COW­LEY: ‘WE’RE STRONG WHEN OUR BACKS ARE AGAINST WALL...’

Gre­cians hold firm to set up home leg

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Alan John­son

LIN­COLN man­ager Danny Cow­ley be­lieves it’s a case of ‘write us off at your peril’ after watch­ing his side fail to break Ex­eter down in the first leg of their League Two play-off semi-fi­nal.

Matt Rhead went clos­est to break­ing the dead­lock in the sec­ond half, but saw his header can­non off the cross­bar, while Christy Pym twice de­nied Matt Green as the Imps pushed for a break­through.

“A lot of peo­ple will write us off now hav­ing not won the home leg, but we are pretty good when peo­ple crit­i­cise us,” said Cow­ley af­ter­wards.

“We’re al­right with our backs against the wall. We’ve had to come through peo­ple doubt­ing us for all of our lives, so that cer­tainly won’t be new ter­ri­tory.

“We knew there would be a lit­tle bit of a ceil­ing in terms of the level of our per­for­mance, and that we would strug­gle to get to our lev­els.

“Hope­fully we’ll have one or two back by Thurs­day, though, and Neal Eard­ley and Michael Bost­wick will also be in bet­ter po­si­tions by then.

“We had to re­jig the back four to find that bal­ance and I thought we coped ever so well un­der the cir­cum­stances given our re­stric­tions.”

A quiet open­ing pro­duced few chances in front of goal, though Lin­coln goal­keeper Ryan All­sop had to be alert to deny Ryan Har­ley after he cap­i­talised on a mis­take by James Wil­son.

At the other end Eard­ley, who was car­ry­ing a knock, fired a low free-kick un­der the wall after Jor­dan Storey fouled El­liot White­house, but Pym read the dan­ger com­fort­ably.

The best chance of the first half fell to Jay­den Stock­ley six min­utes be­fore the break, but, out of char­ac­ter, he failed to con­nect prop­erly with Hi­ram Boateng’s pin­point cross.

Lin­coln be­gan the sec­ond half brightly but Ex­eter had Pym to thank as he twice thwarted Green.

Then, in the 59th minute Rhead latched onto a Wil­son cross from the right wing, but saw his header crash against the bar with Pym beaten.

In a lack­lus­tre fi­nal 20 min­utes nei­ther side threat­ened and the vis­i­tors looked more than con­tent to leave with a draw ahead of the re­turn fix­ture.

Stock­ley did have the ball in the net with eight min­utes to go for Ex­eter but, for­tu­nately for Lin­coln, ref­eree Ben Toner had blown for a foul on Wil­son.

De­spite the draw, Ex­eter man­ager Paul Tis­dale felt his side don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the

edge, de­spite go­ing into the home leg all square.

“It was a re­ally good game and it’s finely poised for the sec­ond leg now,” he said.

“I thought we had the bet­ter of the play in the first half, but Lin­coln re­sponded well in the sec­ond.

“We had that flow in the first half and they were bet­ter af­ter­wards.

“Are we sur­prised? No, but we held out and kept a good line in what was a very en­ter­tain­ing 0-0 draw.

“It’s a de­cent re­sult, but we are by no means in front in this tie yet. Peo­ple will say we have home ad­van­tage, but is it re­ally when you’re play­ing against such a good team?

“We’ll go again Thurs­day and I think Lin­coln will fancy them­selves, but so will we. We know more about each other than we did 24 hours ago, so let’s crack on.

“If you’re a foot­baller, a coach or a man­ager then these are the type of games you want to be in­volved in and hope­fully we’ll have more of the same on Thurs­day.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

NO WAY THROUGH: Ex­eter’s Jake Tay­lor has his shot saved by Lin­coln keeper Ryan All­sop and, in­set left, Lin­coln’s Matt Green shoots at goal

TAN­GLE: Lin­coln’s Harry An­der­son and Ex­eter’s Lloyd James

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