A late winner from Nicky Law gave Exeter City all three ppints at home to an in-form Cambridge United side.
Despite considerable pressure United managed to hold out until the 82nd minute when Nicky Law appeared down the left before seeing his effort take a deflection and end up in the back of the net.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor made two changes to the side that went down 1-0 in Newport last weekend, with Lee Holmes and Lee Martin returning to the starting 11 in place of Craig Woodman and Ryan Bowman.
City threatened to penetrate on several occasions in the opening 20 minutes, and only stellar work from Cambridge left-back Jake Carroll – cutting out Law’s through-ball at the cost of a corner – prevented Lee Martin from having a clear-cut chance.
The Grecians would then find the net from the set-piece through Pierce Sweeney, who tapped home after pinball in the United box, but it was ruled out for offside. The disallowed goal marked the start of a period in which City piled on the pressure; Sweeney turned provider to cross for Lee Martin, but the Exeter man couldn’t establish a clean connection on the ball and it spun wildly over.
The visitors would respond with pressure of their own when Jevani Brown threatened from a corner, before the ball fell to George Maris, whose effort from the edge of the box looped over Christy Pym and, thankfully for the home side, his goal as well. Brown would then go on to finish a swift passing move for the visitors with a wildly mis-hit effort from distance that flew wide.
The momentum swung both ways; Lee Martin was released by Holmes down the City right, and his fierce shot stung the palms of United goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov just after the half-hour mark. Forte was then released after a superb pass by Law, but the striker could only muster a tame effort that Mitov handled comfortably.
Sweeney was proving dangerous from set-pieces too; his recycling of possession after a corner eventually culminated in an opening for Jake Taylor, but City’s captain saw his effort hit the intersection of Mitov’s bar and left-hand post. Lee Holmes then saw another effort blocked from close range after 38 minutes before Cambridge responded with an attack of their own; only the fingertips of Christy Pym prevented Rushian Hepburn-Murphy from slotting home before the interval.
City dominated possession after half-time but struggled to create clear-cut chances; indeed, it was the visitors who came closest in the opening stages of the second period as Brown curled an effort narrowly wide of Pym’s right-hand post just shy of the hour mark.
City could have opened the scoring when Forte’s cutback found Law in a yard of space in the box, but his effort was blocked for a corner. And it was from the corner that City were offered a fantastic chance to open the scoring, after Cambridge were penalised for handball after Brad Halliday blocked Sweeney’s header illegally. Forte then stepped up, but his powerful penalty smashed the Cambridge bar.
Kane Wilson then had appeals for another penalty turn against him after breaking down the Cambridge right on 75 minutes; he was seemingly brought down by a rash challenge, but the referee blew the other way, booking Wilson for simulation.
City finally found a way through with less than 10 minutes remaining as Law was released down the inside left channel, and his shot took a harsh deflection and looped over the helpless Mitov before nestling in the Cambridge net.
January signings Wilson and Randell Williams both played important roles in the build-up, with the former claiming his first assist since returning to St James Park on loan from West Bromwich Albion.
Cambridge tried to find a late response; Halliday fired wide from the edge of the City box in the 89th minute, but City saw out five minutes of injury time to emerge with a vital three points.
Attendance: 3,996 (138 away)
EXETER CITY: Pym; Sweeney, O’Shea, Moxey, Wilson; L Martin (Bowman, 74), Collins (Williams, 72), Taylor ©, Law, Holmes; Forte (Tillson, 87).
Subs not used: Hamon, Woodman, A Martin, Abrahams.
Booked: O’Shea, Wilson
CAMBRIDGE UNITED: Mitov, Halliday, Carroll (Jones, 88), Taft, Taylor, Deegan ©, Amoo (Lewis, 78), Hepburn-Murphy, Azeez (Dunk, 54), Maris, Brown.
Subs not used: Pilkington, Osadebe, Darling, Lewis, John.