Nicholls winner sinks U’s
Exeter came from behind to defeat Cambridge United at the R Costings Abbey Stadium and claim their first league win of the season.
It started well for the U’s, who hit the front after eight minutes when Ryan Bird fired in his second goal in two games. But the Grecians hit back eight minutes later when Graham Cummins beat Chris Dunn, and in the second half Alex Nicholls took advantage of some slack defending to slot in the winner.
United left to reflect on an evening where they were sloppy in possession all over the pitch as they slipped to a first League Two defeat in four games.
With Tom Elliott joining the injury list after Saturday’s match against Dagenham, Richard Money was boosted by the return of Kwesi Appiah, who took his place up front alongside Bird, who replaced Jayden Stockley. The other U’s change saw Mitch Austin drop to the bench, with Matteo Lanzoni taking his place. This meant Richard Tait took an unusual central midfield role, with Ryan Donaldson moving back onto the right flank.
United made a fast start, putting the visitors’ shaky-looking back-line under pressure from the off, and they got their rewards in the eight minute. Donaldson whipped in a low cross from the right, and though Harrison Dunk couldn’t control, the ball ran loose and Bird was able to spin and fire a powerful shot past Christy Pym.
But the U’s play lost intensity after the goal, with passes going astray over the pitch, and the Grecians took full advantage. In the 17th minute David Wheeler was able to find a space and pick a pass which dissected the U’s centre-backs, allowing Cummins to run clear and slot a cool finish low to Dunn’s left.
The visitors continued to press and came close to hitting the front twice in quick succession, with a shot from Cummins and a beautiful curling free kick from Matt Grimes hitting the post.
Liam Hurst joined the action at half-time, replacing Lanzoni as United switched to a 5-3-2 formation. And though the early signs were promising, with Hurst and Kwesi Appiah warming the hands of Pym, all too often passes went astray, and the winning goal came in the 65th minute. Issa Diallo conceded possession cheaply to Nicholls, who ran at Michael Nelson before making an angle to fire a low shot across Dunn and in off the far post.
May I Claim Man of the Match: Josh Coulson
Cambridge United: Dunn, Lanzoni (Hurst 45), G.Taylor, Nelson, Coulson, Donaldson, Dunk, Diallo, Tait (Stockley 87), Bird, Appiah (B.Taylor 64). Subs not used: Norris, Austin, Whittall, Lennon.
Exeter City: Pym, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, Oakley, Woodman, Davies, Sercombe, Grimes, Wheeler (Butterfield 77), Cummins, Nicholls. Subs not used: Ribeiro, Keohane, Nichols, Hamon, Tillson, Noble.
Referee: Christopher Kavanagh
Attendance: 3,266 (away 155).