Exeter City began their Sky Bet League Two campaign with a 1-0 win over Cambridge United at St James Park.
An early goal from Reuben Reid proved to be the difference between the two sides despite the Grecians having a host of chances in the first half.
City boss, Paul Tisdale, kept the same side that ran out 6-1 winners over Dorchester Town in the Grecians’ final match of pre-season, and named a strong substitutes bench with new signing Ryan Brunt amongst the likes of Lee Holmes and Ryan Harley.
The Grecians made the perfect start to their season as they took the lead after just two minutes through Reuben Reid. Jordan Moore-Taylor’s long ball towards David Wheeler was handled by United’s Jake Carroll and referee Trevor Kettle pointed to the penalty spot.
Reid’s penalty kick was then saved well to David Forde’s left, but the Cambridge goalkeeper was only able to parry the ball into the City striker’s path for him to fire home from a couple of yards out.
City then had two excellent chances from corners, but were unable to add to their early advantage. Troy Brown’s aerial challenge with Leon Legge saw the City defender’s header deflected for a corner. From Craig Woodman’s delivery David Wheeler then saw his flicked header come back off Forde’s post as United cleared.
The away side, who looked to test City in the air early on, saw their crosses dealt with well by the likes of Brown and Moore-Taylor, as Tisdale’s men looked to hit their opponents on the counter-attack through the likes of Liam McAlinden and David Wheeler.
The Grecians were given their first real scare in front of the Big Bank when Luke Berry charged down Christy Pym’s clearance after 15 minutes. Thankfully, Berry’s tight-angled attempt was turned the other side of the post by Pym as he rushed back to clear.
McAlinden then had a golden opportunity to extend City’s lead five minutes later when Wheeler set up the forward with a header from close range, but his rushed attempt saw the ball edge just wide of Forde’s goal.
Lloyd James then had the chance to finish off a well worked move set up by McAlinden and Jake Taylor, but the midfielder could only place his effort over the crossbar.
But the away side, who looked dangerous through the likes of Jabo Ibehre and Luke Berry, then broke well with the former played in on goal but, thankfully for City, he was unable to keep his effort on target after shooting wide.
McAlinden, who proved a nuisance all half for Cambridge, then managed to nick the ball away from Legge to play in Reid down the left-hand side. Unfortunately, the striker was unable to bring the ball under his spell as it deflected off him following a challenge on the by-line from the United defence.
Berry then managed to find space in front of the City box just after the half hour mark to strike low centrally, but strong hands from Pym saw him save well.
Pierce Sweeney then saw his thunderous attempt from distance rise just over Forde’s goal a couple of minutes before the break, which meant City went into half time with their one goal advantage.
City started the early moments of the second half strongly with Wheeler darting across the edge of the box and shooting left footed, but the United defence stood strong to block well.
McAlinden then had another opportunity just yards out when Reid did well to shake off his man and roll the ball across goal, but the City number 19 was unable to keep his effort on target shooting over.
He then forced a good save from Forde as he shaped to curl into the bottom corner after finding space in the box, which then saw James’ follow up effort blocked well.
United full back, Leon Davies, then found himself in good position on the right-hand side and crossed low for Ikpeazu. The substitute, who was in good space, was unable to connect with the ball as City cleared.
Moments later, he found space on the left and drove inside forcing Pym into a comfortable save down low.
Cambridge then had a wonderful opportunity to draw the teams level when Berry volleyed over from Ikpeazu’s cross as the away side searched for a way back into the match.
The visitors seemed to rally as the half wore on and the Grecians were made to work harder for their chances, with Ibehre and Ikpeazu proving a real handful for Moore-Taylor and Brown.
City fans were then given a real scare when Ibehre worked his way past Woodman into the area and crossed low, but for Sweeney who prevented the onrushing United attack from tapping in as the City defender slid in to clear excellently.
The Grecians then had the chance to double their lead just a couple of minutes from time, and make the remaining minutes feel less nervy, when Wheeler did well to cut inside and tee up Harley, but his shot was well blocked from 12 yards out.
Nevertheless, Reid’s early goal was enough to give City a hard fought win over Shaun Derry's side
Exeter City: Pym; Sweeney, Moore-Taylor, Brown, Woodman; Taylor, Tillson, James; Wheeler, Reid (Brunt, 79), McAlinden (Harley, 64).
Subs not used: Hamon, Archibald-Henville, Holmes, Jay, Croll
Cambridge United: Forde; Carroll, Deegan (Dunk,70), Taylor, Legge, Mingoia (Elito, 45), Berry, Ibehre, O’Neil, Maris (Ikpeazu, 45), Davies
Subs not used: Mitov, Azeez, Osadebe, Darling
Attendance: 4,282 (Inc, 318, away)