Cambridge United will rue two shocking mistakes as they were beaten 2-0 by Exeter at The Abbey Stadium, in the Sky Bet League Two on Tuesday night.
Cambridge United lost thanks to two calamitous defensive errors gifted Exeter two soft goals mostly against the run of play in a game the hosts largely controlled.
The first goal was a regulation ball over the defence not dealt with and Jonathan Forte was on hand to tuck the ball through the legs of the United keeper Dimitar Mitov, still deputising for the injured David Forde.
Exeter’s second was equally poor as a Jayden Stockley’s header trickled once again through the Mitov’s legs, leading the Cambridge United fans behind the goal to sing the name of Will Norris, their former stopper currently plying his trade with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
During the first half, Cambridge didn’t fare much better on the attacking end being limited to speculative shots from range, rarely troubling the Christy Pym in the Exeter goal.
Table-topping Exeter demonstrated at times very tidy football with intricate link-up play but their end product was poor despite their two-goal lead. Exeter did have the best chance of the half forcing Mitov into an outstanding save palming away a thunderous effort from distance as the Cambridge defence once again failed to close down the onrushing attackers.
Cambridge started the second half the better side, playing with energy and maintaining possession but as in the first had no end product.
Exeter’s first venture upfield yielded a corner and very nearly scored their effort being cleared off the line by a United defender, it was their best chance of the second half.
Cambridge had the first of several golden opportunities fall to Liam O’Neil early in the second half. A quick counter built on the left flank played in O’Neil whose effort hit the side netting with the goal at his mercy.
A second chance for Cambridge was less clear-cut as Jabo Ibhere, one of the stands out players in the match, took a spectacular overhead kick which went just over but brought the stadium to its feet as the U’s looked to get back into the tie
The sustained spell of pressure from Cambridge had the entire stadium on its feet in a rendition of “yellow and black army”, a far cry from the atmosphere of the first half which was a mixture of frustration and dejection.
Barry Corr entered the contest as a second-half substitute and brought a lot more energy to the cu front line as he routinely chased down lost causes and hassled the Exeter defenders in possession.
The midway point of the second half saw the game descend into farce as the referee, who had performed well to this point, mystified the home fans with the award of a free kick to Exeter when it looked like a clear foul on the Cambridge forward. This moment saw the fans turn on the referee and his decisions seemingly become more and more one-sided, with any contact against an Exeter player in their area being a free kick to the visitors whilst contact against United players would be waved away.
The most egregious example of this was two corners being wasted as Exeter players hit the deck under seemingly no contact but the referee was quick to blow up. When Cambridge’s man of the match George Maris was elbowed in the face by an Exeter player, the referee waved play on, before blowing up and awarding a drop ball.
Cambridge winger Harrison Dunk fluffed his lines line in the half after a great breakaway down the wing from David Amoo squared the ball to Dunk. With only the goalie to beat Dunk tamely shot into Pym’s grateful hands.
Cambridge would have a few more half chances, which would go high into the Newmarket Road End summing up the night for the U’s. Despite six minutes of added time, Exeter was able to manage the game in the dying moments to maintain a clean-sheet and the three points.
Cambridge will feel hard done by as they played well for much of the game being the equal of Exeter, but paid dearly for two abysmal defensive lapses.
Cambridge manager Joe Dunne after the game told BBC Sport “I felt on the night overall it was a good performance, I felt we threw everything at them, we shot, we crossed, we had a lot of possession but a couple of key moments have cost us.”