MX23RW : Monday, October 14 14:12:01| >> :600:43312024:43312024:
May 28, 2018 at 3pm UK at ​St James Park
Attendance: 5,196
ExeterExeter City
CoventryCoventry City
Willis (49'), Shipley (54'), Grimmer (68')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Edwards (89')

Live Commentary: Exeter City 1-3 Coventry City - as it happened

Relive Coventry's 3-1 win over Exeter as a stirring second-half display in the playoff final at Wembley fires the Sky Blues back into League One.
Live Commentary: Exeter 1-3 Coventry - as it happened
© Offside

Coventry City sealed promotion back into League One at the first time of asking this afternoon courtesy of a 3-1 win over Exeter City in the League Two playoff final at Wembley.

After a cagey first half, the Sky Blues came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half, with goals from Jordan Willis and Jordan Shipley seeing them take control of the contest in the opening 10 minutes after the restart.

A third arrived from Jack Grimmer with a little over 20 minutes remaining of the match to effectively wrap up the win, with Exeter only able to provide a late Kyle Edwards consolation in reply.

Find out how all of the action unfolded courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates below.

Good afternoon! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for the final match of this playoff bank holiday weekend as Exeter City and Coventry City face off for a place in League One next season!

Five points separated these two sides in the regular-season table but it is all down to what happens on the day here, with one of them just 90 minutes - maybe more if extra time is needed - away from promotion from League Two.

It promises to be a memorable occasion at Wembley, so let's waste no time in having a look at the team news...

COVENTRY STARTING XI: Burge; Grimmer, Willis, Hyam, Stokes; Bayliss, Doyle, Kelly, Shipley; McNulty, Biamou

COVENTRY SUBS: O'Brien, Thompson, McDonald, Maguire-Drew, Reid, Clarke-Harris, Ponticelli

EXETER STARTING XI: Pym; Sweeney, Woodman, Tillson, Harley, Stockley, Moore-Taylor, Moxey, Taylor, Storey, Boateng

EXETER SUBS: Jones, James, Archibald-Henville, Simpson, Jay, Wilson, Edwards

What can we make of those two teams, then?

Well, we'll start with the Coventry side, and it is no great surprise that manager Mark Robins has opted for an unchanged team to the one which performed so well in the semi-final second leg against Notts County.

Coventry produced a very impressive performance that day and a similar one here may will be enough to win them promotion back to League One, so Robins has resisted any temptation to change the winning formula.

With no fresh injury concerns and Tom Davies still suspended, Coventry were always expected to name the same XI, with includes Biamou up front after he scored twice in that win over Notts County at Meadow Lane.

Bayliss and the ever-dangerous Marc McNulty were also on the scoresheet for that 4-1 triumph 10 days ago, and no doubt that that trio will be hoping to make themselves the heroes again this afternoon.

McNulty is the main dangerman for Coventry, though, having scored 28 goals and set up nine more across all competitions so far this season - including two goals and an assist in the playoffs already.

The striker has already made himself a Coventry hero since arriving from Sheffield United just last summer due to that goalscoring streak, netting 23 times in the league alone to help fire the Sky Blues into the playoffs.

McNulty has been particularly deadly so far this calendar year, and he comes into this match having been directly involved in 18 goals in his last 15 league appearances for Coventry.

That run includes scoring 12 goals himself and setting up a further six, so he is very much the form player coming into this match - arguably more than any other player in the top four tiers of English football at the moment.

Exeter have their own prolific marksman in the form of Jayden Stockley, though, with the striker having found the back of the net 23 times across all competitions this season.

Like McNulty, Stockley only joined last summer, coming down from Aberdeen, but he has hit the ground running with 19 League Two goals during the regular season and one already in the playoffs.

Stockley's recent form does not quite match up to that of McNulty, but his record over the past few weeks is still highly impressive with eight goals in his last 10 outings for Exeter across all competitions.

Today's match has been tipped as a straight shootout between those two prolific strikers, although often on these big occasions it is an unlikely name who pops up to be the hero, and both Stockley and McNulty will need plenty of help from those around them this afternoon.

Exeter have made just one change to the side which beat Lincoln City in the second leg of their semi-final to book their place in this competition, with that likely to also result in a change of formation as former Coventry man Simpson drops out of the team.

Woodman comes into the team in his place, with the 35-year-old having been a regular feature of the Exeter team this season.

Woodman's inclusion is expected to mean Harley - who scored the winning goal the last time these two sides faced off and also netted the third in that win over Lincoln - moves up front, with Woodman filling in at left-back.

That in turn is likely to see Moxey push forward into a move advanced left midfield role alongside Taylor, Tillson and Boateng in midfield.

Based on performances during the regular season, Exeter should be the favourites for this match today having finished in fourth place in League Two - closer to the automatic promotion spots than they were to Coventry.

Just four points separated the Grecians from a top-three place, whereas they were five points above Coventry at the end of the season. Only the top two teams more more games than Exeter in the regular season too, so they should be full of confidence heading into this match.

There must also be a burning desire to make up for last season's heartbreak too, when they also reached the playoff final only to lose to Blackpool at Wembley.

Exeter are only the second team to reach the fourth-tier playoff final in consecutive seasons, after Blackpool managed the feat in 1990-91 and 1991-92. The omens look good for the Grecians too, as Blackpool won promotion at the second attempt then.

Exeter's fans must have been hoping for an automatic route back into the third tier following the brilliant start they made to the campaign, winning seven of their opening eight games and picking up 22 points from a possible 24 in that time.

However, that run was ended by today's opponents back in September as Coventry inflicted a first defeat of the season on Exeter, who went on to win just three of their next 11. Indeed, Exeter never really strung together a long run of wins after that defeat, although they did do enough to keep themselves in the mix for automatic promotion throughout.

Paul Tisdale's side come into this match having lost just one of their last nine games stretching back to March, although they are also looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since early April.

That recent run includes their semi-final, of course, which saw them beat Lincoln 3-1 on aggregate. All of those goals came in the home second leg for Exeter after the two sides played out a goalless stalemate at Sincil Bank Stadium in the first leg.

It is Exeter's home form which has been the key this season, with only the top two teams amassing more points in front of their own fans throughout the regular campaign, and no team conceding fewer goals.

The Exeter fans will no doubt be looking to turn Wembley into a taste of St James Park today, but they picked up only four wins from their final 19 away games in League Two this season, so do not fare anywhere near as well away from home as they do in front of their own supporters.

This is only the fourth time in Exeter's history that they have played at Wembley, and it has been a mixed bag for them so far with one win and two defeats from their previous three visits - all of which have come in playoff finals.

The first two of those came in the Conference when they lost to Morecambe in 2007 before redeeming themselves with victory over Cambridge one year later, and they will be hoping that it is a similar story this time around after being beaten here by Blackpool in last season's playoff final too.

Win or lose, this could well prove to be a Wembley send-off for long-serving Exeter boss Paul Tisdale, who has admitted that today's game could be his final match in charge of the club.

Tisdale became the longest-serving manager in Britain when Arsene Wenger stepped down from his role at Arsenal earlier this month, but he is now odds-on favourite to take over at MK Dons. If this does prove to be the final match of his 12-year reign, he will be desperate to make it a winning finale.

The size of the task against them is big, though, and Coventry will certainly feel that they are a club who deserve to be playing their football at a much higher standard than League Two.

Last season's relegation saw them consigned to fourth-tier football for the first time since 1958-59, but today they have the chance to bounce straight back up into the third tier, and they will no doubt be hoping that sparks a similar rush of promotions which led them into the top flight around 50 years ago.

Coventry have not won promotion from any league since being crowned Second Division champions in 1967, though, and while a long spell in the top flight followed that, it has been a steady decline for the Sky Blues over the past two decades or so.

That, of course, culminated in their relegation from League One last season, and they have not found things particularly straightforward in League Two either this term.

Mark Robins's side finished sixth in the table, three points clear of eighth place ad nine points off the automatic promotion spots, but they lost more games than any other team in the top eight throughout the regular season.

Indeed, it was a pretty inconsistent campaign throughout for the Sky Blues, who have not won more than three games in a row at any stage throughout the league campaign. You never quite know what you are going to get from Coventry, and that was evidenced just last month when they were beaten 4-2 at home before winning 6-1 away just five days later.

That 4-2 defeat in their only loss in their last seven outings, though, and they are unbeaten in their last four including both legs of the semi-final.

Like Exeter, the Sky Blues were held to a draw in the first leg, although that gave the edge to the opposition with Coventry only avoiding a home defeat courtesy of McNulty's 87th-minute penalty. However, a 4-1 win at Meadow Lane saw them clinch a 5-2 aggregate triumph.

Coventry actually ended the season stronger on their travels than they did in front of their own fans, which could give them an extra slice of hope on this neutral ground today.

The Sky Blues won five and lost just one of their last eight games on the road, while throughout the whole season only Luton conceded fewer goals on their travels. Indeed, home and away Coventry's defensive record was impressive, with only the top two conceding fewer goals and keeping more clean sheets.

No fourth-tier side has won the playoffs after finishing the regular season sixth since Stevenage in 2011, though, and Coventry are hoping to end a run of three consecutive playoff final defeats for the club that ended up in that position.

Interestingly, the Sky Blues will be wearing a one-off kit today after they ran out of this season's home kit, returning to a striped kit which will no doubt evoke memories of the 1987 FA Cup final here when Coventry beat Tottenham Hotspur on their first ever Wembley appearance.

Coventry have only graced this hallow turf twice since that famous FA Cup final win in 1987, losing the Charity Shield against Everton the following season before winning the EFL Trophy at the expense of Oxford just last year.

Indeed, this will be Mark Robins's second time taking charge of Coventry at this famous stadium, and he will be hoping for more success after leading his team to a 2-1 victory last April.

PREDICTION: Right, we have 10 minutes until kickoff at Wembley, which means that it is time for a prediction!

This is a difficult one to call as it genuinely could go either way. The regular season form suggests that Exeter should be favourites, but Coventry are the club more suited to these bigger occasions. It is such a close one to call, but we're just going to lean towards the Sky Blues.

SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Exeter 0-1 Coventry

Not even the history of this fixture can give us much of an insight into which way this one might go. These two sides have met each other on only three occasions since 1959, and the overall record between the two sides is very close.

This will be the 53rd meeting, and from the previous 52 Exeter just about hold the edge with 20 wins to Coventry's 19, and 13 draws too.

Things have been similarly close this season with one win apiece in the regular campaign, both of which went to the home side.

The most recent of those came in January when Ryan Harley scored the only goal of the game after just seven minutes at St James Park, but Coventry ran out 2-0 winners at the Ricoh Arena in September to end Exeter's unbeaten start to the campaign.

The only other encounter between the two teams since 1959 also went the way of Coventry, so when it comes to the recent history of this fixture it is the Sky Blues who just about have an edge, but it really is a minimal one.

The first goal has proved to be crucial on all of those occasions, and it could be the case again today; in eight of the last nine League Two playoff finals, the team to have broken the deadlock has gone on to win promotion.

Right, the nerves must be jangling now as the players come out onto the field for all of the pre-match routines which go along with a Wembley showdown. Let's have a quick reminder of the team news before kickoff...

EXETER STARTING XI: Pym; Sweeney, Storey, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Taylor, Tillson, Boateng, Moxey; Stockley, Harley

COVENTRY STARTING XI: Burge; Grimmer, Willis, Hyam, Stokes; Bayliss, Doyle, Kelly, Shipley; McNulty, Biamou

KICKOFF! Here we go, then! Coventry get us underway at a sun-baked Wembley!

It has been a high-tempo start to this match as both clubs look to strike an early first blow. No clear chances in the opening exchanges, though.

Exeter make their first break down the right, but the ball just creeps out of play before it is hooked back into the middle.

SHOT! No surprise to see McNulty have the first shot of the afternoon as he collects Biamou's knockdown before attempting a dipping volley from range which flies over.

It is Coventry who are asking more of the questions in these early stages, but in general it has been an even opening to this game. Both defences are holding firm so far.

Both sets of supporters join a round of applause in the ninth minute to pay tribute to Cyril Regis, a former Coventry striker. Good tribute from Wembley to a legendary figure in English football history.

The majority of the game is being played inside the Exeter half at the moment, and the Grecians need to get hold of the ball for longer if they are to gain any sort of control over this match.

There have been a number of aimless long balls forward from both sides in this match so far, which is making it easy for both defences. This one is lacking in quality at the moment.

CHANCE! Brilliant defending from Storey to deny McNulty a golden chance! The striker is played through on goal and seemingly only has the keeper to beat, but McNulty never really seems to have the ball under his control. That allows Storey the chance to get back in and make a really good last-ditch sliding challenge.

Coventry are still enjoying the majority of the possession and territory here, but that telling piece of quality in the final third is still lacking and neither keeper has been forced into a save so far.

SAVE! Better from Coventry as they keep the ball for a long time, knocking it about amongst themselves inside the Exeter half. It is eventually teed up to McNulty, but his low strike is simple for the keeper to gather.

CHANCE! Really good pressing from McNulty as he forces a mistake from a defender, gifting Coventry the ball back in a dangerous position. The ball eventually arrives at the feet of Shipley, whose effort from the edge of the box is deflected wide.

Coventry are building some good momentum now, with Exeter really struggling to keep the ball and get out of their own half. Ominous signs for the Grecians.

Concern for Coventry here as Stokes goes down and stays down on the edge of his own box. It came after he was knocked in the head by Stockley, and blood has been drawn by the Exeter striker.

Stokes should be able to continue here, but first he needs to head down the tunnel and receive more treatment to stop the blood flow. Coventry will be playing with 10 men until he is able to get back on.

That injury stoppage looks like it has come at the perfect time for Exeter. They were on the back foot for a while before, but with the numerical advantage they are suddenly enjoying a good spell of possession - their best of the match so far.

SAVE! Stokes emerges from the tunnel and immediately comes back on in time to defend a corner, although it is Exeter who win the header and Burge is forced into his first save of the game - albeit an easy one to deny Storey.

SAVE! Burge is called into action again here for another routine stop, but it is noticeable that he is busier now. Harley goes for goal with a low strike from just outside the area, but Burge gathers.

SAVE! Exeter back off Shipley and allow him to move all the way to the edge of the box before getting a shot away, but it is straight at Pym and the keeper gathers it at the second attempt.

That spell in which Coventry were forced to play with 10 men really has changed the course of this first half. Coventry were well on top prior to that, but it just gave Exeter the platform to get themselves back into the game and Coventry have not been able to regain control since.

Biamou is now down and hurt after running into his marker, although the replay suggests that he is putting that on a bit. He calls for treatment, but it would be a big surprise if he is unable to carry on here.

Sure enough Biamou does trot back onto the field. This match is struggling for any rhythm at the moment - it is being played at a pedestrian pace and even the atmosphere in the crowd has gone a little flat.

Woodman's cross into the box is dangerous, but it just eludes Stockley, Taylor and Boateng in the middle. That could have been a big chance for Exeter!

Exeter are the team looking more likely to get an opener before half time now, and it takes a good clearance to repel a dangerous cross into the box here. Coventry's intensity has dropped significantly as the half has worn on, perhaps to do with the heat at Wembley today.

Another vital piece of defending from Storey as he stretches one of his long legs out to intercept a ball over the top which looked like sending McNulty clean through on goal.

SHOT! Biamou rises high on the edge of the area to knock the ball down to McNulty, but he slices his attempted volley well off target from the edge of the box.

There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this first half.

HALF TIME: Exeter City 0-0 Coventry City

The first half comes to an end at Wembley, and we're still goalless between Exeter and Coventry in this League Two playoff final.

Both teams have enjoyed spells in the ascendancy throughout the opening 45 minutes, but there has been a general lack of quality in the final third. Any saves have been routine ones from both keepers, and there will need to be more attacking ruthlessness if this game is going to be decided within 90 minutes.

Coventry spent the first half of that first half on top, but their momentum was affected by an injury which left them playing with 10 men for a few minutes, allowing Exeter to get themselves back into the game.

McNulty has looked the most likely for the Sky Blues with a number of efforts, some of which have forced simple saves from the keeper and others which have missed the target altogether. He would no doubt have expected more from himself considering his brilliant form this calendar year.

Exeter have only created a handful of chances themselves, with Burge's only saves being easy ones to deny Harley and Storey, the latter of whom has also made some important contributions at the back.

The Grecians have mostly gone for long balls forward to Stockley which have not yielded much joy, so it will be interesting to see whether they change their tactics at all in the second half.

KICKOFF: Exeter get us back underway for the second half at Wembley!

CHANCE! Quick start to this second half from Coventry! Bayliss twists and turns down the right before pulling the ball back to McNulty, whose first-time curling effort is parried away by the keeper at his near post.

GOAL! Exeter 0-1 Coventry (Jordan Willis)

I mentioned that we could have an unlikely hero today, and Jordan Willis may have just taken that title with a stunning goal, completely at odds with most else we have seen today!

Willis collects the pass with a fine first touch which takes him past one defender and he then curls a beauty of a finish into the far corner from just outside the area. That is the moment of quality we needed!

COVENTRY SUB: Coventry are forced into a change here as Biamou goes down injured and is replaced by Jonson Clarke-Harris.

That goal is exactly what this game needed. It got really flat at the end of the first half, but the atmosphere is rocking again now. Coventry have not lost when scoring first this season, only failing to win two of those games.

GOAL! Exeter 0-2 Coventry (Jordan Shipley)

Coventry are in dreamland at the start of this second half! They have scored two goals in the opening nine minutes and League One beckons for them now!

The first goal was pure quality, but this one is more about luck as Shipley collects a pass from McNulty before seeing his drive deflect off a defender and loop over the keeper into the top corner! There is a long, long way back for Exeter now!

Where was this intensity in the first half? This feels like an entirely different match to the opening 45 minutes now, with the Coventry fans in fine voice following those two goals.

Stockley collects the ball in the box and Hyam takes a slight risk by putting his hands on him, but the referee is right to wave claims of a penalty away.

What a time for him to get it...

CLOSE! Coventry hit Exeter with a lightning break with Shipley and McNulty leading the charge. It looks as though Shipley has made the wrong decision when he goes for goal from all of 35 yards out, but his low effort is just touched around the post by the keeper.

Exeter have responded quite well to those two quickfire goals. They know that they have no choice but to throw caution to the wind now.

EXETER SUBS: Double change for Exeter here as Lloyd James and Matt Jay replace Moxey and Woodman.

He may not have his own name on the scoresheet so far today, but McNulty has been so important for Coventry this season...

Just over 20 minutes remaining in this match now, and the game has just calmed down a little after a brilliant start to the second half. Coventry will not be too upset about that, though.

GOAL! Exeter 0-3 Coventry (Jack Grimmer)

That is surely game over now, and Coventry have done it in style once again with another stunning strike from Grimmer!

Bayliss and McNulty are both involved in the buildup, with the latter teeing the ball up to Grimmer on the edge of the box. From there there full-back curls a beauty into the top corner, leaving Pym no chance whatsoever.

Willis may be the only Coventry player or fan not delighted by the nature of that goal as it has stolen his thunder a little. Both were brilliant strikes, but Grimmer might just have nicked the goal of the day!

CHANCE! Chance for Exeter to give themselves some late hope as James nods the ball across the face of goal, only to see it drop just past the far post.

COVENTRY SUB: Another change for Coventry as Shipley is replaced by Kyel Reid.

EXETER SUB: Exeter make their third and final change as Kyle Edwards comes on.

SAVE! Burge is forced into his first testing save of the entire match as he gets across to tip Harley's curling effort wide of the target.

Coventry fans are giving their team the 'Ole!' treatment now, and you cannot blame them. They have surely got promotion wrapped up now with less than 15 minutes remaining.

CHANCE! Brilliant from Bayliss as he dances inside past a couple of defenders before breaking into the box and getting a shot away. His effort takes a deflection on its way through, and it takes a cracking stop from Pym to prevent a fourth going in.

Just 10 minutes left for Coventry to see out now before the party can officially start. It is all about game management for the Sky Blues now.

OFF THE POST! Exeter are not giving up hope just yet. Jay lets fly from range here and Burge is beaten, but this time the ball comes off the outside of the post!

COVENTRY SUB: A third and final change for Coventry as Jordan Ponticelli replaces McNulty.

SHOT! Storey is playing as a makeshift striker now and he gets his head to a ball here, looping an effort wide of the target.

Less than five minutes remaining in this match now, which also could mean five minutes remaining of Paul Tisdale's 12-year stay at Exeter. If this does prove to be his final game in charge then it really is a heartbreaking way to go.

SHOT! Clarke-Harris tries his luck with a long-range strike which bounces wide of the target.

GOAL! Exeter 1-3 Coventry (Kyle Edwards)

A late consolation from Edwards, who has been a real livewire since coming on.

Edwards collects the ball on the left flank and cuts inside onto his right and firing a really good finish into the far corner, leaving the keeper no chance. Another good goal in this game!

There will be five minutes of added time at the end of this match!

CLOSE! Coventry just need to keep their heads here. Stockley almost gives Exeter late hope as he brings the ball down before drilling it just wide.

FULL TIME! Exeter City 1-3 Coventry City


Scenes of joy and jubilation for Coventry as they celebrate promotion back to League One following a year in the fourth tier of English football, while for Exeter it is playoff heartbreak for the second year in a row at Wembley.

Ultimately Coventry's second-half display took the game away from Exeter following a dull an uneventful first half, with goals from Willis, Shipley and Grimmer sealing promotion for the Sky Blues, with Edwards providing scant consolation late on for Exeter.

Right, that is all we have time for this afternoon!

Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's Wembley showdown as Coventry are left celebrating promotion to League One at Exeter's expense. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.

From me, though, it is goodbye for now!

body check tags ::
Share this article now:
Instagram - Follow Sports Mole
Scunthorpe United boss Mark Robins with League One's October Manager of the Month award
Read Next:
Robins: 'Coventry threw themselves at Stoke'

2Manchester CityMan City85122791816
4Leicester CityLeicester8422147714
6Crystal Palace842288014
8West Ham UnitedWest Ham83321111012
9Tottenham HotspurSpurs83231412211
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves82421111010
12Manchester UnitedMan Utd82339819
13Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd82337709
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton8233810-29
15Aston Villa8224131218
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle8224513-88
19Norwich CityNorwich82061021-116

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!