in to an attacking machine slicker than Tisdale’s touchline attire since arriving on loan from Bloomfield Road.
Unfortunately, problems persist at the other end of the pitch where individual errors prevented the former Republic of Ireland under-21 international from celebrating the end of his two year goal drought in style.
“It’s always nice to get off the mark,” Clarke, who missed all of last season with serious injury, said. “But I’d gladly sacrifice that for a win. If you are scoring four at home then you don’t expect to be coming away with a draw do you.
“I’m not an ungrateful player though. I spent too long out to be that.
“I might be being unfair but I don’t think some people appreciate their careers enough. I probably didn’t until I was missing for so long. So I certainly appreciate it more now.”
Clarke’s new-found hunger and desire have manifested themselves in a serious of sparkling individual cameos which, until last weekend, had only been rewarded with five assists.
But having seen Phillips’s deflected shot reduce the deficit moments before the interval, he applied the finishing touch to a delightful move involving Nick Montgomery and Marcus Williams with a perfectly-executed drive.
With Exeter substitute John O’Flynn cancelling-out Matthew Lowton’s effort, Phillips’ second of the match should have ended rejuvenated Exeter’s hopes of extending their unbeaten run to three games.
However, demonstrating the lack of care which has now seen them throw away six points in their previous five outings, United conceded again during the closing stages when James Dunne steered an angled shot beyond teenage goalkeeper George Long.
All four of Exeter’s goals were wholly preventable.
“I don’t think our position is a true reflection of how good we are as a team,” said Clarke, “But then that’s probably our fault.
“I do think it’s only a matter of time though before we start turning these draws into wins and getting to where we should really be.”
The odds of either he or Phillips being around to help fourth placed United climb further up the rankings reduce with every majestic display.
Scheduled to return to Bloomfield Road next month, Blackpool’s Ian Holloway has offered Wilson little encouragement their temporary agreements will be extended but Clarke said: “If it gets the green light then I’ll gladly stay although, being honest, it’s completely out of my hands.
“I’m enjoying my time here and I’m enjoying playing and being involved.
“But if I do go back then of course I’ll be thoroughly committed to Blackpool.”
A terrible mix-up between Long and Williams presented Nardiello with a simple tap-in before Noble pounced after Scott Goldbourne, who was later fortune to escape a red card for a shove on Stephen Quinn, had been allowed to ghost across the penalty area.
But United overcame their woeful start when Phillips’ shot ricocheted home off Troy Archibald-Henville and Clarke hit the target midway through the second-half.
Lowton helped the ball across the line when Harry Maguire flicked-on Quinn’s centre and while O’Flynn appeared to have strayed off-side before converting, Wilson’s men were solely responsible for the poor decision-making which allowed Dunne to secure Exeter a share of the spoils after Phillips had taken his tally to five in as many appearances with another brace; Long finding himself in no-mans land when the midfielder latched on to a hopeful punt up field.
“We showed great character to come from behind like that but when we got ourselves in front we should have seen the game out,” admitted Clarke. “We should have gone on to get a better result.
“But with the quality that’s here, when you look around the dressing room, it’s not a case of anything major being wrong and we’re still in a good position.”