HEARTBROKEN Exeter City missed out on the win they needed to make the  League Two play-offs shake-up after being held to a point by a Forest Green side already assured of their place in the play-offs.

Matt Taylor’s side could only draw 0-0 at the New Lawn and missed a raft of chances to have won the game. And with Newport drawing at Morecambe, courtesy of an 87th minute goal, and Colchester dismantling champions Lincoln 3-0, it all meant the Grecians ended the campaign in ninth position when one goal at Forest Green would have seen them finish seventh.

Rovers end their regular campaign in fifth and now face Tranmere Rovers in the semi-final first leg at Prenton Park next Friday with the second leg set for the New Lawn on  the following Monday.

With the play-offs next week in mind, boss Mark Cooper ran the changes – resting six of his big-hitters. Christian Doidge, Reece Brown, Farrend Rawson, Joesph Mills, Liam Shephard and Carl Winchester were given a break on the subs bench.

Striker Shawn McCoulsky was afforded a rare chance since his January move from Bristol City. Issac Pearce came in for his full league debut and teenager Udoka Godwin-Malife was handed an opportunity, making his second league appearance. LIoyd James came in from the cold to face his former club.

This game was very much the proverbial free hit for Rovers, but Exeter knew a victory and results elsewhere could make it a third successive play-off spot for the perennial League Two bridesmaids.

A cagey opening to the game was punctuated on 26 minutes – Ryan Bowman skipped beyond Udoka Godwin-Malife, but Lee Holmes fluffed his opportunity. Bowman should have opened the scoring a minute later. Forest Green goalkeeper James Montgomery gift-wrapped a chance by scuffing the ball to Bowman but the Exeter striker was profligate – firing wide of an open goal. Rovers were on the ropes. Four minutes later Bowman planted a header on to the post from an inviting Lee Martin cross.

Forest Green’s Gavin Gunning and Martin saw yellow six minutes before the break after a touchline spat.

Martin was proving a dangerous outlet and his arching cross saw Hiram Boteng hook wide on the cusp of the break.

With Colchester beating Lincoln at the break, Exeter knew a win was a given to gain a play-off spot and they started the second period on the front-foot. Martin spanked over from the edge of the box and Montgomery spilled a Pierce Sweeney cross.

Rovers looked to respond. Godwin-Malife skewing wide from 25 yards. With 20 minutes to go McCoulsky got his legs in a tangle after a free-flowing move involving Dayle Grubb, Junior Mondal and Nathan McGinley.

Great Grubb feet failed to match his finish after James’ clever ball.

As the clock ticked, City huffed and puffed – Montgomery getting a weak fist to a Lee Holmes ball.

Rovers replied – sub Reuben Reid slicing wide from a Grubb assist.

Exeter still craved a goal to get in the play-offs, but McCoulsky almost pinched it when running half the length of the pitch to fizz into Christy Pym.

It was end-to-end - Montgomery spilling a ball into the box, but Lee Collins hacked away.

Six minutes of added time prevailed, but Rovers hung on as Exeter looked in vain for the goal that would prolong their season.


Forest Green: Montgomery 5; Collins 6, Godwin-Malife 6 (Shepard 87), Gunning 8, McGinley 7 ; James 6, Digby 6, Grubb 6, Mondal 6 (Reid 71); Pearce 5; McCoulsky 7

Subs not used: Ward, Doidge, Brown, Winchester

Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Woodman ( K Wilson 64), O’Shea, Martin, Holmes, Bowman, Moxey, Taylor, Collins ( D Wilson 70), Boateng

Attendance: 4,537

Exeter fans: 1,223

Referee: Ben Toner

Star Man: Gavin Gunning.