Match report: Exeter City 2 Cambridge 2Exeter City came from two goals behind to force a 2-2 draw at home against Cambridge United.
The Grecians fell behind to a neat finish by Robbie Simpson just before the break, and the lead was extended soon after half-time when Craig Woodman touched a cross into his own net.
However the comeback was on when Tom Nichols netted his 11th of the season midway through the second period with a powerful strike across goal.
And then the scores were tied up with minutes to spare when David Wheeler rose highest to head in for the equaliser.
Midfielder Liam Sercombe started against Cambridge United for his 250th senior appearance as a Grecian, while the only change to the starting XI after the weekend draw with Bury saw Ryan Harley start ahead of Clinton Morrison, with Scot Bennett and David Noble still missing completely from the matchday 18.
The visitors were the first to have an opportunity when midfielder Ryan Donaldson won a free-kick just outside the area – Sullay Kaikai stepped up to hit the dead ball, and his effort nicked off the wall and wide.
Kaikai then had another opportunity as City were unable to nick the ball away from a neat interchange around the box, but he eventually dragged his left-footed shot wide.
City began to grow into the game and see more of the ball, and Tom Nichols had the home side’s first effort with a pop-shot from 25 yards, which in the end flew past the post of Chris Dunn.
Some patient build-up down the left-hand side led to another opportunity, and Craig Woodman’s deflected delivery hung up at the back post but Arron Davies miskicked a volley under pressure.
U’s striker Robbie Simpson went close with a bending, powerful effort from 25 yards, before a good bit of link-up at the other end between Sercombe and Nichols saw the latter pop a shot at goal from just outside the area and force a smart save from Chris Dunn.
Jamie McAllister had a chance to open his Exeter account on his home debut as a ball aimed into Nichols was deflected into his path, but his powerful side-footed effort was always rising.
Nichols’ work up front nearly got Exeter in on two occasions in quick succession. The first allowed him to cut inside off the left and burn past Michael Nelson before being brought down on the edge of the area. Then more persistent play allowed him to link up with Sercombe, whose powerful effort was saved well.
Instead, it was the U’s that took the lead through striker Simpson. After linking up on the edge of the area with strike-partner Jordan Slew, the U’s forward struck a low right-footed shot on the turn which crept into the net off the inside of the far post.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Cambridge United 1
Christian Ribeiro was introduced to proceedings at the interval, in place of McAllister. That meant that Davies, who had been playing as right-back in the first period, moved into midfield.
Attacking towards the Big Bank after the break, the Grecians started quickly and a quick burst through midfield allowed Nicholls to find Harley, who in turn teed up Sercombe, only for a brave block to come in.
Harley then drew a flying save out of Dunn when a threaded ball found him 25 yards out, and his effort was palmed away strongly.
And the ball was soon in the net at the other end as Johnny Hunt found space to cross on the left, and Woodman inadvertently turned the ball past Pym and into his own net.
It might have been three for the visitors as the ball fell for Hunt just inside the box and he delayed long enough for Ribeiro to make a block.
David Wheeler and Clinton Morrison replaced Ryan Harley and Matt Oakley around the hour mark, as City looked to go all-out in attack and get back into the game.
And as the intensity levels rose, City got back within a goal with Nichols’ 11th goal of the campaign. It was Morrison that provided the assist, flicking a neat ball into his path, before the striker set himself and unleashed a forceful effort which Dunn couldn’t keep out.
With City coming again and again, Dunn was alive to keep the score in the U’s favour – Davies had cut in off the left to shoot, and as ball deflected it broke for Wheeler in the area who turned and shot, finding the goalkeeper’s strong palm.
The referee then played an advantage in the Grecians’ favour as Nichols won the ball in midfield, fed Nicholls on the right, and the forward cut inside and struck just past the far post.
Cambridge’s attacks were few and far between after the break but a quick break saw Kaikai played in, just onside, but he blazed over from close-range.
And with the clock ticking down, Exeter finally got the equaliser that their second-half showing had merited. It was Nicholls that floated in a fine cross for Wheeler, who rose well and directed a powerful header past Dunn and in for 2-2.
Slew had a late chance to win it for the U’s but Jordan Moore-Taylor got an all-important touch when the ball held up on the surface as the points were shared.
Full-time: Exeter City 2 Cambridge United 2
Exeter City: Pym; Davies, Oakley (Morrison 60), Moore-Taylor, Woodman; McAllister (Ribeiro 46), Butterfield, Sercombe, Harley (Wheeler 60); Nicholls, Nichols.
Unused subs: Hamon, Keohane, Tillson, Cummins.
Goals: Nichols (64), Wheeler (88).
Cambridge United: Dunn; Tait, Nelson, Coulson, Taylor; Kaikai (Chadwick 85), Champion, Hunt, Donaldson; Simpson, Slew.
Unused subs: Norris, Miller, Ball, Akintunde, Bird, Chiedozie.
Goals: Simpson (36), Woodman o.g. (49).
Attendance: 3,012 (105 away).
Referee: Mick Russell