Exeter City extended their unbeaten league home run to seven games with a 2-0 win over Cambridge United at St James’ Park. Ryan Bowman’s close range strike coupled with Randall Williams’ effort meant the Grecians remain within touching difference of leaders Swindon Town at the top of the Sky Bet League Two table.
City boss Matt Taylor made just one change to the side that beat Forest Green in their last league outing, with Jake Taylor coming in to captain the side and replacing the suspended Nigel Atangana, who saw red in that win at the New Lawn on New Year’s Day.
The Grecians started the game with some impetus and caught out the U’s backline inside 90 seconds when Ryan Bowman attempted a lob over visiting keeper Dimitar Mitov, but his effort ended up wide of the mark.
Cambridge were forcing City to absorb some early pressure, but Matt Taylor’s side had no trouble in dealing with it and were able to clear a number of whipped balls away from danger.
It was a game of few chances in the first half, with both sides grappling in midfield. The closest the hosts came to an opener was when Jake Taylor played an inch perfect ball for Lee Martin, who fizzed an effort over the bar from the edge of the area.
Play was disrupted just before the break when referee James Oldham was forced off with an injury, meaning fourth official Justin Amey took over the reigns. After a lengthy stoppage, nine minutes were added to the end of the half.
This gave City plenty of time to muster an assault on the Cambridge goal, with Williams beating several players to shimmy into the area in style before seeing his effort blocked by Greg Taylor. Lee Martin then missed a golden opportunity, firing straight at Mitov from close range after a neat ball over the top.
The visitors began the second half the brighter and didn’t take long to register their first effort as George Maris found Harvey Knibbs in space, but he could only rattle the foot of the post with his driving effort.
Jonny Maxted was then forced to race out of his goal to deny Sam Smith after Aaron Martin back pass was played too short. For all their efforts though, they were to fall behind when City burst forward on the break with lethal energy.
Nicky Law enjoyed freedom down the right hand side before cutting the ball back across the face of goal, where Bowman was there to notch his tenth league goal of the season from just a few yards out.
That sparked the game into life and the Grecians again went close when Law went alone from midway through the Cambridge half, firing just wide from an angle inside the penalty area.
Archie Collins then saw his ferocious effort fizz just over the bar as he twisted and turned his way into the area, before Law tried bettering that effort but with the same result.
Cambridge should have levelled when Smith had the opportunity to knock in at the back post, but he produced a glaring miss that kept City ahead.
Exeter put the game to bed with 10 minutes to go when Williams persevered inside the area to profit on some bad defending, stealing the ball from his man to smash home a second goal for the Grecians and his third of the season.
As the game drew to a close, Matt Taylor introduced youngster Joel Randall and Ben Chrisene for their league debuts.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, A Martin, L Martin (Randall), Law, Williams (Chrisene), Bowman, Parkes, Richardson (Moxey), Taylor ©, Collins.
Subs not used: Ward, Ajose, Jay, Seymour.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Taylor ©, Hannant (Norville-Williams), O’Neil (Jones), Maris, Dunk, Darling, Davies, Smith (Dallas), Lewis, Knibbs.
Subs not used: Burton, Taft, Worman.
Attendance: 4,517 (86 away)