COWLEY: ‘WE’RE STRONG WHEN OUR BACKS ARE AGAINST WALL...’
Grecians hold firm to set up home leg
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.”
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