A goal apiece for Nicky Law and Lee Holmes added to a spectacular first-half finish from Matt Jay to see Exeter City triumph 3-0 over Colchester United at St James Park.
Jay's first half strike put the Grecians ahead on the cusp of half-time before Lee Holmes made the score 2-0 with a composed finish.
Nicky Law then rounded off an excellent day for the Grecians when he added to the score sheet with a close range finish as City bounced back from successive defeats.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor made four changes from the side that lost 2-1 at Northampton last week, with Dean Moxey, Ryan Bowman, and Lee Holmes all coming back into the side alongside Hiram Boateng, who made a long-awaited return to the starting 11.
An evenly contested opening period saw very few chances of note; City had consecutive corners after a quarter of an hour, with the second resulting in an appeal for handball, but referee Scott Oldham showed no interest. A third corner three minutes later then produced a shooting opportunity for the home side, but Boateng’s speculative effort was mishit and flew well wide.
The visitors began to probe the City backline, and after Kane Wilson recovered back from the Colchester half to the edge of his own box with one of his boots in his hand, Courtney Senior then intercepted a clearance by Craig Woodman and struck a fierce shot that Dara O’Shea did well to block.
There was a sense of déjà vu as City countered, won a corner and again had appeals for a handball turned down; Lee Holmes’ left-footed in-swingers proved a challenge to defend in the conditions.
Ryan Bowman’s physicality troubled the visitors, and City again appealed for a penalty as the Grecians' man was tripped in pursuit of a through ball - but the referee instead blew for offside against the City striker. An acrobatic effort from the forward on the edge of the box then looped agonisingly over the Colchester crossbar as City searched for the opener.
But it wouldn’t take them much longer: a minute before half-time, Kane Wilson propelled a long ball forwards, and Ryan Bowman somehow held off two defenders to chest the ball down to Matt Jay, who hit a spectacular volley that curled away from Rene Gilmartin and into the top-left corner.
If the first half had taken its time to spark into life, the second couldn’t have been more different – Sammie Szmodics received the ball inside the Exeter area and fired goalwards only to be denied by a spectacular save from Christy Pym, out quickly to close down the angle and saving with his legs. Then, on the 49th minute, it was City’s turn to attack, and Lee Holmes’ driven effort produced a good save from Gilmartin.
City should have doubled their lead as Bowman pounced on a loose back-pass, and his ball across eventually found Holmes as City had three men closing in on the Colchester goal, but Holmes’ effort was saved by Gilmartin and the visitors eventually were able to clear.
A clearance after a short spell of pressure from Colchester released Bowman one-v-one, but his effort from a tight angle rolled just wide of the Colchester goal. It was a spell of attacking dominance from City; Jay set up Boateng for an effort that would be deflected over, and a game that had been so tight in the first period was unrecognisable in the minutes after the interval.
City’s attacking prowess would soon be rewarded with a second superb goal. Colchester couldn’t keep Jay out of the game, and a delicate through ball released Lee Holmes down the inside-left flank, and the forward made amends for his earlier miss with a fantastic chip over the onrushing Gilmartin.
The Grecians would match individual brilliance in one end of the pitch with it at the other, with Pym making two spectacular saves – the first an instinctive dive to tip Mikael Mandron’s effort over the bar, before another diving save to tip Senior’s effort around the post.
With 20 minutes still to play, the game was still very much alive; Mandron directed an effort just wide of Pym’s right-hand post having been released by Norris. However, for all of Colchester’s attacking effort, City would put the game to bed soon after – a glorious turn from Boateng saw Exeter transition rapidly into attack, and fed Law who escaped his man on the right-hand side before poking beyond Gilmartin.
Attendance: 3,951 (167 away)
EXETER CITY: Pym, Woodman, O’Shea, Law, Holmes (Collins 75), Bowman (D Wilson 90), Jay, K Wilson, Moxey, Taylor ©, Boateng (Brown 81).
Subs not used: Hamon, A Martin, Forte, R Williams.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Gilmartin, Jackson, Prosser © (Eisa 71), Kent, Senior (Miller 87), Norris, Szmodics, Eastman, Mandron, Vincent-Young, Stevenson.
Subs not used: Barnes, Dickenson, Wright, Chilvers, Kensdale.