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📝 Match report: Lincoln City 1️⃣ Exeter City 0️⃣

The Grecians return empty-handed from the LNER Stadium.

17 February 2024

Match Reports

📝 Match report: Lincoln City 1️⃣ Exeter City 0️⃣

The Grecians return empty-handed from the LNER Stadium.

17 February 2024

Exeter City's away-win streak comes to an end after a frustrating afternoon in Lincoln ends in a 1-0 defeat.

After a goalless first half, it was all to play for in the second before Joe Taylor put the hosts ahead with a clever finish. Exeter City then faced a frustrating remainder of the game as they were unable to threaten the sturdy Lincoln City defence. 

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Exeter City faced a bump in the road earlier in the week as they faced defeat at home to promotion-contending Derby County. This afternoon saw Exeter City face competition much closer to them in the table. Before kick-off, three points separated the Grecians and the Imps in a mid-table clash in which a win could see Exeter City create more space between themselves and the drop zone. 

Manager Gary Caldwell named five changes to the side that faced Derby four days prior with Ben Purrington the most notable addition, returning after what was feared to be a long-term injury picked up at Bristol Rovers in late-January. Pierce Sweeney collected the captain’s armband as he found his place in a back three alongside Zak Jules and Cheick Diabate. Dion Rankine, Yanic Wildschut, and Sonny Cox also came into the starting XI. 

A collision of heads between both captains halted play inside the opening five minutes. Thankfully, both players were able to continue but not before stepping off the pitch, awaiting the approval of the ref for them to reenter the pitch. This meant that City would have to defend the subsequent indirect free kick without Sweeney. The free kick was just on the edge of the box and rolled to an Imp attacker who smacked it low and wide. Both captains came back onto the pitch and play resumed as normal, remaining 0-0. 

After an open-ended opening period, the Imps appeared to be through on goal, if it weren’t for the recovering run from Wildschut, who was wearing odd boots after play had resumed whilst he was changing them. Exeter City’s number 13, sporting one orange boot and one white, managed to get a crucial foot in to dispossess Joe Taylor, who was otherwise in a threatening position. Exeter City then struggled to clear their lines, playing themselves into more danger in the process. Lincoln City were unable to capitalise on their persistent pressure in the Exeter City third.  
 
Another Exeter player who was pulling his defensive weight was Luke Harris who had played the first half with the aggression that the Grecian supporters had come to know and love in recent weeks. When he was on the ball, Harris was causing trouble for the Imps too with flicks and turns that were bringing much entertainment to the travelling supporters. 

The Grecians looked as though they might create a fine goalscoring opportunity as Wildschut carried the ball, countering from a Lincoln City corner. As he entered the Lincoln City third, Lasse Sorensen brought Wildschut down, earning himself a yellow card and ending the Exeter City counter. Exeter City’s freekick was eventually worked to Harris who let loose from outside the box, firing the ball over the bar. 
 
Wildschut, now equipped with matching boots, had Exeter City’s first chance of the second half, bobbing and weaving between defenders and charging towards the travelling Exeter City supporters. Wildschut was forced to too tight an angle to test the keeper but the Grecians would have been hoping it was a sign of things to come. 

Jack Aitchison, who had previously been dubbed ‘the unluckiest man in football’, by his manager then added another hit of the woodwork to his collection as Lincoln City keeper, Lukas Jensen tipped Aitchison’s shot onto the bar. The chance was well-crafted after Sweeney pinged the ball out to Rankine, Grecians' number 21 took a delightful touch to give himself space to run into. As he approached the byline, Rankine pulled the ball back to Aitchison on the edge of the box who fired hard and true, only to be stopped by an impressive save from Jensen. 


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Then, not to be outdone, Vil Sinisalo made a cracking double save at the other end to deny the Imps. First Sinisalo made a stop with his legs in a long-barrieresque position, and second with a diving save to palm the ball away from danger. 

Midway through the second half, Caldwell made his first change of the afternoon as he brought on Vincent Harper and birthday boy, Reece Cole to replace Wildschut and Purrington. However, before these substitutes could make an impact on the game, The Imps took the lead through Taylor. Ted Bishop intercepted a pass from Sweeney in a dangerous position before playing the ball to Taylor. Taylor then just had Sinisalo to beat and he did so with aplomb, dinking the ball over Sinisalo and putting his team 1-0 up. 

Caldwell then proceeded to use the remainder of his substitutions as he made a triple change, bringing on Will Aimson, Ilmari Niskanen, and Mo Eisa. Ten minutes remained and these substitutions appeared to be a much-needed system change as Caldwell’s men tried recover at least a point from this game. After this substitution, City lost possession of the ball in an unconventional manner. The ref halted the game due to a Lincoln City head injury, but just as the referee blew his whistle, the Imp player recovered, got to his feet, and ran back to his position. City were then told to play the ball back to Lincoln City. 

With less than five minutes of the 90 to play, the Imps appeared to be through on goal with Sweeney in hot pursuit. However, rather than trying his luck with an effort at goal, the Lincoln City attacker thought he’d be better off going down. The Imp man looked for a free kick but the ref decided there was no infringement before a member of the Lincoln City management team received a yellow for their protests. 

The fourth official indicated five additional minutes as Exeter began to throw everything at the goal, despite game management tactics by Lincoln who were in no rush to take their set pieces. A frustrating afternoon for Exeter City became all the more frustrating as the final minutes of the game appeared to fly past and the Grecians failed to create any clear-cut opportunities. Eventually, the referee blew his whistle one last time and Caldwell's men would be leaving the LNER Stadium empty-handed. 

Exeter City: Sinisalo, Rankine (Eisa 76’), Sweeney (C), Diabate (Aimson 76’), Jules, Purrington (Harper 63’), Carroll, Harris, Aitchison (Niskanen 76’), Wildschut (Cole 63’), Cox. 

Unused Subs: MacDonald, Aimson, Woods. 

Lincoln City: Jensen, O’Connor (C), Mitchell, Roughan, Erhahon, McGrandles, Hamilton, Sorensen, Duffy, Taylor, House. 

Subs: Wright, Eyoma, Bishop, Mandroui, Moylan, Makama. 

Referee: Matt Corlett 

Attendance: 7,609 (299 away)


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