Exeter have made it to their second consecutive League Two play-off final at Wembley after beating Lincoln.
Jayden Stockley, Hiram Boateng and Ryan Harley the heroes who have Paul Tisdale’s side now one game away from a return to League One after a six-year absence. They will play the winners of Friday night’s second leg between Notts County and Coventry on May 28.
It was disappointment for Lincoln who had targeted a second trip to the national stadium this season after winning the Checkatrade Trophy last month.
Exeter City player Hiram Boateng is lifted by the crowd as they invade the pitch in celebration
Ryan Harley of Exeter City celebrates with fans after sealing a win over Lincoln City
Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley applauds the travelling fans as the invasion continues
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Exeter City (4-4-2): Pym 6; Sweeney 6.5, Storey 6.5, Moore-Taylor 7, Moxey 7; Taylor 7, Boateng 8.5 (Archibald-Henville 76), Tillson 6.5, Harley 7.5; Simpson 7.5 (James 85), Stockley 7.5
Subs not used: Jones, Woodman, McAlinden, Jay, Edwards
Goals: Stockley 27, Boateng, 47, Harley 69
Booked: Stockley, Moxey
Manager: Paul Tisdale 7
Lincoln City (4-3-3): Allsop 6; Wilson 6, Waterfall 6, Bostwick 6, Eardley 6; Woodyard 6.5, Frecklington 6 (Pett 73, 6), Whitehouse 6.5; Green 6.5, Anderson 6 (Palmer 55, 6.5), Rhead 6.5
Subs not used: Farman, Long, Wharton, Chapman, Williams
Goal: Green 78
Booked: Eardley, Bostwick
Manager: Danny Cowley 6
Referee: Darren England 5
Attendance: 5,645 (363 away)
They will look back at a questionable refereeing display by Darren England. A display which left Lincoln manager Danny Cowley and the rest of his colleagues in the away dugout incensed.
Tisdale made one change from the first leg, which finished 0-0 at Sincil Bank. Robbie Simpson came into the side and started up front with top scorer Stockley.
It would be a partnership that would eventually prove crucial. The two combined early in the game but Simpson lacked composure and shot wide from six yards.
Lincoln weren’t reaching the high levels of intensity they have become renowned for. They got lucky when Hiram Boateng’s cross evaded everyone but weren’t so fortunate shortly afterwards.
Simpson’s shot from Boateng’s pass was blocked but Stockley was alert to volley past Lincoln goalkeeper Ryan Allsop.
Lincoln needed some inspiration. Step forward Elliott Whitehouse – the man who scored the goal to win the Checkatrade Trophy last month against Shrewsbury. Whitehouse thrashed the ball beyond Christy Pym.
But disappointment followed for the Lincoln fans who celebrated prematurely. Referee England initially gave the goal but Assistant referee Gareth Mellor had spotted Matt Rhead handling the ball.
England sided with his colleague and the goal was ruled out. Lincoln manager Danny Cowley protested at half-time that Rhead was pushed before making contact with the ball.
: Exeter City’s Ryan Harley, centre, celebrates scoring his side’s third goal with team-mates
Exeter’s Jayden Stockley celebrates scoring the first goal during the League Two play-off
Exeter City’s Hiram Boateng celebrates after scoring the second goal for the home side
From there the situation got worse for Lincoln and the 363 fans who had made the 480-mile trip from Lincolnshire. Boateng’s spectacular curling effort from 25 yards enough to beat Allsop on the way to going in off the post.
Then Harley rifled into Allsop’s top corner from range.
Lincoln fought back with a goal from striker Matt Green. Then Lincoln had appeals for a penalty turned down when Rhead collided with Exeter captain Jordan Moore-Taylor. Those in the Lincoln dugout leapt up and vented at referee England. Another decision that didn’t go their way or that of Rhead, who Cowley believes doesn’t get enough protection for referee.
That complaint will have to wait for another day. Exeter are through to Wembley and quality they possess suggests Notts County or Coventry will have to do something special to stop them from putting last year’s defeat by Blackpool right.
Stockley found the bottom corner of the Lincoln City net to give them the lead in the first half
Boateng struck a curling effort from distance to double Exeter’s lead early in the second half
Matt Green of Lincoln City watches as his effort rolls into the net to pull one back late on