Resilient City back in the top seven: Imps 3-2 Exeter

Being a football fan isn’t all about the big matches or the pay off. It’s often tough going, it’s 0-0 draws at Cambridge or Morecambe, it’s labouring to home wins in the middle of the season against Cheltenham. Being a football fan is an investment, you pour you time, your heart and your soul into something hoping that maybe, one day it will be your time.

We didn’t win anything other than three points today, but it is days like these we fight for, it’s days like these we want to enjoy as a fan. Huge six-point promotion clashes in front of a packed crowd is what we all want to experience, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather have been today than Sincil Bank.

Let us leap straight into the bit you probably won’t agree with, I thought we were loads better than Exeter in the first half. They sat back and soaked up our pressure and granted, we didn’t convert chances, but we created plenty. I’ve heard loads of moans about the first 45 minutes but from my vantage point we just didn’t quite get the bounce. Their goal wasn’t good defensively, my uncle and Exeter fan Keith said before the game ‘keep it at his feet, he won’t score’. Ten minutes in, it’s on his head.

Our forwards get loads of stick but if anything is letting us down at present, it is across the back. The goal was their first attack, it was a poor one to concede and from there, they barely had a kick. I was glad to hear Danny agreeing with me on the radio that we controlled possession well and had a decent first half. Elliott Whitehouse was superb, yet again, the 4-3-3 really suits him and he’s thriving. I’m baffled at the game some were watching, I know I occasionally have the rose-tinted glasses on, but some fans could do with taking their doom visors off (mentioning no names, Craig). Anyone labelling that first half performance woeful, in my opinion, is blind to the intricacies of the game. We worked tremendously hard, Exeter defended really well and I felt I was watching an engrossing game not unlike a chess match. I said at half time we were still in it, all we needed was to keep knocking on the door and eventually we’d be let in.

I’m surprised at people ripping the first half to shreds, I thought we showed endeavour in our approach and I thought we stuck to the game plan

If I did have a gripe it’d be towards the back four who looked uncertain throughout, whenever Exeter broke I thought there might be a goal. Ryan Allsop, not one to command his area at the best of times, pulled of a heroes save from the free kick, but at the other end our smart set piece almost caught them out. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. More on that later.

We had a let off before half time, again from a situation that should have been defended better, but overall I wasn’t unduly worried. Genuinely, I’m surprised at people ripping the first half to shreds, I thought we showed endeavour in our approach, I thought we showed character in not letting our heads drop and I thought we stuck to the game plan when the bounce wasn’t going our way. I like to think I know a bit about Lincoln City and if we’re not good I say it, but we weren’t bad at all.

Then came the blistering festival of football that was the second 45 minutes. Whilst it was rarely pretty, it served us up a feast of excitement that couldn’t be predicted using stats, figures or algorithms. Exeter shouldn’t have scored two away from home, we’re not usually ones to blitz the goals either and all indications pointed to under 2.5 goals. Instead, the stats were flushed away in an avalanche of excitement.

There’s no words. Top man.

Those two quick-fire goals changed everything, just like the Grimsby game we turned the game on its head quickly. They didn’t happen against the run of play either, we set about the second half with (in the words of some bloke from Essex) a real intensity and purpose. It was only the same as we showed in the first 45, only it began to pay off. Perhaps Exeter took their eye off the ball, perhaps we just got the bounce for a change, but before we scored we had one cleared off the line and another saved by Pym.

Then young Mr Whitehouse had a shot saved which Danny Rowe nodded home and the tide shifted. When that ball hit the back of the net, the tension subsided immediately. It wasn’t unlike last Good Friday when Harry Anderson equalised for us, we got one and immediately you felt we could get another. That is exactly how it panned out, this time that smart free kick paid dividends and Matt Green added to his growing tally. Once again, a side from Devon came on Good Friday and surrendered a 1-0 lead to two quick fire goals. History repeating itself?

Kind of, this time there was plenty of the game left in which to see further action and our goals fired Exeter into action. I thought our worst spell of the game came in the ten or fifteen minutes after scoring. We retreated looking hesitant, almost panicked and they saw that. Their equaliser was poor defensively, their forwards were alive as three of our back four switched off. I tweeted immediately after that it was a poor goal to defend and when Danny spoke about ‘bit and pieces to work on’, he will have meant that. It wasn’t the first time we shut off in that left hand channel either, they’d hit the bar not long before from the same sort of range.

Still, cometh the hour (mark) cometh the man, Ollie Palmeiras never disappoints. I didn’t think I’d write that about our new cult hero, but by god that man has won me over. He’s unique is our Ollie, ungainly, unorthodox and bloody effective. I keep repeating it, but how can you defend against a player who doesn’t know what he’s going to do when he has the ball? Pretty soon after they scored he knew exactly what to do, he smashed in a goal, with his head I hasten to add, and set about running a marathon to celebrate it. Tom Nield robbed him of the goal, unfairly, by making a fairly odd decision, but Ollie didn’t get the message. He’s clocked up more on his GPS getting down the line than he had since coming on, but the score remained at 2-2. Still, he wasn’t done.

continued on next page


  1. In the main, I agree with you Gary. What did surprise me was the starting selection of centre backs. To my mind it should have been Waterfall in the back two with Bozzie sweeping, especially against a team like Exeter who are, as their league position proves, a quality side in this division. As for the afternoon’s entertainment… AWESOME! The first time this season I’ve spent more time off my seat than on it. A win on Monday and a third on the trot at Wembley and I am going to be an extremely happy Imp… Bring it on!

  2. Wholeheartedly agree with your appraisal of the game Gary, exactly the way I saw it.
    I fully agree with DC’s selection as well, Bozzy had to start at the back. For Bozzy to start in midfield we have to drop either Freck or Whitehouse. That wouldn’t be right, so Waterfall has to sit it out for the time being.
    The only slight criticism I would have, is the big man. I’d much rather see us start with a front three of Rowe, Green in the middle & Harry the other side. Rheady does what he does, but I just think we’re better when we’re more patient & subtle in our build up.

  3. A really good game despite one of the most bewilldering referee performances of the season. You could even tell by the Exeter player reactions to the disallowed goal, why was it disallowed?!
    Elliot Whitehouse was definitely my man of the match, I actually do not think he ever has a bad game.
    I have been a bit worried about our defending of set pieces/corners, for some time, I am sure it wil be sorted.
    Really impressed with Exeter Managers post match reaction, a lot of other opposing managers could do with a bit of his professionalism.

  4. Don’t know if you noticed but the boss did exactly as I suggested in the latter stages of the game to shut Exeter down…. i.e, Waterfall to centre back and Bozzie into the sweeping position, again to my mind this should have been the starting formation!

  5. Good comments Gary , this was probably one of my favourite matches of the season, a thoroughly enjoyable watch throughout,a shame either side had to lose , very impressed by the comments by their manager and on their club social media , not just labelling us a long ball side .
    Thought Exeter were a good side and they showed both sides of their game control and also offensively . Just thought we wanted it a bit more and got both unlucky and lucky breaks within the game .
    Some very strange decisions from the ref at times .
    Anyway Eardley and Whitehouse were the standout performers.

  6. With family stuff etc, it is the first game I have made in the flesh this season and absolutely loved it. We controlled the first half, but it was incredibly dull. The second half was just pure entertainment that anyone can enjoy without having to have a rewatch of who was where and how they were controlled in zones etc.

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