First-half magic sees Exeter City earn win in Devonian Downpour

FOOTBALL – 4th October 2020

 EXETER CITY 2 CAMBRIDGE UNITED 0

Exeter City claimed their first home league win of the season after a 2-0 triumph against Cambridge United at a rainy St James Park.

A first-half penalty from Matt Jay and a composed finish from Joel Randall secured all three points for City, against a Cambridge side who came into the fixture unbeaten. The wind and rain played a significant part in the game, but City’s defence proved solid throughout.

Coming into this fixture, Matt Taylor named an unchanged side from last week’s first league win of the season, with a 2-1 victory over Mansfield. Cambridge on the other hand were looking to extend their impressive start to the league campaign, picking up a total of seven points from a potential nine, sitting top of the League Two table.

The wet and windy conditions proved difficult for both teams to get a real hold of the game, however, the first chance fell to Cambridge, when Kyle Knoyle played in Wes Hoolahan whose close range effort was stopped by the face of City shot-stopper Lewis Ward. Ward then pulled off a smart save from the following corner, tipping it over the bar.

Moments later, Exeter conjured up their first chance of the game, where a mistake by the Cambridge defence allowed Jay to run through, but his pass couldn’t find Randall at the back stick.

Cambridge went down the other end and found themselves through on goal again, but Ward rushed out quickly to block the effort on goal. The most significant moment of the half came when Randell Williams’s mazy run resulted in him being tripped in the box, causing the referee to point to the spot. Up stepped Jay who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, giving Exeter the lead.

Cambridge struggled to get back into the game after the penalty, with City looking more comfortable in possession.

Archie Collins was controlling the middle of the park and good chances were being created out wide through Williams and Randall.

The rainy conditions were proving difficult for both sides to create any real chances, with the ball spending the majority of the time looping in the air. Cambridge had a decent chance on the half hour mark, when Hoolahan’s teasing delivery nearly found Joe Ironside but it was blocked well by City defender Tom Parkes.

City doubled their lead through the youngster Randall, who pounced on a mistake by Robbie Cundy. He ran through the defence and calmly slotted the ball past Dimitar Mitov in the Cambridge net.

City had a chance to get their third of the game moments later after a marauding run from Josh Key found Williams, but his shot was high and wide.

Cambridge had a chance on 40 minutes, after good play down the left-hand side, but Hoolahan’s curling effort went just wide of Ward’s post. Cambridge ended the half the stronger side, but City’s defence stood strong.

City did however have the last chance of the half, after a dangerous delivery from Taylor found Jay in the box, but his shot sailed just past the post.

Cambridge came out for the second half a revitalised side, having possession in some dangerous areas and causing problems through the experienced Hoolahan, but City again dealt with everything thrown at them, Rory McArdle doing especially well under the wind influenced high ball.

City withstood the pressure, and after good closing down from Taylor, the ball found its way to Ryan Bowman unmarked in the fiveyard box, but his shot was deflected wide. The Grecians had another chance moments later where Williams found Jay, although his clever back-heel effort wasn’t any trouble for Mitov.

The pace of the game had slowed down, with neither side unable to get the ball down and create a meaningful opportunity on goal. Both defences were proving strong, clearing, and blocking every ball which came into the box in difficult conditions.

Cambridge did have a chance five minutes from the end, but Paul Digby couldn’t divert his effort on goal with enough power, after an inviting cross from Knoyle. City saw out the four minutes of added time comfortably, collecting all three points and getting their first home league win of the season.

Exeter City: Ward, Key, McArdle, Parkes, Page, Williams, Taylor, Collins, Randall (Law), Bowman, Jay (Sparkes). Subs not used: Caprice, Atangana, Seymour, Fisher, Maxted.

Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Cundy, Taylor, Dunk, Hoolahan (Iredale), Digby, May (El Mizouni), Hannant (Knibbs), Ironside, Mullin. Subs not used: Darling, Dallas, Davies, Burton