Play-off heartache for Cowley’s battling Imps

Lincoln City’s chances of a Wembley return were ended by a 3-1 aggregate defeat at Exeter in the second leg of their League Two play-off semi-final.

The two sides went into the match at St James Park with the scores level after a goalless first leg at Sincil Bank.

Although it was a frustrating result for the Imps they can still feel proud of what has been a largely successful first season back in the Football League.

As previously reported, Danny Cowley’s men beat Shrewsbury 1-0 to lift the Checkatrade Trophy in their first trip to Wembley in 133 years in April before ending the League Two regular season with an impressive seventh-placed finish.

Lincoln fell behind after 27 minutes when a short corner was only half cleared by the visitors and the ball was sent back into the box for Jayden Stockley to score on the volley.

Elliott Whitehouse, who scored the winner in the Checkatrade Trophy Final, saw a goal disallowed for an infringement five minutes before the break.

Matt Rhead was reportedly pushed in the air and his outstretched hand made contact with the ball, causing the referee to rule out the goal that followed.

Exeter doubled their lead within two minutes of the restart as Hiram Boateng picked up the ball in midfield before curling a shot in off the post from the edge of the box.

Lincoln tried to get back into the match with Rhead’s header forcing a save out of Christy Pym in the Exeter goal.

That miss proved costly as Exeter added their third goal of the evening when Ryan Harley fired home on the half volley from 25 yards after 69 minutes.

Lincoln pulled a goal back when Matt Green got on the end of Rhead’s flick on to score 12 minutes from time, but it was too little too late for the Imps.

Lincoln’s season is at an end and, although the play-offs is always a tough way to lose, the Imps rise over the last two years under Danny and Nicky Cowley has certainly been impressive.