That’s all folks, thanks for coming – Exeter 3-1 Imps

That’s your lot chaps, 2017/18 draws to a close with defeat in deepest Devon and the curtains come down on another remarkable season.

Putting the controversy surrounding the EFL Trophy aside, we’ve won silverware and competed at the right end of the table. we’ve made the play-offs, a great achievement for our first season back in the league, but we’ve come up short.

Tonight, for the first time in our four encounters, Exeter were better than us. I called Boateng earlier as the one player who we needed to keep quiet, but in truth they had three or four players on their game this evening. We had several who looked dead on their feat, victims of our ‘quality over quantity’ squad policy. I’m not saying Danny got that wrong, we finished in the top seven, but eventually the fact we’re a work in progress cost us dearly.

There’s no point in assessing the match too much is there? They scored a goal which was poor from our point, but for thirty minutes we looked like a mid table side who found themselves in the play offs by accident. It may have been fatigue, it may have been players carrying injuries, but Exeter could have been two up.

Of course, we equalised and for a moment I thought it was on. If that had been allowed, would the game have changed? Maybe, maybe not. Rheady was pushed, he did handle it and it shouldn’t have been a goal. I’ll tell you what we’ve been punished for there though; Rhead going down too easily throughout the season. If it was a push it wasn’t a big one and I guarantee if I squared up to him in a nightclub and gave him a push of the same force, he doesn’t budge. Referees are wise to it I’m afraid. All the assistant referee has seen is a hand, all the referee has seen is the goal. We can feel hard done by, but taking off the rose-tinted glasses, just for a second, will give some perspective. If that goal is against us, we’re in uproar.

Boateng – we need a player like this

The manner with which we finished the first half gave me hope we’d come out all guns blazing, but Hiram Boateng’s moment of brilliance ended the game as a contest. Their third looked to add a shine to the score line they probably deserved, our late consolation at least meant we had something to cheer. Yes, there was a nailed on penalty towards the end, just as there was at the Bank, but they weren’t given. Remember, Luke handled in the first half in the area and it wasn’t given either.

We’ve every right to be indignant about the scenes at the end, their fans attacking our players and officials is not on. I’m not convinced the ‘special dispensation’ they got to limit the number of fans we could take was fair either, but those factors only served to create an advantage, they still had to perform. Nobody can complain about Boateng’s dominant performance or Pym’s solid showing in the first leg. The end was unsavoury, but the result was, on the balance of play, entirely fair.

Right now, it hurts. I hate Lincoln losing and to lose in the play-offs for a sixth time stings almost as bad as my back does right now. Perspective is easily spoken of, I made much of it this morning, but right now I don’t have the balance that I had then. I’m upset we lost, I’m upset we conceded so many goals and I could easily point to things in the season I believe were not right. How would that help? On the whole this has been a tremendous campaign, one with a Wembley final in it and a play off assault too. Yeah, we had a small squad which ultimately cost us but we’re one year older and one year wiser. Danny and Nicky are going nowhere and the best players are staying put too. Recruitment in the summer is going to be crucial and there’s going to be tough decisions to make, but when we look back tomorrow or in a week’s time, it won’t be with a feeling of anger or resentment.

Just for you, Mariners

I’ve seen lots of Grimsby fans loving the fact we are going to be in the same league as them next season, I’m delighted they can find solace from their own failings in our too seven finish not ending up as it should. That’s what rivalry is all about, isn’t it? It doesn’t make it easier, rather petulantly I’ve blocked some of the worse offenders on Twitter because, when all is said and done, tonight hurts like hell. I really liked our display against them but, being truthful, I thought the shadow banner was a bit much. It’s given them material to be used in the event of a resurgence on their part, something I can see happening.

Recently, I’ve blocked out intense pain by popping trammies and diazepam, but this stinging won’t go away with a helping of drugs. It will soften with a look back at the season, the big moments like Coventry away, like Crewe away, like Grimsby at home. Once a hangover begins to shift, you can look back and enjoy the night out. Right now, I have a hangover from losing tonight’s game and, if I’m honest, at the FBA result too. Tomorrow, once that subsides I’ll be back to my usual self, toasting the great season we’ve had and understanding my own satisfaction shouldn’t some from industry recognition, but from the fact you lot still read and like what I do.

Roll on tomorrow morning.



  1. This feels very different to the last time we lost in the playoffs in the south west, that was the end of something. This is the beginning.

    On a side note I wonder if that journalist who was whipping up the mythically aggro between Cowley and Tisdale feels a bit sheepish after the scenes at the end?

  2. Thanks for a fantastic season Imps/DC/NC+++, made all the more special by looking forward to the SWB every week/day/hour! Your bloggs certainly brightened up the winter months and made us all look forward to the weekend even more by using your journalistic skills to make even a rare, poor performance just that bit more tolerable. Am now waiting for all the blogs relating to transfers etc and can’t wait for next season, something which over the years hasn’t always been the case.

  3. I think we have every right to feel aggrieved!! At the stage of the game when Rheady was assaulted and battered by the Exeter captain who should have been sent off and a penalty awarded, the Imps were dominating the game through playing football and not the long ball head tennis nonsense. Who knows what would have happened had the referee grown a pair. The next season will be the biggest test for the Cowleys yet. They have to start the transition in style of play. At his age, Rheady won’t sustain many more seasons so when he fades away what style will the team employ? Passing football I hope that doesn’t rely on target man head tennis which has worked for Lincoln so far but is now widely known by opposition and is too one dimensional to win automatic promotion. Long live the Imps!!

  4. Perceptive as ever, Gary. You have had a brilliant season. I can’t tell you how important your scribblings have been for away-Imps like myself. The ending to the last campaign was similar in a way but then the emotional energy carried us over the line. This time it dried up. In reality the battery was drained at Wembley. This close season will be the Cowleys’ big test. Failures in the transfer market, for whatever reason, last time around and in the December window cost us dearly. We need a post-Rhead strategy which will involve at least a striker and an attacking midfielder to complement Woodyard’s ability in front of the back four (and take the pressure off a back line that’s beginning to look a bit fragile). Searching for two golden nuggets is a big ask and I don’t think the Cowleys have the time to bring on a hitherto undiscovered or misused talent. Otherwise I fear next season may prove to be transitional rather than kicking on from a play-off ‘success’.

  5. A wonderful season. I never expected to win the playoffs, and although defeat is always painful just getting to that stage was a very good achievement.

    A feedback loop is now firmly established between the management, the team and the fans, and the momentum can only push us forward. Can’t wait for next season!

  6. Brilliant connection to the club you bring that is not met elsewhere Gary.
    Enjoy the summer and as each day passes the physical and emotional pains will subside.
    Keep well until august!

  7. Thank you, Gary. Your stuff is absolute gold. I think I open your website more than I do my work emails. All the best with your recovery and for your career in sports writing. The sky’s the limit.

  8. Excellent piece Gary; as always your writing pretty much reflects how we are all feeling and, as you say, as the circumstances of this defeat fade – the season has been glorious.

  9. Top man as usual!
    I dont like loosing games but i sit here with my cuppa this am and i am not disappointed at all.Realistically a year too early imo and mistakes will be rectified in the summer.Another striker or 2 will help and squad up fron 19 to maybe 22.I shall look forward to getting fit like you for pre season training at the new training ground!

  10. Joined up thinking as usual, Gary. It’s time to say what a fantastic season it has been again.But also a time to be honest and say, as you have often done, that we are just a bit short…….not quite there.
    Hard luck on the award. What you deliver is absolute quality day in day out….gold dust if you love the Imps!

  11. I had a work colleague who had a great line to help shut up the person who would moan endlessly about how awful things were and how badly they have been treated. She would say “Well it’s a good job you don’t winge about it cos no-one would take any notice.” Ready – as much as we love him – is that person. Refs have long since stopped listening to him.

    • Quite right. Make an enemy of tbe ref and he doesnt give you a decision. One thing i do not like us our team showing zero respect to the officials. Great great season, but i hate this aspect from our whole team.

  12. Hi Gary

    Exeter fan in peace. What an amazing balanced artical. Well impressed. Agreed with everything! Apologies from our true fans as to what happened to your kitman and Nick. Please do not tar us with the Red Legion scum who think they are the voice of Exeter. We’re not all dicks. Anyhoo, all the best for next season and get well soon.
    Exeter Pete

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