Lincoln City vs Exeter City. Sky Bet League Two Play-Offs Semi-Final.
Saturday 12 May 2018 18:49, UK
Lincoln and Exeter fought out a goalless draw in the first leg of their Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-final at Sincil Bank on Saturday.
In a match with few real openings, it was the home team who created the best chance of the game, only for striker Matthew Rhead to hit the crossbar with a powerful header just before the hour-mark.
As a result, it will be all to play for when the two sides meet again at St James Park for the second leg on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports Football.
Home Team: Allsop (7), Eardley (7), Waterfall (7), Wilson (8), Wharton (7), Woodyard (6), Bostwick (6), Whitehouse (7), Anderson (7), Rhead (7), Green (8)
Subs: Long (6), Pett (6), Palmer (6)
Away Team: Pym (9), Sweeney (6), Storey (6), Moore-Taylor (7), Moxey (6), James (6), Tillson (6), Boateng (7), Harley (7), Stockley (7), Taylor (7)
Subs: Archibald-Henville (6), Simpson (6)
Man of the match: Christy Pym
In a tight and cagey first half, it was referee Ben Toner who was the centre of attention after rejecting two Lincoln penalty appeals.
The first came when Exeter captain Jordan Moore-Taylor appeared to push Elliott Whitehouse over in the box, only for the official to wave play on.
From the resulting throw in, Lincoln striker Matthew Rhead also took a tumble in the area with Moore-Taylor at his back, but again the referee saw no foul.
The visitors were not without their own moments of threat in the first 45 minutes, but leading scorer Jayden Stockley somehow failed to make contact with Hiram Boateng's inviting left-wing cross five minutes before the break.
It was Danny Cowley's team, though, who came out all guns blazing in the second period, only for Exeter goalkeeper Christy Pym to deny them with a number of impressive stops.
Firstly, Pym reacted brilliantly to keep out Matt Green's well-struck effort from an acute angle right at the start of the half after the forward was found by Whitehouse's lovely layoff.
Lincoln full-back Neal Eardley started despite picking up a knock in the draw with Yeovil. But defender Sam Habergham and midfielder Lee Frecklington missed out due to injury as the hosts made one change from last time out.
Exeter, who made four changes from their last outing, had defender Jordan Moore-Taylor and midfielder Ryan Harley available, but Craig Woodman had to settle for a place on bench.
Then, five minutes later, Pym was there again to get hands to a Green shot, before Whitehouse side-footed over from six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
However, the best opportunity of the match fell to the man Lincoln would have wanted, only for Rhead to crash a header against the bar from near the penalty spot after being picked out by James Wilson's inch-perfect right-flank cross.
Danny Cowley: "We've had to come through a lot in the last three weeks in terms of injuries. We've really struggled with the balance in our team.
"Neal Eardley and Michael Bostwick wouldn't have been more than 75 per cent fit. The fact they were willing to put the team before themselves and come through as well as they did shows what they're all about.
"We'll hopefully get one or two back [for the second leg], which will give us more balance and get Bozzy [Bostwick] and Eards [Eardley] in a better condition. But we've also picked up one or two more injuries."
Paul Tisdale: "I think we probably edged the first half. It was two very different teams. You can't stop everything they do and they can't stop what we do. You have to believe in your own game and we had that flow in the first half.
"They responded in the second half. Were we surprised? No, but we held out and kept a good line - it was a really good game, albeit 0-0. It was amazing it finished 0-0 with the amount of chances out there."
Had it not been for the Exeter No 1's impressive display at Sincil Bank, then Lincoln would be heading to St James Park with a lead to defend on Thursday evening.
The former England U20 international produce a string of eye-catching saves in the second half on Saturday, including two brilliant stops to deny Green.
Not only that, though, but the Exeter-born 'keeper was also rock solid with any number of high balls and crosses that came his way.
Exeter host Lincoln at St James' Park on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports Football from 7.30pm. Kick-off is at 7.45pm