As it happened: Colchester United 1-0 Exeter City
Harry Pell gets to the ball ahead of two Exeter players. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images


19:142 years ago

The tie is finely poised ahead of the second leg as Colchester take a 1-0 lead to St James’ Park. That’s it from here, make sure to tune in for updates again on Monday to find out which side will be going to Wembley.

19:122 years ago

FULL-TIME! Colchester 1-0 Exeter

Cohen Bramall’s brilliant free kick has been the one moment of real quality in a tense match, and it’s that strike that makes it advantage Colchester after the first leg.

19:092 years ago

90+4’ A deep Collins delivery to the far post forces an Exeter corner. The set piece is headed away and it sits up for Dickenson who is tempted to shoot, but it’s nowhere near the target.

19:062 years ago

90’ Exeter have five minutes of added time to find an equaliser.

19:052 years ago

89’ Cowan-Hall replaces Poku for the home side for the final moments. A dangerous Exeter cross comes in but Williams can’t connect.

19:042 years ago

88’ Having been stung by that bolt from the blue, Exeter look to attack in the final minutes. Martin flicks on a long throw but the ball is cleared, as is another cross by this impressive U’s defence.

19:002 years ago

84’ Ward comes out quickly to beat Poku to Nouble’s long pass and boot the ball out for a throw.

18:572 years ago

GOAL! Colchester 1-0 Exeter

80’ Nouble wins a free kick just outside the box wide right. It looks an impossible angle to score from, but Bramall aims for the near top corner and it’s struck absolutely perfectly to catch out Ward!

18:542 years ago

79’ Bright introduction from Robinson with a nice touch and some skill to go past one defender before being crowded out in the box.

18:532 years ago

77’ More changes made. Colchester switch strikers as Norris makes way for on-loan top scorer Robinson, while Lapslie replaces Stevenson in the middle.

For Exeter, Parkes takes over from Moxey at the back and Sparkes makes way for Dickenson on the left.

18:512 years ago

74’ Bramall fizzes the ball towards goal but Martin gets in the way, before Nouble’s effort from a tight angle is blocked by Ward. Nouble’s next effort is then deflected wide.

18:472 years ago

71’ Sub Gambin thunders a shot towards goal but Sweeney bravely puts himself in front of it.

18:452 years ago
69’ Time for a second drink break.
18:432 years ago

67’ Changes for both sides. Law is replaced by Collins for Exeter, while Colchester bring on Gambin to make way for Senior.

18:412 years ago

66’ Law combines with Bowman, whose volley from the edge of the area is blocked by a Colchester defender.

18:392 years ago

63’ Law finds some space to run at the defender, slips the ball to Jay but Eastman comes across to block for a corner. 

18:362 years ago

60’ Jay won the free kick and is given the chance to take it. It’s a decent effort but just wide of the top corner.

18:342 years ago

58’ Jay has been bright since coming on and a determind run sees Pell foul him at the expense of a free kick and booking.

18:322 years ago

56’ Williams forces Bramall to knock the ball behind and a scramble ensues from the corner, but Moxey tangles with a defender and the free kick goes Colchester’s way.

18:312 years ago

55’ Jay can’t quite connect with a Law cross. Colchester counter and Norris nods a cross back across goal but Exeter clear.

18:292 years ago

54’ Senior takes a couple of touches on the edge of the box to work some space for a shot but the effort dips the wrong side of the bar.

18:252 years ago

49’ Good play by Poku, Nouble carries the ball further forward but Moxey challenges for a corner. 

18:202 years ago
46’ Exeter get the second half started.
18:062 years ago

HALF-TIME! Colchester 0-0 Exeter

The first half comes to a close with neither side having a clear-cut chance in an understandable cautious tie.

Colchester perhaps just edging it with Jackson their most dangerous outlet down the right. Exeter have largely been quiet going forward.

18:022 years ago

45+1’ Law receives the first yellow card of the match for a tug on Senior as the winger tries to make progress.

18:012 years ago

45’ Three added minutes at the end of the half.

17:592 years ago

43’ Moxey’s long pass is nicely brought down by Jay on the left flank. Sparkes lifts a ball towards the back post but it’s just beyond Bowman.

17:562 years ago

40’ Law sets Jay away down the left to make an instant impact but two Colchester defenders crowd him out and block the attempted cross.

17:542 years ago

38’ Martin will have to come off and Matt Jay takes his place in the Exeter attack.

17:532 years ago

37’ Lee Martin is down with an injury, it was quite innocuous but looks like the sort of thing we’re going to see a lot of in the coming weeks.

17:452 years ago

29’ Poku fires the ball across for Colchester, Senior reaches it but tries to knock it back across instead of going for goal and the ball is cleared.

17:432 years ago

26’ Nice spell of possession from Colchester, Norris expertly thumps the ball in long after the whistle had blown for offside from Jackson’s ball but replays suggest he may have been level.

17:402 years ago
23’ We’ve reached the midway point of the first half so there will be a short water break.
17:392 years ago

22’ Law is found in some space in the centre of the box but his shot is well blocked. The corner from Williams is a little overhit and Martin can’t guide it on target.

17:382 years ago

21’ Taylor plays a brilliant ball to set danger man Williams in behind but his cross is a poor one.

17:362 years ago

19’ Another Colchester free kick in a good position as Moxey’s high boot catches the face of Norris. Bramall goes for goal and it’s a good effort that has to be tipped over by Ward.

17:342 years ago

17’ Exeter captain Taylor fells Senior for a free kick. Bramall’s delivery is headed away and Senior can’t make anything when the ball comes back to him.

17:312 years ago

15’ Brilliant work from Nouble down the right to go past Martin but Sparkes stands up well to challenge in the box.

17:262 years ago

10’ Jackson’s long throw is nodded behind for a Colchester corner. Nouble tries to flick it on at the near post but the ball is cleared.

17:242 years ago

8’ Bramall nips the ball behind from Taylor for the first corner of the game. Bowman can’t keep his header under the bar.

17:232 years ago

7’ A bizarre free kick goes the way of Colchester as Sweeney picks the ball up thinking it had gone out of play when the officials thought otherwise.

17:202 years ago

5’ No openings for either side so far. There are a few cardboard fans dotted around but it’s the kind of surreal atmosphere and environment we’ll be getting used to in the EFL in the coming weeks.

17:162 years ago


Colchester get things underway.
17:152 years ago

Both teams are out into the virtually empty ground for the first half of 180 minutes which will decide which of them will reach the play-off final.

Before we get underway, there will be an applause for frontline workers during the Covid crisis.

17:112 years ago


Both matches between the two sides this season ended in ties.

In December, Ryan Bowman’s penalty ensured a 2-2 draw for Exeter who, after taking an early away lead through Jake Taylor, were behind from Harry Pell and Theo Robinson goals.

The return at St James’ Park less than a month later finished goalless with Bowman missing the best chance.

17:102 years ago

What to expect

Only Cheltenham had a better defensive record in League Two than Colchester, with a solid back four that is one of the best in the league. They are particularly good defending set pieces, and at attacking them too – they have the joint-most goals in the league from set pieces (17).

Going forward the full-backs, Ryan Jackson and Cohen Bramall, are key to the attack. The U’s look to individual skill for inspiration, completing more dribbles per game (8.3) than any other side with Courtney Senior, Frank Nouble and Callum Harriott the best at beating opponents.

Exeter like to play direct and have the ball in advanced positions as quickly as possible; they have had the highest amount of possession in the opposition third (35%) and the lowest in their own third (27%) in the division.

Width is key and no League Two side delivers more crosses each game (23), with a particular amount of focus on Randall Williams’ right wing, with more attacks down that side than any other side (47%). Williams has 14 assists this season, the joint-highest.

17:082 years ago

FItness key for Taylor

Exeter boss Matt Taylor said: “The players were desperate to get back, and we’re all looking forward to the fixtures. We’ve done as much as we could in a short space of time and I’ve been really pleased with the attitude shown. It’s almost simplified things with less staff available.

“The players have to understand what’s needed – we have to be in the tie going into the second leg, we have to give ourselves the chance of playing well on our home ground and to do that we have to perform away from home.

“I will be selecting a group of players who I think will be capable of lasting 90 plus minutes, but the bench will be vital with five substitutes available.

“I can imagine both teams will look totally different in the second leg – to play two games in four days after 12 weeks off is unheard of, let alone two play-off games. We’ll have to see where the fatigue and energy levels are at after the first leg. We’ve got to take care of what’s in front of us.”

17:072 years ago

McGreal wants to fulfil ambition

Ahead of the game, Colchester manager John McGreal said: "We have been preparing for these Play-Off matches for a while now, but it's great news, and a little bit of a relief, to have it all confirmed with the vote.

"Actually, we've been geared up to trying to win promotion all season, so this gives us the opportunity to fulfil that ambition we all had back in August."

"I'm gutted for the fans as they won't be able to come to the games and cheer us on as a reward for their support all season.

"I know that they'll be watching on TV though - willing us to get the positive results against Exeter that get us to the Final and then hopefully promotion.”

17:062 years ago

Grecians miss out on top three

“Unlike their opponents, Exeter would have the right to feel hard done by the decision to end the season early. Exeter have been battling for the automatic promotion places and the title all season, however a spell of poor form saw them drop out of the automatics just one week before the season would come to a premature end. 

No wins their last four meant that Exeter were in fourth place when the season was brought to end, however due to Cheltenham's game in hand, Exeter were moved to fifth on a points-per-game basis. 

In both the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 seasons, the Grecians lost in the play-off final, losing to both Blackpool and Coventry respectively.”

Read Sam Jones’ full match preview here:

17:042 years ago

U’s target League One return

“Sitting in and around the play-off places all season, Colchester United have no real reason to feel aggrieved by the decision to end the season early, and will see these play-offs as a good opportunity to propel themselves back to League One. 

Since their relegation to League Two in 2016, the U's have finished one place outside the play-offs on two occasions. This game marks Colchester’s first play-off campaign since 1998, where they were promoted from the fourth tier after beating Tranmere Rovers in the final. 

Before the season was ended due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Colchester were only able to pick up six points from their last five games. However, they ended the regular season in style, running out 3-0 winners away at Carlisle.”

Read Sam Jones’ full match preview here:

16:222 years ago

Team news

The teams are in!

Colchester: Gerken; Jackson, Prosser, Eastman, Bramall; Stevenson, Pell; Poku, Nouble, Senior; Norris.

Subs: Ross, Lapslie, Sowunmi, Cowan-Hall, Welch-Hayes, Clampin, Gambin, Chilvers.

Exeter: Ward; Williams, Sweeney, Martin, Moxey, Sparkes; Atangana, Taylor, Law, Martin; Bowman.

Subs: Maxted, Parkes, Jay, Fisher, Richardson, Dickenson, Randall, Collins, Seymour.

16:152 years ago

It’s time!

We’re an hour away from the return of the EFL with the first League Two play-off semi-final first leg, as Colchester United host Exeter City.

Team news to come shortly...

21:212 years ago

Exeter City: Predicted XI

Exeter are expected to be without Jack Sparkes and Jonny Maxted. Matt Taylor’s side could line-up in either a 3-4-1-2 or 4-2-3-1.

Predicted XI: Ward; Sweeney, Martin, Parkes; Williams, Collins, Taylor, Dickenson; Law; Bowman, Martin.

21:182 years ago

Colchester United: Predicted XI

John McGreal usually plays with a 4-2-3-1 formation and should have a fully-fit squad to pick from against Exeter.

Predicted XI: Gerken; Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Bramall; Stevenson, Stevenson, Pell; Poku, Nouble, Harriott; Norris.

21:142 years ago

Play-offs begin

The EFL makes its long-awaited return and it’s a quick start to the League Two play-offs, just over a week after the vote to end the regular season.

The final table, decided by points-per-game, saw Exeter finish in fifth place with Colchester in sixth.

More than three months after their previous games, the two will go head-to-head over two legs for a place in the play-off final at Wembley.

21:082 years ago

Kick-off time

Colchester United vs Exeter City will be played at the JobServe Community Stadium, Colchester, with kick-off at 5.15pm.
21:062 years ago
Welcome to’s live coverage of the League Two play-off semi-final first leg: Colchester United vs Exeter City.

My name is Stephen Ibbetson and I’ll be your host for the game with pre-match analysis, team news and live updates.