Exeter 3-1 Lincoln (3-1 agg): Paul Tisdale leads his team to Wembley
Last Updated: 23/05/18 8:25am
Exeter will be playing in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final for the second season running after beating Lincoln City 3-1 on aggregate on Thursday.
After a 0-0 draw at Sincil Bank, Exeter made their strong form at home count with a professional showing that included goals from Jayden Stockley (27) plus brilliant strikes from Hiram Boateng (47) and Ryan Harley (68).
Lincoln grabbed a late consolation from Matt Green (78) and were aggrieved with a couple of refereeing decisions that went against them, including a disallowed goal from Elliot Whitehouse at 1-0 and a big penalty shout late on for a foul on Matt Rhead.
Both sides have made one change from the first leg. Robbie Simpson replaces Lloyd James for Exeter, while Lee Frecklington comes in for Lincoln and Scott Wharton drops to the bench.
Exeter boss Paul Tisdale - the current longest serving manager in English football after Arsene Wenger's departure from Arsenal - will be aiming to win a third promotion at the club and rest the demons of last season's final defeat against Blackpool.
They'll find out their opponents on Friday evening when Notts County and Coventry do battle in their second leg, live on Sky Sports Football.
The dry conditions in the south-west had caused the pitch to become unsuitable to Exeter's usual passing style. They struggled to make an impact in the early stages with misplaced passes hindering their progress in a nervy affair.
Like the first-leg, chances were at a premium but the deadlock was broken on 27 minutes.
Exeter's top goalscorer Stockley was the man to fire his team in front, latching onto a loose ball in the box and lashing it into the bottom corner for his 25th goal of the campaign.
The goal sparked the game into life - and Lincoln thought they'd levelled on 40 minutes.
Whitehouse was the man celebrating after smashing the ball home from close range but it was ruled as by the officials after the linesman adjudged Rhead to have handled, although he claimed to have been fouled himself.
Exeter: Pym (7), Sweeney (7), Storey (7), Moore-Taylor (8), Moxey (7), Tillson (7), Simpson (7), Boateng (8), Harley (8), Taylor (8), Stockley (7)
Subs: James (6), Henville (6)
Lincoln: Allsop (6), Wilson (6), Waterfall (6), Bostwick (6), Eardley (6), Woodyard (6), Frecklington (6), Whitehouse (7), Anderson (6), Green (7), Rhead (7)
Subs: Pett (6), Palmer (6)
Man of the match: Jordan Moore-Taylor
The visitors' mood deepened further after the break as they fell two goals behind in the tie courtesy of a moment of magic from Boateng.
The former Crystal Palace midfielder set sail from inside his own half and drove 60 yards with the ball before cutting inside and curled an inch-perfect effort into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Lincoln pinned the hosts back but rarely troubled a defence organised brilliantly by Jordan Moore-Taylor - and their bubble was completely burst by Harley on 68 minutes.
The midfielder let fly from 30 yards and despite a tricky bouncing ball to control, he connected sweetly which saw it travel like a rocket into the top corner.
Green reduced the deficit for Lincoln with 12 minutes left with a tidy finish after a Rhead flick but they never got within touching distance of the hosts, although that could have been different if the referee had spotted a foul on Rhead from Moore-Taylor that had the Lincoln bench and the striker incensed.
Man of the match: Jordan Moore-Taylor
The Exeter defender knew he'd be in for a difficult night up against Rhead but came out on top of their prolonged battle. Despite giving away plenty of height and power to the big striker, Moore-Taylor made up for that with some clever positioning. When he was needed inside his own area, he was there to clear. A proper captain's knock.
Paul Tisdale: "I'm enjoying it but there's still one more game to go, that's what it's all about now. We were here last year with lots of celebrations then you get the pain of losing [in the final].
"We certainly felt that pain last year and our joy and excitement is tempered a little because of that. It's like Snakes and Ladders when you get to 99 and then crash to zero, we don't want that again. The team we play will want to win as well, but we'll give it our best."
Danny Cowley: "The best team won tonight. We credit Exeter, they're a good club with a fantastic manager and a really good group of players.
"Technically they were excellent tonight. We were disappointed with a couple of the decisions but ultimately if we're honest with ourselves we came up a little bit short."
When's the play-off final?
The Sky Bet League Two play-off final is at Wembley on Monday, May 28, live on Sky Sports Football with kick-off at 3pm.