Taylor rues lack of goals as Exeter miss out on play-offs

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Matt Taylor admitted his side missed out on the play-offs because of a lack of goals (Nigel French/PA)

Exeter manager Matt Taylor insists the departure of top scorer Jayden Stockley was the catalyst to his side missing out on the play-offs.

City missed the chance to claim a play-off place as their inability to score at Forest Green cost them a top-seven finish.

Taylor’s side could only draw 0-0 at the New Lawn and missed a raft of chances to win the game.

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.

But Taylor bemoaned the loss of Stockley to Preston in January.

He said: “I can’t criticise them too much, it’s just that little bit of quality (we were missing) in the final third. But we have to be honest, we lost our goalscorer in January, who was on 16.

“It wasn’t to be and I am not sure we could have created any more chances in that first period.

“The structure and the attitude of the players were brilliant and we just went at the game. We attacked and pinched the ball high up the pitch and created a number of chances, you just want one to go in the back of the net.

“The second half was a little bit more difficult against the wind and we had to open ourselves up, we knew that, but it just wouldn’t fall for us.

“I don’t want it to be said that it wasn’t our day because it is throughout the whole season. You know yourself I have had gripes at times throughout the season about our effectiveness in both penalty boxes, which is League Two football.

“I just feel we have left too many points out there over the course of the season, but that’s probably where we are as a team.

“The players have been excellent for me since Christmas and not many of these top seven teams will have lost their goals out of the team.”

With Rovers already assured of the play-offs, Mark Cooper rested six of his big-hitters and it was Exeter who threatened first.

Ryan Bowman skipped beyond Udoka Godwin-Malife, but Lee Holmes fluffed his opportunity.

Bowman should have opened the scoring a minute later when Forest Green goalkeeper James Montgomery gift-wrapped a chance by scuffing the ball to Bowman but the Exeter striker fired wide of an open goal.

Rovers were on the ropes and four minutes later Bowman planted a header on to the post from an inviting Lee Martin cross.

Martin was proving a dangerous outlet and his arching cross saw Hiram Boateng hook wide on the brink of half-time.

Exeter turned the screw in the second half but could not find the goal they needed in six minutes of added time.

Cooper, who toasted three years in charge at the New Lawn this week, insists forward play-off planning could give his side an advantage going into the semi-final first leg at Tranmere.

With a play-off place rubber-stamped a fortnight ago, Cooper feels his side and Tranmere have a preparation edge in the four-way fight for the coveted promotion spot to League One.

Cooper said: “The fact that we have had this week and next week to prepare has given us and Tranmere a chance to plan, so Tranmere and ourselves are in a little bit of a fortunate position, where we can really plan.

“The players are really looking forward to the play-offs, some have been there before, and the younger ones are really excited about having the opportunity of playing at Wembley at the end of it if we get through the semi-final.”