SKY BET LEAGUE 2 PLAY OFF FINAL
Monday June 29th, 7.30pm
EXETER CITY 0
Exeter: Jonathan Maxted, Pierce Sweeney (sub Brennan Dickenson 82), Nigel Atangana (sub Jack Sparkes 61), Aaron Martin, Nicky Law, Randell Williams, Ryan Bowman, Alex Fisher (sub Archie Collins 52), Jayden Richardson (sub Tom Parkes 51), Dean Moxey, Jake Taylor
Subs not used: Lewis Ward, Lee Martin, Nicky Ajose, Matt Jay, Ben Seymour
Cobblers: Steve Arnold, Michael Harriman, Charlie Goode, Jordan Turnbull, Scott Wharton, Ryan Watson (sub Paul Anderson 88), Alan McCormack (sub James Olayinka 74), Sam Hoskins, Nicky Adams (sub Mark Marshall 30), Callum Morton (sub Andy Williams 88), Vadaine Oliver (sub Harry Smith 74)
Subs not used: David Cornell, Joe Martin, Chris Lines, Matt Warburton
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Exeter: Aaron Martin (85)
Cobblers: Scott Wharton (4), Ryan Watson (54)
Exeter: Dean Moxey (59)
Following a terrific second leg comeback to defeat Cheltenham, the Cobblers had one more match to play in the 2019/20 season, the little matter of the Sky Bet League 2 play off final against Exeter City at Wembley Stadium.
With no fans allowed to attend the fixture due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Cobblers fourth ever visit to the home of English football was undoubtedly going to be a little different to previous occasions but nevertheless a promotion and a place in Sky Bet League 1 for next season was still on the line.
Keith Curle unsurprisingly kept faith with the same starting eleven that overturned a two goal first leg deficit in the semi-finals while Exeter, who needed extra-time to overcome Colchester United in their semi-final, had three former Cobblers loanees on their bench, Lewis Ward, Lee Martin and Brennan Dickenson. Before kick-off there was a minute's silence as both clubs paid their respects to Theo Foley.
Scott Wharton picked up an early booking for a foul on Randell Williams but the on-loan Blackburn Rovers defender recovered quickly to clear the subsequent free-kick.
It was the Cobblers who struck first though, Ryan Watson with a drilled low finish from just outside the area following a Charlie Goode long throw. Watson’s strike took a deflection to beat Jonathan Maxted who, with the Cobblers on the front foot, could only parry a Nicky Adams free-kick. Vadaine Oliver then went close with a header and Sam Hoskins saw a shot blocked at close range as Keith Curle’s side looked to press home the advantage.
The Cobblers were dealt a blow when Adams was forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury but within seconds it was 2-0, Callum Morton tucking the ball home from close range after Turnbull and Wharton won headers in the box.
Maxted turned behind a header from Wharton as the Cobblers went in search of a third goal before half-time, Oliver and Goode also denied by two top saves from the Grecians keeper in first half stoppage time.
Arnold saved comfortably from Jake Taylor at the start of the second half and it wasn’t long before Exeter made a double change, Tom Parkes and Archie Collins on for Jayden Richardson and Alex Fisher.
Exeter were coming into the game a bit more but they were down to ten men just before the hour mark when referee Michael Salisbury sent off Dean Moxey for a rash challenge on Watson.
Morton had a chance to make it 3-0 after being played through by Oliver but for once the on-loan striker couldn’t find the target and he slid his shot wide of the post.
James Olayinka and Harry Smith replaced McCormack and Oliver in a double change from Curle and the Cobblers extended their lead with ten to play, Sam Hoskins supplying the finish after being played in by Mark Marshall.
The Cobblers weren't letting up and substitute Andy Williams scored with his first touch to make it 4-0, his close range volley coming from a long throw and flick on by Smith.
It had been another terrific performance and the Cobblers for all their hard work throughout the season were rewarded with not only a fantastic win at Wembley but a promotion back into League 1.
EXETER MATCH STATS (first half in brackets, match total out of brackets)
SHOTS ON TARGET: (2) 3
SHOTS OFF TARGET: (0) 0
CORNERS: (1) 5
FOULS: (6) 13
CAUGHT OFFSIDE: (1) 1
COBBLERS MATCH STATS (first half in brackets, match total out of brackets)
SHOTS ON TARGET: (10) 13
SHOTS OFF TARGET: (0) 5
CORNERS: (5) 7
FOULS: (7) 17
CAUGHT OFFSIDE: (1) 3