Jayden Stockley scored his 11th goal of the season as Exeter City battled back from a goal down to earn a hard-fought points away at promotion rivals Colchester United.
Colchester had taken the lead when Sammie Szmodics hit a volley into the bottom corner with 67 minutes on the clock, but the Grecians responded superbly as Stockley fired home from close-range following a goalmouth scramble two minutes later.
City manager Matt Taylor named an unchanged team from the side that performed well in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Northampton Town, while Colchester United handed a league debut to Ollie Kensdale in three changes to their starting line-up.
It was Kensdale who had the first effort on goal, bringing a good save out of Christy Pym from a corner before his teammate Szmodics, scorer of two goals the last time City visited the Colchester Community Stadium, fired just wide.
Pym then made the second, and perhaps the best of, his three first-half saves on 20 minutes when he got a strong hand to a deflected Courtney Senior free-kick to push the ball to safety.
Then came the first of City’s big chances as Jake Taylor fed the ball through to the impressive Tristan Abrahams and he poked an effort goalwards. However, Colchester United keeper Dillon Barnes had raced off his line quickly to block the effort.
Further pressure from the home side followed as Pym turned a Ryan Jackson drive around his post before Dara O’Shea got across well to block Mikael Mandron from getting on the end of a Szmodics cross.
Then, in first-half stoppage time, City thought their defensive resolve had been rewarded when Abrahams turned and shot from inside the area but Barnes, like his opposite number in the City goal, produced a top-class save to turn the youngster’s effort around the post and keep the score goalless at half-time.
Colchester had the first chance of the second half as Craig Woodman undercooked a back pass to Pym and Szmodics rounded the City keeper before firing towards goal from a tight angle, but Aaron Martin was alert and got across to clear. Then on 52 minutes, Frank Nouble hit an effort from inside the box that deflected wide.
Two minutes, later a good delivery from Nicky Law from a corner saw Jayden Stockley head just over the crossbar as City, playing on the counter, created chances. The next one came as Woodman lifted a ball over the home defence and found Abrahams who almost lifted a shot over the advancing keeper.
However, on 67 minutes the hosts took the lead as a cross from Senior deflected into the path of Szmodics who volleyed home from 20 yards.
The lead only last two minutes though as Lee Holmes whipped a free-kick into the area and after Chiedozie Ogbene brought a good save out of Barnes, Stockley followed up to score from close range.
The on 82 minutes, after winning a free-kick for City, Stockley came closest to winning the match in the closing stages as he curled a shot around the wall and agonizingly wide of the right-hand post.
In the end though, City had to settle for a point which on the balance of play was fair and kept them sixth in the table - a point off Colchester who moved into third.
Colchester United: Barnes, Jackson, Kent, Kensdale, Vincent-Young, Pell, Lapslie, Senior (Gondoh, 86), Szmodics, Nouble, Mandron (Dickenson, 90). Subs not used: Ross, James. Wright, Comley, Collins.
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Woodman, O’Shea, A Martin, Tillson, Law, Holmes (L Martin, 73), Stockley, Abrahams (Ogbene, 63), Taylor. Subs not used: Hamon, Forte, Jay, Moxey, Croll.
Booked: Taylor, A Martin
Attendance: 3,384 (264, away)
Up next at St James Park:
City take on Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, March 2 in a 3pm kick-off. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance. Click here to buy online.