League Two - 1st Leg
ColchesterColchester United1ExeterExeter City0

Colchester 1-0 Exeter: Hosts win League Two play-off semi-final first leg

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Cohen Bramall scores for Colchester
Cohen Bramall's free-kick beat Exeter goalkeeper Lewis Ward at his near post

Cohen Bramall's free-kick gave Colchester the advantage as they beat Exeter in a drab League Two play-off semi-final first leg.

The full-back's whipped left-footed strike from the right side of the penalty area curled past Lewis Ward into the near post top corner in the first English Football League game since the Covid-19 suspension in March.

It was a rare highlight in an otherwise poor game as both sides struggled to unlock the opposing defence in front of an empty ground.

The two sides will meet again at St James Park on Monday with the winners facing either Northampton or Cheltenham for the final promotion place to League One.

In common with Wednesday's two Premier League games the match commenced with both sides and the match officials 'taking a knee' to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bramall had done well during the game as he kept Exeter's danger man Randell Williams quiet - the Grecians failing to register an effort on target throughout the match.

In fact former Arsenal youngster Bramall was the only player to test a goalkeeper as he also forced Ward to calmly tip over a free-kick after 20 minutes.

The visitors - who managed to find a hotel for their players on Wednesday in order to avoid making the 250-mile journey from Devon to Essex on the day of the game - created little.

Their best chance came two minutes after Bramall's free-kick when Nicky Law's shot from 15 yards was deflected wide.

Exeter's Matt Jay, who replaced the experienced Lee Martin after 36 minutes, hit the side netting with a second-half free-kick, while at the other end Frank Nouble had a pair of chances blocked in quick succession with 15 minutes to go.

The game was Colchester's first play-off match for more than 22 years - they last featured in them when they beat Exeter's nearest neighbours Torquay 1-0 at the old Wembley to win promotion from this level in 1998.

Match reaction

Colchester manager John McGreal: "I'm proud of what we've achieved in two weeks since coming back from lockdown.

McGreal on Cohen Bramall: "It was a brilliant free-kick. It was great technique by Cohen for the goal and that's something that he works on in training.

"That's what he can do and he's shown that he can do that for us. He also played a big part defensively in dealing with Randall Williams."

Exeter boss Matt Taylor: "We just didn't have it quite in our legs and to concede that set-piece was disappointing.

"I was actually pleased with our structure and our attitude - we have to improve in possession, we got in some really good positions. It was probably a game a little bit short of quality in attacking areas, but two honest teams and two very well-organised teams defensively.

"We got the positions, we got the opportunities to use the ball, we just weren't quite slick enough or good enough in possession. Our attacking players worked their socks off but very rarely were they able to beat a Colchester player today."

Both sets of players take a knee
Both sets of players 'took a knee' - showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement - as the referee blew his whistle to start the game
Colchester cardboard cut-out fans
It was worth the wait for the breakthrough for Colchester's cardboard cut-out fans...
Exeter players take a water break
A water break was taken midway through each half in line with new EFL protocols

Line-ups

Colchester

  • 1Gerken
  • 2Jackson
  • 18Eastman
  • 5Prosser
  • 3Bramall
  • 49PokuSubstituted forCowan-Hallat 89'minutes
  • 8PellBooked at 58mins
  • 24StevensonSubstituted forLapslieat 77'minutes
  • 7SeniorSubstituted forGambinat 68'minutes
  • 45Nouble
  • 9NorrisSubstituted forRobinsonat 77'minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Lapslie
  • 6Sowunmi
  • 11Cowan-Hall
  • 12Welch-Hayes
  • 13Robinson
  • 21Clampin
  • 26Gambin
  • 27Chilvers
  • 29Ross

Exeter

  • 1Ward
  • 2Sweeney
  • 5Martin
  • 21MoxeySubstituted forParkesat 77'minutes
  • 11Williams
  • 25Taylor
  • 4Atangana
  • 8LawBooked at 45minsSubstituted forCollinsat 67'minutes
  • 22SparkesSubstituted forDickensonat 77'minutes
  • 12Bowman
  • 7MartinSubstituted forJayat 38'minutes

Substitutes

  • 15Parkes
  • 17Jay
  • 18Fisher
  • 20Richardson
  • 23Maxted
  • 24Dickenson
  • 26Randall
  • 27Collins
  • 35Seymour
Referee:
Josh Smith

Match Stats

Home TeamColchesterAway TeamExeter
Possession
Home42%
Away58%
Shots
Home10
Away8
Shots on Target
Home2
Away0
Corners
Home6
Away6
Fouls
Home14
Away13

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Colchester United 1, Exeter City 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Colchester United 1, Exeter City 0.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Brennan Dickenson (Exeter City) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a corner.

  4. Post update

    Corner, Exeter City. Conceded by Ryan Jackson.

  5. Post update

    Offside, Colchester United. Frank Nouble tries a through ball, but Theo Robinson is caught offside.

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Colchester United. Paris Cowan-Hall replaces Kwame Poku.

  7. Post update

    Offside, Colchester United. Frank Nouble tries a through ball, but Kwame Poku is caught offside.

  8. Post update

    Archie Collins (Exeter City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  9. Post update

    Foul by Luke Gambin (Colchester United).

  10. Goal!

    Goal! Colchester United 1, Exeter City 0. Cohen Bramall (Colchester United) from a free kick with a left footed shot to the top right corner.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Brennan Dickenson (Exeter City).

  12. Post update

    Frank Nouble (Colchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Exeter City. Tom Parkes replaces Dean Moxey.

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Colchester United. Tom Lapslie replaces Ben Stevenson.

  15. Substitution

    Substitution, Exeter City. Brennan Dickenson replaces Jack Sparkes because of an injury.

  16. Substitution

    Substitution, Colchester United. Theo Robinson replaces Luke Norris.

  17. Post update

    Lewis Ward (Exeter City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Luke Norris (Colchester United).

  19. Post update

    Corner, Colchester United. Conceded by Archie Collins.

  20. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Frank Nouble (Colchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kwame Poku.