Cambridge United’s Emirates FA Cup journey ended at the first round as Exeter City edged the U’s out 1-0 in a cagey replay at St James’ Park.
The man who registered the Grecian’s goal at the Abbey earlier in the month, Alex Fisher, struck the decisive moment in the tie with his 70th minute goal splitting the sides and this time the U’s could not conjure a late revival.
The U’s made five changes as Callum Burton returned in goal and Harrison Dunk, Kyle Knoyle, Harry Darling and Jack Roles also moved into the starting eleven. With the U’s ravaged by injury, youth team players Tom Dickens, Joe Dearman and Lewis Simper supplemented the bench.
United got off to solid start keeping the Grecians at arm’s length with organised defending ensuring that Callum Burton remained untested for the opening quarter of the match, whilst also looking bright in possession despite the home side having more of the ball.
The U’s defensive discipline continued with their only real hairy moment of the opening 45 coming when Greg Taylor was well-positioned to cut out a cross bound for Alex Fisher free at the United back post on 28 minutes.
Callum Burton watched a Randell Williams free kick with great care, which bounced precariously in the centre of the U’s area but didn’t receive a touch from an Exeter as the U’s keeper claimed the ball unchallenged in his only piece of action of the first half.
The first shot on target of the game came on 56 minutes, when Lee Martin had a go with his left foot from long range but it was straight into the hands of Burton in the middle of his goal.
Burton had his most awkward moment of the match on 66 minute when Williams whipped an awkward shot from a free kick wide right that looked to be sneaking under the bar which the keeper tipped over the top.
The hosts broke the deadlock with 20 minutes to play as substitute Ben Seymour broke down the right and crossed to the near post where Alex Fisher got across his man to volley in from six yards out.
Andy Dallas took to the field in place of Greg Taylor soon after as United went after another equaliser in the tie.
Liam O’Neil went within fractions as his volley bounced off the turf and had Jon Maxted diving wildly to his right but bobbled wide of the bottom corner on 77 minutes. However, it was as close as United came as the Grecians saw out the remainder of the clash to secure their place in Round Two against Hartlepool United.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Woodman (Sparkes, 64 mins), Martin (Seymour, 64 mins), Law (Atangana, 80 mins), Williams, Jay, Fisher, Moxey, Collins
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor (Dallas, 76 mins), Ward, Darling, Dunk, Maris, O’Neil, Roles, Knibbs (Jones, 83 mins), Smith
Attendance: 2,719 (88)