City moved back into the top seven in SkyBet League Two after a memorable game at Sincil Bank in front of the highest crowd of the season. Over 9,750 people witnessed one of the best games of the season that had almost everything.
The Imps came from behind to take three points against their promotion rivals Exeter City, Jordan Stockley had given the Grecians the lead going into half time. Danny Rowe pulled a goal back then Matt Green smashed City into the lead. Jake Taylor then equalised for the visitors but Ollie Palmer once again came off the bench to score the deciding goal.
After a tremendously respected minute of silence in remembrance of Corporal Jonathan Bayliss the game got going in front of a virtual sell out crowd, with the most amount of home fans in Sincil Bank to date this season providing almost the perfect soundtrack for the start to any game.
Matt Green almost profited from a slip by Piece Sweeney, it released the striker down the left flank but unfortunately Green couldn’t find a City shirt in the box. Within a couple of moments Danny Rowe then had his head in his hands after a perfectly executed free kick from Sam Habergham just couldn’t be squeezed past a grateful Christy Pym who saved.
However, the flow of the game was turned immediately on it’s head following Ryan Allsop making a wonderful save from a low strike by Lloyd James, deflecting the ball wide of the left hand post. The Grecians punished City though from the corner, Hiram Boateng swung in the corner and Jaden Stockley rose the highest to head home.
The Imps looked to quickly get over that disappointment and lovely link play by Matt Rhead found Neal Eardley wide on the right, his wicked curling cross found the head of Green but the ball drifted just wide of the target. Exeter struggled to keep possession, as City’s pressing game was proving fruitful, the visitors were just hacking the ball away at any opportunity. It took a little time for the visitors to adjust to the pressure and they were still to keep their noses in front despite not having much of the ball.
Slowly Exeter started coming forward a little more, and following some good hold up play by Jake Taylor a shot from the edge of the box came in from James but Scott Wharton was in the way. That was quickly followed by timely block from Elliott Whitehouse denying Boateng as the Grecians tried to extend their lead.
A moment of magic almost brought the City equaliser with just under ten minutes of the first half remaining, Michael Bostwick strode confidently out of defence and swung a dangerous ball towards the edge of the box and Whitehouse pinged a first time volley just over the top. As the half time whistle was about to be blown, Wharton then played the pass of the half, crossfield around 60 yards to Eardley whose first time cross was just cleared from danger. Wharton then couldn’t get enough purchase on his header with Exeter. The Grecians though were mystified as to how they didn’t score a second goal ahead of the break, Stockley getting space to get an effort past Allsop but the ball cannoned off both posts before being cleared. The final throes of the half were played at breakneck speed, end to end, with the final half chance going the way of City. Whitehouse fed Green who held off Sweeney but just as he looked to fire a shot the Exeter number two somehow managed to stick out a leg to prod the ball away.
The Imps 0 Exeter City 0
Wharton started the second half like he ended the first, with a fantastic ball diagonally into the channel for Eardley, his cross was a teasing one but Pym was just able to pluck it out of the air. After a couple of bursts forward that came to little, Whitehouse managed to wriggle past two markers and hit a low shot that flashed past Pym’s outstretched right hand but unfortunately it also went wide of the mark, but only by inches as City kept knocking on the door.
Habergham fired a low ball into the box and Rhead was lurking but somehow Dean Moxey got in the way to deflect it out for a corner. The ball was whipped into the back post to Wharton who headed down and again; it was just lashed away for a second successive corner. In it came and there was a similar result, Wharton the dangerman again but this time Pym managed to reach over the head of a defender to grab the bouncing ball. It was only a matter of time before the Grecians buckled and it came just before the hour mark, Whitehouse picked up possession deep into the box, his effort was blocked by Pym but ROWE was there to finish the job.
Before Exeter could even get their breath City got in front for the first time within 90 seconds of the equaliser, a clever ball from Eardley found the visiting defence sleeping, GREEN read the pass, ran into the box and smashed home his 15th goal of the season.
Whitehouse thought he’d scored the third when he leapt to meet a looping Habergham centre, but somehow it was kept out with the home supporters screaming that it had crossed the goal line. Exeter once again worked their way back into the game with some neat football but it wasn’t a slick move that almost fashioned an equaliser, the ball pinged around in the box and Jordan Storey hammered a drive against the frame of the goal, the ball fell back to Stockley but just as the away supporters expected the ball nestling in the net it rolled agonisingly wide from their point of view.
Their next chance though wasn’t to be wide of the mark, as Taylor smashed in a low drive past Allsop to leave the game poised for a grandstand finish from either side. Ollie Palmer thought he’d put City immediately back into the lead as he leapt to powerfully head home at the back post but there was an infringement in the area, so the goal was chalked off. You couldn’t take your eyes of the game, substitute Luke Waterfall was denied by the crossbar and the rebound was somehow cleared as things were seemingly building to quite a crescendo.
With just four minutes left on the clock the noise was deafening. Eardley was the architect, crossing deep into the box it found its way right through to PALMER who took a touch before hitting a hammer of a low shot in past Pym.
There was almost a sting in the tail from the Grecians just at the game went into injury time, Stockley hit a curling free kick from around 25 yards, which had Allsop diving to his right, but the ball went over the top. The Imps stopper did come to the rescue of City right at the death with Jordan Tillson winning an aerial battle to head on target but the Imps’ ‘keeper made a strong stop low in front of the left hand upright.
The Imps 3 Exeter City 2
22 Ryan ALLSOP
3 Sam HABERGHAM
4 Elliott WHITEHOUSE
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
16 Michael BOSTWICK
19 Lee FRECKLINGTON
23 Neal EARDLEY
24 Danny ROWE
30 Alex WOODYARD
1 Paul FARMAN
5 Luke WATERFALL (74’ for Frecklington)
7 Tom PETT
8 Ollie PALMER (76’ for Rhead)
14 Jordan WILLIAMS
15 James WILSON
26 Harry ANDERSON (72’ for Rowe)
GOAL: Rowe 60’ Green 62’ Palmer 86’
Booking: Palmer 86’
1 Christy PYM
2 Pierce SWEENEY
4 Lloyd JAMES
22 Kane WILSON
6 Jordan TILLSON
11 Jayden STOCKLEY
21 Dean MOXEY
23 Luke CROLL
25 Jake TAYLOR
38 Jordan STOREY
44 Hiram BOATENG
12 Paul JONES
3 Craig WOODMAN (68’ for Croll)
8 Robbie SIMPSON (68’ for James)
18 Daniel SEABORNE
19 Liam McALINDEN
20 Matthew JAY
33 Ryan TOFT
GOAL: Stockley 10’ Taylor 78’
Booked: Simpson 90’
Referee: Tom Nield
Assistants: David Benton & Ian Smedley
Attendance: 9,785 (406 Exeter supporters)