Exeter City vs Colchester United preview: Grecians look to overturn a one goal deficit in battle for Wembley spot
(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The First Leg 

Despite Exeter City been eight points ahead of their opponents when the season was brought to a premature end, it's Colchester United who head into the second leg with a one goal advantage. 

With both sides lacking in match sharpness, the first leg went largely as expected. Neither side created any significant chances, with defensive stability clearly the priority for both managers.

It took a magnificent free-kick from Cohen Bramall just ten minutes from time to break the deadlock, as the full back caught Lewis Ward off-guard and curled his effort into the near post. 

With just two shots on target throughout the first leg, both coming from Bramall free-kicks, this second fixture can only improve in quality. With Exeter knowing that they need a win to keep their play-off hopes alive, this game will almost certainly be more open than the first. 

The Second Leg

Despite losing in the first leg, Exeter still have reason to come into this game confident about their chances of progression. Throughout the entirety of the League Two season, the Grecians only lost one game at home, with that loss coming to Grimsby in late September. 

Since then, Matt Taylor's side haven't lost at St James Park in their 11 league outings, winning two of their last five. 

Alongside their strong home form, Taylor will have added hope from the fact that the U's haven't won in Exeter since 1998, when they ran out 1-0 winners. In the last five meetings between the two sides at St James Park, the Grecians have won three of them. 

However, when Colchester were the visitors back in January, the game finished 0-0. As they take a 1-0 lead into this fixture, they know that they are simply one more draw away from Wembley

Whilst Colchester have been inconsisent away from home this season, winning six and losing five of their 19 matches on the road, the U's were able to win their last two away matches of the season. John McGreals side ended the season in style, running out 3-0 winners away at Carlisle United

Following their 1-0 defeat in the first leg, Exeter now haven't won any games in their last five, picking up three defeats along the way. 

Like the first leg, it seems likely that this game will be another close contest. Despite their poor recent form, Exeter have shown time and time again this season that they have quality to give any side a challenge, and if their star men turn up and grab an early goal, there is no reason why they can't reach their third play-off final in three years. 

However, Colchester proved their defensive stabilities throughout the first leg, when the U's didn't concede a single shot on target. If Exeter can't find a way to break McGreal's side down, then it will be Colchester walking out at Wembley on June 29th. 

Team News

Exeter will likely be without Lee Martin after the forward was subsituted in the first half of Thursdays game with a calf problem. Aside from that Taylor will have a full squad to choose from. 

Colchester have no new injuries to report, however with both sides playing their second game in five days after a 14 week break, changes could happen as both managers look to monitor player fitnes. 

Key Players

Cohen Bramall: Bramall was man of the match in the first leg, and as such it seems likely that he will play a crucial role if Colchester are to succeed in the second. Whilst Bramall's excellent free-kick sees the U's come into this game with a 1-0 lead, it's his defensive abilities that will likely shine in this second leg. Throughout the first game, Bramall kept Exeter's key man Randell Williams out of the game, and if he can repeat that feat again, Exeter will find it hard to get back into the tie.

Randell Williams: Despite a quiet performance in the first leg, there is no doubting that Williams will be one of Exeter's most important players coming into this second leg. The wide man has 19 direct goal ontributions this season for the grecians, helping out with five goals and a joint league best 14 assists. With Exeter expected to dominate possession, Williams will be key in unlocking an organised Colchester defence. 

What the Managers Have Said 

Exeter boss Taylor spoke about the importance of match sharpness, alongside discussing where his side must improve after their narrow 1-0 defeat in the first leg:

“Both teams, you could see how physically tired they were towards the end and we just didn’t quite have it in our legs, and to concede that set-piece goal was disappointing.

“However, I was pleased with our structure and our attitude. We have to improve in possession. We got into some really good positions, but we didn’t quite have it in our legs and our bodies to use that ball better in the final third today.

“It was difficult. I think you could see both teams were going at it, but both teams didn’t quite have it in their bodies, not in terms of ability, but in terms of legs when they won the ball back."

Colchester manager McGreal insisted that the tie was far from over after his sides victory at the JobServe Community Stadium:

"It was a tight game, there were two good teams going at it, chances were few and far between. They were two tight games in the season, but Cohen's shown the bit of quality that he's got as he has done throughout the season.

"It was edgy, you could see the boys have been off, both sets for 10-12 weeks, but you take the 1-0. Sometimes you look back at the analysis, a set-piece can win a game, and all it's done is given us an advantage, we haven't won anything at the moment."

Where to Watch

Exclusive live coverage of the match is been shown on Sky Sports channels 401 and 403, with build up of the match beginning at 5:00pm, before kick-off at 5:15pm.

You can also follow the game live here on VAVEL.