Exeter City want to return to winning ways, with the mid-week arrival of last year’s play-off semi-finalists Colchester United to St James Park.
Jed Penberthy looks back at a topsy turvy encounter with The U’s in 2016, when goals from Robbie Simpson, Ollie Watkins and Joel Grant see City leave Essex with all three points.
Colchester United 2-3 Exeter City
Weston Holmes Community Stadium
September 3, 2016
The Grecians had endured a torrid start to the 2016/17 season. Paul Tisdale’s injury plagued squad travelled to the South East sitting lowly in 23rd after five defeats in the first six.
Tisdale made four changes from the one-nil defeat to Pompey a week prior. Jordan Moore-Taylor returned to fitness ahead of Connor Riley-Lowe. Luke Croll, Jack Stacey and Robbie Simpson were also given starts.
Colchester had a steady beginning of the season and looked like early play-off hunters in 8th.
The sharp City line-up broke the Colchester defence inside eight minutes. Lloyd James looped a long ball into the United box after a quickly taken short free kick. Jordan Tillson’s header crashed off the inside of the post, and whilst the keeper bizarrely appealed for the offside flag, Robbie Simpson was on hand to tap Exeter into the early lead.
Exeter’s early season defensive frailties exposed themselves just 5 minutes later. Lewis Kinsella launched a free kick into the City danger-zone. After losing the first header, Ryan Harley forgot which box he was in and his lovely cushion header was duly dispatched by Sammie Szmodics.
On 38 minutes, things went from bad to worse from the defensive set piece. Brennan Dickenson’s inch perfect corner for the hosts was met by Kurtis Guthrie, whose header beat both Bobby Olejnik and Ryan Harley for height and nestled in the net.
It seems Tisdale’s half time team talk did the job. Just five minutes into the second half City were level. Colchester were hesitant in the press as Jake Taylor found room 30 yards from goal. The future City skipper drifted forward and knocked the ball into Ollie Watkins. The winger, in typical Watkins fashion, faced up the full back, pulled off his trademark stepover and fired the ball beyond Sam Walker with his left peg.
Ethan Ampadu picked up a yellow card a couple of minutes later, which the City bench took with caution. On 64 minutes Ampadu was replaced by Joel Grant and the sub made an instant impact. Within 2 minutes of coming on Grant found himself on the end of a Jack Stacey cross to put Exeter ahead.
After winning the ball in the middle of the park, Watkins fed the overlapping Stacey. The Reading loanee whipped the ball across the face to the U’s six-yard box and the substitute cropped up at the back post to regain City’s lead.
Colchester had the chance to steal a point right at the death. One final ball into the box found its way to Szmodics who couldn’t repeat his first half heroics and smashed the post, meaning Exeter came away with just their second win of the season.
The game didn’t quite boost City’s form in the coming weeks but the fight to come from behind on this occasion was a positive sign of things to come, as City would finish the season with a trip to Wembley.
Colchester United: Walker, Brindley, Eastman, Prosser, Kinsella (Sembie-Ferris 79’), Drey Wright (Fosu 61’), Lapslie, Guthrie, Dickenson, Szmodics, Porter (Johnstone 74’)
Unused: Vincent-Young, Winter, Barnes, Diaz Wright
Exeter City: Olejnik, Sweeney, Ampadu (Grant 64’), Croll (Brown 76’), Moore-Taylor, Harley, James, Taylor, Stacey, Simpson (Oakley 83’), Watkins
Unused: Pym, McAlinden, Butterfield, Riley-Lowe
Referee: Darren Deadman