Coventry 3-1 Exeter: Sky Blues seal first promotion in 51 years
By Simeon Gholam at Wembley
Last Updated: 29/05/18 6:17am
Coventry thrashed Exeter 3-1 in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final at Wembley to seal their first promotion in 51 years.
Second-half goals from Jordan Willis, Jordan Shipley and Jack Grimmer were enough to condemn Exeter, who grabbed a late consolation goal through Kyle Edwards, to a second-straight final defeat, after they were also beaten exactly a year ago by Blackpool at the same stage.
Coventry, who were victorious at Wembley last season in the Checkatrade Trophy, book an immediate return to League One, having been relegated in abject fashion last year.
Coventry kept the same team that beat Notts County in the second leg of their semi-final, while Exeter boss Paul Tisdale started Craig Woodman ahead of Robbie Simpson.
If either side had the edge in a nervy first half it was Coventry, but in truth chances were at a premium for both sides in an edgy 45 minutes.
After the break, however, Coventry came alive thanks to an astonishing strike from Willis in the 49th minute. Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, the defender took a touch before curling home an absolute beauty beyond the helpless Christy Pym.
And five minutes later Coventry had doubled their lead as Shipley's effort, after some fine work by Marc McNulty, took a big deflection off of Pierce Sweeney and looped into the net. Once again Pym was left with no chance whatoever.
Coventry: Burge (7), Grimmer (8), Willis (8), Hyam (7), Stokes (7), Bayliss (7), Doyle (7), Kelly (7), Shipley (7), McNulty (8), Biamou (5)
Subs: Clarke-Harris (6), Reid (n/a), Ponticelli (n/a)
Exeter: Pym (6), Sweeney (5), Storey (6), Moore-Taylor (5), Moxey (5), Tillson (5), Woodman (5), Boateng (5), Harley (5), Taylor (5), Stockley (5)
Subs: James (n/a), Jay (n/a), Edwards (7)
Man of the match: Marc McNulty
Coventry continued to push forward and after 69 minutes the game was done and dusted as Grimmer got down the right, cut back inside and curled another wonderful goal into the far corner from outside the area.
The travelling Exeter fans would have a small consolation late on as substitute Edwards raced through to curl home a late effort, but for Paul Tisdale, the longest-serving manager in English football, it looks like it could be a disappointing end to his near 12-year stint at the club.
For Mark Robins, however, it was a first promotion as a manager. And for Coventry it was a rare and well-deserved day of celebration after so many years of doom and gloom.
- Exeter are only the second team to lose play-off finals in back to back seasons in the Football League, after Leicester City who lost in the second tier in 1991-92 and 1992-93.
- Coventry were promoted from a division for the first time since the 1966-67 campaign, when they were promoted into the top flight.
- This was Paul Tisdale's third defeat in a play-off final with Exeter at Wembley, having lost in the Conference against Morecambe in 2006-07 and last season in League Two against Blackpool.
- In all competitions in 2018, among players in the top four tiers of English football only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (29) has been involved in more goals than Marc McNulty (26, 17 goals and 9 assists).
- McNulty was involved in 39 goals for Coventry during the 2017-18 season (28 goals, 11 assists) - 25 more than any other Sky Blues player.
- McNulty assisted two goals in this game, becoming the first player to do so in a League Two play-off final since Garry Thompson assisted twice for Bradford against Northampton in 2013.
Man of the match - Marc McNulty
The Scotsman may not have gone on the scoresheet at Wembley, but he did little else wrong up top for Coventry. He played a big role in the second and third goals for the Sky Blues and led the line superbly all afternoon.
Mark Robins: "It's such a great achievement. It's been a really difficult season in a really tough league and I'm just thankful we managed to get through. I always said that if we play-offs to the play-offs I fancied us strongly, I could see we were building in confidence and we handled them really well.
"The connection between the players and the fans is everything, you can see that today. The support all season has been phenomenal. Football is all about winning for the supporters and thankfully we did that today."
Paul Tisdale: "We'll have to see [about my future here], it's not a yes or a no. There's an offer there for me but I'm within my rights not to sign that and wait for the end of the season.
"It's a disappointing way to finish the season so it's probably not the right time to discuss my future."
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