City slip to a narrow defeat at Exeter City...
Luke Waterfall was handed his first start of the season with the skipper partnering Sean Raggett - back with the Imps on loan from Norwich 24 hours after he completed a move to the Canaries - in the centre of defence for this Sky Bet League 2 game against Exeter City at St James Park. Waterfall's return saw Rob Dickie drop to the bench where he was joined by the returning Sam Habergham.
Exeter got the game underway with the Imps backed by around 300 travelling fans who had made the long journey in the heavy summer holiday traffic and it was the boys in black who started the better with Matt Rhead heading a Nathan Arnold cross wide in the opening couple of minutes.
A dangerous Neal Eardley centre was then claimed well by Exeter keeper Christy Pym under pressure from Matt Green before Michael Bostwick curled a 25-yard effort over the bar following another swift City attack.
In the 12th minute a searching Sean Long pass to Green saw Pym and centre-back Troy Brown clatter into each other with the latter coming off worse and after the resultant corner came to nothing the Exeter centre-back received treatment.
The Imps kept the ball in the attacking third with Jordan Maguire-Drew drawing a foul out of Craig Woodman but the City winger saw his free-kick land straight in Pym's gloves.
With the game approaching the 20 minute mark Rhead got in a scuffed shot following a great passage of play down the City right whilst Exeter's first real spell of pressure forced the Imps' back line to deal with a couple of low crosses before Jake Taylor fizzed a drive over the bar.
On the half-hour Maguire-Drew went down under Pym's challenge but his appeals for a penalty were waved away by referee Craig Hicks and seven minutes later Green was caught in two minds with his eventual cross to Arnold rather than a shot flying across the face of goal.
Despite their almost total domination, the Imps found themselves a goal down in the 42nd minute when Exeter's first attack of note ended up with Reuben Reid getting in a bullet effort which flew past Paul Farman and into the top corner of the net.
Within 30 seconds of the restart Green was upended 20 yards out but Maguire-Drew curled the free-kick a foot the wrong side of the upright and as the Fourth Official indicated that a minimum of two minutes were to be added on Green headed a Woodyard centre wide.
The half ended with Green winning a corner and once this was scrambled clear referee Hicks blew for the break.
HT: EXETER 1 IMPS 0
Both teams emerged unchanged for the start of the second half so it was as you were as the Imps restarted the game.
Four minutes in referee Hicks had words with home right-back Pierce Sweeney following a challenge and subsequent altercation with Eardley and when Pym claimed the free-kick he set Luke Croll free but the back-tracking Woodyard did well to repel the danger.
Farman was then forced to tip over a Sweeney effort whilst at the other end Pym repeated the feat, getting his fingers to a Green shot following a Rhead knock-down. Pym then claimed a curling Maguire-Drew shot as the Imps continued to press for a leveller.
On the hour mark both teams made a change with Lee Holmes coming on for Troy Archibald-Henville for the hosts and Ollie Palmer replaced Matt Rhead up front for City. Pym then saved well from Arnold and Palmer had a shot charged down before a tug on Liam McAlinden's shirt earned Waterfall a 63rd minute caution.
Billy Knott and Harry Anderson came on for Maguire-Drew and Arnold for the final quarter of the game and after Palmer header from a deep Long centre was deflected out for a corner, Knott's first touch saw him pick out Raggett but his header flew just wide.
Exeter skipper Lloyd James picked up a 74th minute booking following a trip on Bostwick just outside the home box after a Palmer shot was blocked. Bostwick saw his powerful free-kick clip the wall for a City corner before a low Anderson drive was deflected behind.
Jack Sparkes for McAlinden was Exeter's second change as the clock ticked into the 79th minute and he was quickly in the action, setting up Reid who drilled over from 25 yards.
Two minutes later Eardley picked up a harsh booking following what looked to be a perfectly timed challenge on Sparkes and Matt Jay replaced goal scorer Reid for the final five minutes.
The clock quickly ticked towards added time, of which a minimum of five were indicated, and these also flew by with the hosts safely seeing things out to secure the three points.
FT: EXETER 1 IMPS 0
1 Paul FARMAN
2 Sean LONG
5 Luke WATERFALL
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
14 Jordan MAGUIRE-DREW
16 Michael BOSTWICK
23 Neal EARDLEY
25 Sean RAGGETT
28 Nathan ARNOLD
30 Alex WOODYARD
3 Sam HABERGHAM
4 Elliott WHITEHOUSE
8 Ollie PALMER (for RHEAD 60)
11 Billy KNOTT (for MAGUIRE-DREW 68)
15 Rob DICKIE
26 Harry ANDERSON (for ARNOLD 68)
21 Josh VICKERS
BOOKINGS: WATERFALL (63), EARDLEY (81)
1 Christy PYM
2 Pierce SWEENEY
3 Craig WOODMAN
4 Lloyd JAMES
5 Troy ARCHIBALD-HENVILLE
6 Jordan TILLSON
19 Liam McALINDEN
23 Luke CROLL
25 Jake TAYLOR
33 Reuben REID
39 Troy BROWN
8 Robbie SIMPSON
10 Lee HOLMES (for ARCHIBALD-HENVILLE 60)
14 Ryan BRUNT
20 Matt JAY (for REID 85)
24 Alex BYRNE
31 Jack SPARKES (for McALINDEN 79)
13 James HAMON
GOAL: REID (42)
BOOKING: JAMES (74)
REFEREE: Craig Hicks
ASSISTANTS: Steven Plane & Justin Amey
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Robert Dabbs
ATTENDANCE: 3,980 (316 City supporters)