Exeter City missed out on promotion to League One at the final hurdle for the second year running, after falling to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Coventry City at Wembley Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
After a goalless first half, wonderful strikes from defenders Jordan Willis and Jack Grimmer, either side of a deflected Jordan Shipley effort, gave Coventry what proved to be an insurmountable lead.
Substitute Kyle Edwards grabbed a consolation goal for the Devon outfit, but it was too little too late as Exeter fell at the final hurdle yet again, following their 2-1 defeat to Blackpool in last year’s play-off final. After the game, manager Paul Tisdale said he needed some time to think about his future – it has since been announced that Tisdale with leave the club after 12 years in charge.
For Coventry, it marked the first time in 51 years that the Sky Blues secured a promotion, and their second success at Wembley in as many seasons, after their Checkatrade Trophy win last season.
On a boiling hot day in the capital, supporters from the South-West and the Midlands travelled in their thousands – a remarkable 40,000 from Coventry – to the home of football, in anticipation of a match to fit the occasion.
Exeter, who finished 4thin League Two, were confident after their convincing 3-1 aggregate win against Lincoln City in the semi-finals. Similarly, Coventry came through against a Notts County side managed by ex-Premier League player Kevin Nolan.
Following a rapturous reception for the players and the national anthem, the game started off very cagey, with both sides squandering possession cheaply and unable to create any notable chances throughout the half. Coventry probably shaded it, with a few openings for top scorer Marc McNulty. Exeter’s top scorer Jayden Stockley on the other hand had a poor day, in a performance characteristic of Exeter’s sloppiness throughout.
“Despite some initial urgency from Exeter in attack, they were unable to seriously penetrate the Coventry defence.”
In the second half, two goals in the opening eight minutes changed the complexion of the game. After a set-piece, the ball fell to Coventry centre-back Jordan Willis, who turned and curled the ball brilliantly into the top corner of Christy Pym’s net. Then, McNulty set up 20-year old Jordan Shipley to score after an unfortunate deflection off of Exeter right-back Pierce Sweeney.
Despite some initial urgency from Exeter in attack, they were unable to seriously penetrate the Coventry defence. In the 68thminute, the game was put to bed, and it was another worldie from a Coventry defender. Following some neat footwork and link-up play down the right-hand side, right-back Jack Grimmer cut in on his weaker left foot and struck beautifully into the far corner.
Despite substitute Kyle Edwards, on loan from West Brom, suddenly bringing pace and inventiveness which led to his impressive 89thminute consolation, Exeter will certainly reflect on what might have been after a disappointing team performance, which maintains their position in the bottom tier of the Football League.
Exeter: Pym, Sweeney, Storey, Moore-Taylor, Woodman (James 63’), Taylor, Boateng (Edwards 73’), Tillson, Moxey (Jay 63’), Harley, Stockley
Subs: James, Archibald-Henville, Simpson, Jones, Jay, Wilson, Edwards
Coventry: Burge, Grimmer, Willis, Hyam, Stokes, Bayliss, Kelly, Doyle, Shipley (Reid 73’), McNulty (Ponticelli 82’), Biamou (Clarke-Harris 51’)
Subs: McDonald, O’Brien, Maguire-Drew, Clarke-Harris, Reid, Ponticelli, Thompson
Referee: David Webb