Sam Smith’s last minute goal ensured Cambridge United remained in the Emirates FA Cup and secured a replay against Exeter City following a 1-1 draw at the Abbey Stadium.
United looked to be down and out from Alex Fisher’s first half goal, however they stuck it out with tremendous character and produced a dramatic finish to keep themselves alive in the competition through Sam Smith in stoppage time.
United lined up with four changes from their previous League fixture, as Callum Burton, Dan Jones, Liam O’Neil and Greg Taylor moved into the U’s starting eleven.
Both sides enjoyed bright passages of play in the opening quarter of the game, although the visitors showed a slightly greater offensive threat without really testing Burton in the U’s goal, who was only called into action to catch Randell Williams' drilled free kick toward the near post.
Greg Taylor produced an excellent piece of defensive work on half an hour diverting a cross in from Williams out of the path of Alex Fisher, who was lurking ready to break the deadlock at the far post.
However, the Grecians striker did just that four minutes later as he harried Elliott Ward inside the U’s area and robbed possession from the centre back before calmly slotting the ball beyond the reach of Burton.
The U’s weren’t able to muster a clear chance ahead of half time and went down the tunnel knowing they required a fight back in the second half to remain in this season’s Emirates FA Cup.
Craig Woodman got across the U’s front post on 48 minutes and glanced a header wide from an unmarked position, as United were issued an early warning sign after the break.
Exeter increased their pressure in search of a second with Burton the busier of the two keepers ten minutes after half time, the U’s shot stopper having to watch a lashed effort at goal from Matt Jay 20 yards out with particular care.
The U’s keeper was down quickly to palm away Jay’s bobbling shot from 18 yards just after the hour mark, with Colin Calderwood introducing Harrison Dunk and Reggie Lambe and a change in shape to inject some life into the U’s.
It had the desired effect with Sam Smith breaking into the Grecian’s box moments later after a neat spell from the U’s, but the striker couldn’t get the ball under control in time to swipe a shot past Jon Maxted. Harrison Dunk did get a shot away shortly after, and a spectacular effort at that, as the winger’s overhead kick had the beating of the Exeter keeper but dropped fraction wide.
The visitors looked to have done enough to have kept an improved United side at bay for the final 30 minutes of the encounter, until right at the death. Kyle Knoyle showed immense desire to make a tackle and keep the ball in play in his own half before firing pass forward for Richards to cross into the area. Paul Lewis then glanced the delivery on to Smith at the back post, who took one touch out of his feet to open up an angle at goal which he duly found between the legs of Maxted, raising the roof at the Abbey in the 93rd minute of the encounter.
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor, Ward (Dunk, 63 mins), Taft, Jones (Knibbs, 74 mins), Lewis, O’Neil (Lambe, 63 min), Maris, Richards, Smith
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Woodman, Atangana (Tillson, 77 mins), Martin, Williams, Bowman (Martin, 77 mins), Parkes, Jay, Fisher (Seymour, 81 mins), Collins
Bookings: Bowman, Martin
Attendance: 2,303 (179)
Jackson Fore & Security Man of the Match: Greg Taylor