Lincoln City and Exeter City played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their League Two play-off semi-final at Sincil Bank.

In front of a packed house at Sincil Bank, both sides came close but Jayden Stockley and Matt Rhead failed to net their respective sides’ best chances.

It means the tie is all to play for in the second leg in Exeter on Thursday evening.

More than 9,500 watched the play-off stalemate between Lincoln City and Exeter City

Imps manager Danny Cowley made one change to the side that drew with Yeovil Town last week. Ollie Palmer dropped to the bench, making way for Harry Anderson.

The atmosphere cranked up a gear in the final ten minutes before kick off, City fans determined to make themselves the 12th man that Cowley so often praises them for.

As the game got underway under a cacophony of noise, it was notable that the Imps’ back four had reshuffled. While the personnel remained the same, James Wilson shifted to right back, Neal Eardley to left back and Scott Wharton partnered Luke Waterall in the centre.

But while the Grecians had more of the early play, it was Lincoln who had the first effort on goal as Waterfall’s header across goal found Matt Green, whose low effort was straight at Christy Pym.

At the other end, Exeter’s leading scorer Jayden Stockley tried an ambitious overhead kick which Ryan Allsop comfortably grasped as the first ten minutes passed without major incident.

Waterfall nodded Eardley’s corner over for Lincoln, but Exeter had the best chance of the opening 20 minutes when Wilson misjudged a header, allowing Ryan Harley to jink his way into a position to fire a low shot which Allsop saved.

The Imps lacked fluency and rhythm in the opening quarter of the game, unable to keep possession for a sustained period of time – and the crowd were getting frustrated at the ball being sent into touch so often.

As is often the case, set pieces looked like Lincoln’s best chance of an opening and Eardley saw a free kick saved just after the half hour.

Exeter broke straight away, a neat move setting up Lloyd James to cross for Stockley, who could only guide wide.

By now, Exeter started to gain a genuine ascendancy and they had a sustained spell of pressure when Lincoln failed to clear a long throw – Stockley and Pierce Sweeney both having efforts blocked.

But shortly afterwards came their best chance. Stockley found space in between Lincoln’s centre backs but failed to connect cleanly with Hiram Boateng’s cross six yards out.

Then, the same player blazed over on the angle as Exeter’s leading scorer squandered two good chances in the space of a minute.

But riled by a couple of refereeing decisions not going their way, Lincoln had their best spell just before the break. Anderson caused problems for Sweeney down Lincoln’s left, but ultimately they couldn’t test Pym and the sides went into the break goalless.

They started the second half, though, with more purpose and it took less than a minute after the break for Lincoln to threaten. Green was found in space in the right channel, but Pym got just enough to his powerful effort from close range to tip wide for a corner.

And three minutes later, almost a carbon copy. Green in space in the channel, a low shot this time saved by Pym’s legs. The rebound flew at Whitehouse, who couldn’t adjust his feet in time and blazed over with the goal gaping.

Stockley headed wide in Exeter’s first chance of the second half, but the Imps quickly resumed their grip as Anderson poked wide from 20 yards.

With the crowd sensing this was Lincoln’s opportunity, the noise levels increased and Sincil Bank was inches away from erupting just before the hour – Wilson’s pinpoint cross met by Rhead, who powered a header against the bar.

But with Exeter’s attacking prowess, you can never be too comfortable. Just after the hour, Harley danced his way into space and fired a shot which Allsop could only parry, and the rebound from Jake Taylor was tipped wide by the keeper at his near post.

The game was now a more open affair, much like the Good Friday game between the sides albeit a little less frenetic. Eardley fired over from range as Lincoln went close again.

But the game then settled into more of a lull again, with chances more scarce for the next stage. Exeter had the ball in the net with ten minutes to play but Stockley saw his fine snapshot finish ruled out for a foul.

That proved to be the last sight of goal for either side as the game petered out into a draw, meaning it’s all to play for at St James Park on Thursday

Lincoln: Ryan Allsop, Elliott Whitehouse (Tom Pett 83), Luke Waterfall, Scott Wharton (Sean Long 91), Matt Rhead, Matt Green, James Wilson, Michael Bostwick, Neal Eardley, Harry Anderson (Ollie Palmer 83), Alex Woodyard. Subs not used: Paul Farman, Ellis Chapman, Jordan Williams, Declan O’Hare

Exeter: Christy Pym, Pierce Sweeney, Lloyd James, Jordan Tillson, Ryan Harley (Troy Archibald-Henville 89), Jayden Stockley, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Dean Moxey, Jake Taylor, Jordan Storey, Hiram Boateng (Robbie Simpson 73). Subs not used: Paul Jones, Craig Woodman, Matt Jay, Kane Wilson, Kyle Edwards

Attendance: 9,509 (640 visitors)