Exeter beat Lincoln to book place at Wembley

Ryan Harley

Ryan Harley’s stunning 25-yard half-volley put Exeter City 3-0 up at St James Park

Two spectacular second-half goals helped Exeter City make the League Two play-off final for a second successive season as they beat Lincoln City.

After a goalless first leg, Jayden Stockley put them ahead before Elliott Whitehouse’s goal was ruled out.

Hiram Boateng made it 2-0 just after the break, running from inside his own half before curling in off the post.

Ryan Harley’s brilliant 25-yard strike sealed victory, with Matt Green’s late effort no more than a consolation.

Exeter will face the winner of Friday’s second leg between Notts County and Coventry City for a place in League One at Wembley on Monday, 28 May.

Exeter should have been more than one goal to the good at the break as Robbie Simpson and Jordan Storey both missed good chances from close range, before Stockley scored his 25th goal of the season after a lovely header across goal from Pierce Sweeney.

Lincoln were dumb-founded five minutes before half-time when Whitehouse’s close-range blast was disallowed after Matt Rhead handled in the build up, although the Imps felt their striker had been pushed in the air to cause the infraction.

But Boateng’s spectacular goal – just his second since joining the club from Crystal Palace last summer – settled the tie as a contest as he barrelled his way through the middle of the pitch and beat three defenders before brilliantly finishing.

Harley’s third was almost as good, as the talented midfielder picked up there ball from a throw-in and effortlessly smashed home.

Lincoln threw everything at Exeter in the final minutes and pulled one back when Green got on the end of a Rhead flick-on.

The visitors felt the big forward was then fouled in the box minutes after, but referee Darren England again ruled against the Imps – to the dismay of the Lincoln boss Danny Cowley and his assistant and brother Nicky.

Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley told BBC Radio Lincolnshire:

“The best team won. We’re disappointed with key decisions that went against us and we know that if some of those went for us, then maybe that would’ve affected their performance and outcome of the game.

“But they’ve scored two very good goals from distance and technically, they certainly beat us in that area of the game.

“We fought to the end, that’s a pre-requisite, we should do. We’re going to be disappointed, but we’ve got to keep that close.

“It’s clear where we need to go next season and we’ll come back stronger for this experience.”

On their disallowed goal in the first half: “Matt Rhead’s had a two-handed push in the back in the first half and it’s just incredible how they’ve given the decision to disallow the goal for us.

“He is a Championship referee and I can’t believe how poor his performance was tonight. It’s a season’s-worth of hard-work for ourselves out the window. Same with the penalty appeal in the second half.

“Decisions – some go for you, some go against you, you’ve just got to suck it in.”

Live Text

Match ends, Exeter City 3, Lincoln City 1.

Second Half ends, Exeter City 3, Lincoln City 1.

Foul by Luke Waterfall (Lincoln City).

Troy Archibald-Henville (Exeter City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Matt Rhead (Lincoln City) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Ryan Harley (Exeter City).

Dean Moxey (Exeter City) is shown the yellow card.

Offside, Lincoln City. Luke Waterfall tries a through ball, but Matt Green is caught offside.

Jayden Stockley (Exeter City) is shown the yellow card.

James Wilson (Lincoln City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jayden Stockley (Exeter City).

Attempt missed. Matt Rhead (Lincoln City) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Neal Eardley with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Lincoln City. Conceded by Lloyd James.

Tom Pett (Lincoln City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Lloyd James (Exeter City).

Substitution, Exeter City. Lloyd James replaces Robbie Simpson.

Michael Bostwick (Lincoln City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Michael Bostwick (Lincoln City).

Jake Taylor (Exeter City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match (Lincoln City).

Goal! Exeter City 3, Lincoln City 1. Matt Green (Lincoln City) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Matt Rhead with a headed pass.

Corner, Lincoln City. Conceded by Jake Taylor.

Elliott Whitehouse (Lincoln City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Jake Taylor (Exeter City).

Substitution, Exeter City. Troy Archibald-Henville replaces Hiram Boateng.

Matt Green (Lincoln City) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Ryan Harley (Exeter City).

Substitution, Lincoln City. Tom Pett replaces Lee Frecklington.

Ollie Palmer (Lincoln City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jayden Stockley (Exeter City).

Corner, Lincoln City. Conceded by Jayden Stockley.

Corner, Lincoln City. Conceded by Jordan Storey.

Attempt blocked. Luke Waterfall (Lincoln City) header from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Lee Frecklington with a cross.

Corner, Lincoln City. Conceded by Jordan Storey.

Goal! Exeter City 3, Lincoln City 0. Ryan Harley (Exeter City) left footed shot from outside the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Pierce Sweeney.

Corner, Exeter City. Conceded by Luke Waterfall.

Corner, Exeter City. Conceded by Luke Waterfall.

Foul by Matt Green (Lincoln City).

Dean Moxey (Exeter City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

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