Another FA Cup goal against Cambridge United for Alex Fisher proved to be the winner this time as Exeter City progressed to the Second Round with a 1-0 win at St James Park on Tuesday night.
Grecians manager Matt Taylor made three changes from Saturday afternoon’s draw with Cheltenham, with Lee Martin, Nicky Law and Craig Woodman replacing Jack Sparkes, Nigel Atangana and Ryan Bowman.
City nearly took the lead within two minutes, as Archie Collins’ cross from deep evaded Alex Fisher to take U’s goalkeeper Callum Burton by surprise, but the ball rolled narrowly wide of his left-hand post.
It was an entertaining opening 25 minutes, albeit one that resulted in few chances, with the game predominantly fought in the midfield and little of note in either side’s offensive third. Nicky Law had a shot blocked from just outside the penalty area with 25 minutes on the clock, before Fisher’s flick nearly released Lee Martin through on goal, but the latter’s touch was wayward, and Cambridge dealt with the pressure.
Law’s cross then wreaked havoc in the Cambridge penalty area soon after, and Fisher was unlucky to have mis-timed his run as the visitors were able to clear in the only other opening of note for either side in the opening period.
Into the second period, and City looked to break immediately through Nicky Law, but his pass was cut out in the most clear-cut chance City created up to that point.
A brilliant free-kick from Randell Williams with 55 minutes played was flicked on into a dangerous position by the Cambridge defence, but nobody from either side was there to convert it goalwards and Cambridge only conceded a corner, from which Aaron Martin headed wide.
After regaining possession, Lee Martin fired a shot in from distance that Burton held onto relatively easily, but it was City’s best phase of the game.
Just after the hour mark, Law again was involved after a fortunate deflection off a Cambridge defender, though the shot that followed his run flew harmlessly over of Burton’s goal.
A couple of minutes later, Lee Martin did well to create a yard of space down the City left, and his cross found Williams, but the City man mis-hit the volley and it didn’t trouble Burton. The winger nearly made up for it in spectacular fashion with a free-kick after 65 minutes, though Burton tipped it over.
But City were, after 70 long minutes, not to be denied – substitute Ben Seymour refused to give up on a lost cause down the right wing, and beat his man to the ball before delivering a superb cross that Fisher met sweetly to give City the lead. It was no less than the striker deserved for his industrious showing leading from the front.
Going a goal down spurred the visitors into life; after a short period of pressure the loose ball fell for Liam O’Neil just outside the area, and his effort rolled wide. But City responded in kind, and with five minutes left the academy graduates nearly combined to great effect – Jack Sparkes broke down the left wing and delivered a superb low cross in towards Ben Seymour, who dived in to meet the ball and, though flagged for offside, was only a matter of inches from completing a sublime move.
But the Grecians survived, and saw out the rest of the game with a clean sheet to emerge 1-0 winners in the replay, which sees us progress to the Second Round with a tie against Hartlepool at St James Park.
Attendance: 2,719 (88 away)
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Woodman (Sparkes 63), A Martin, L Martin (Seymour 64), Law (Atangana 80), Williams, Jay, Fisher, Moxey ©, Collins.
Subs not used: Visser, Bowman, Parkes, Richardson.
Booked: A Martin
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor © (Dallas 76), O’Neil, Maris, Dunk, Darling, Smith, Knibbs (Jones 82), Roles, Ward.
Subs not used: Mitov, Jones, Taft, Dearman, Simper, Dickens.