Colchester United 2 Exeter City 3
Fourth-top Colchester United missed the chance to maintain their 100% home record after losing 3-2 at home to second-bottom Exeter City.
The U’s led 2-1 at the break, Sammie Szmodics and Kurtis Guthrie cancelling out Robbie Simpson’s opener for the Grecians, but second half strikes from Ollie Watkins and Joel Grant gave Paul Tisdale’s injury-hit side a much-needed three points.
Bobby Olejnik in the Exeter goal twice denied the U’s in the second half, but the hosts will be disappointed with their defensive display.
Exeter took the lead after eight minutes. Winger Jack Stacey, on-loan from Reading, had enjoyed a bright opening to the game and after he floated in a cross from the right, Jordan Moore-Taylor headed the ball against the foot of the post, Simpson pouncing on the rebound from close range.
Simpson turned from hero to villain two minutes later though, the experienced striker somehow sidefooting over with the goal gaping afterer running on to a delightful ball from the dangerous Stacey.
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That was a big let-off for the U’s who then punished their opponets three minutes later with the equaliser.
A free-kick from the left was headed across the box and into the danger area by Luke Prosser, Exeter’s Ryan Harley failed to clear, and there was Szmodics to rifle home a neat volley low into Bobby Olejnik’s right-hand corner, from 10 yards.
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Both sides had produced some sloppy defending, to their cost, early in the game, and the U’s were the next team to nearly shoot themselves in the foot.
Watkins was afforded far too much room out on the left and after he played an accurate ball into the penalty area, goalkeeper Sam Walker saved well Jake Taylor’s goalbound shot as he scampered across his goal.
Stacey and Watkins were enjoying plenty of the ball on the flanks but it was U’s wideman, Drey Wright who created the next opening, beating Moore-Taylor for pace before whipping in a near post cross that was headed wide by the diving Chris Porter.
Guthrie, normall a striker, dropped back into a deeper midfield role to combat Exeter’s passing game in the middle of the park but it was in the final third where he made his next big contribution, the rangy frontman looping a header over the keeper and a defender on the line, from Brennan Dickenson’s left-wing corner.
Guthrie then starred at the other end before the break, making a crucial interception to block Pierce Sweeney’s goalbound effort.
Exeter came out for the second half looking to get back into the game and it took them just six minutes to craft an equaliser.
Stacey made a strong run through the middle before finding Watkins on the right. There, the winger cut inside and hit a low left-foot shot across Walker and into the bottom right-hand corner.
The U’s new loan signing Tarique Fosu was introduced on the hour and nearly made a positive impact six minutes later, but, after being fed by Guthrie’s back-heel, flashed a ball across the six-yard box with nobody in attendance to finish.
And the U’s were made to pay for their profligacy a minute later, Grecians sub Grant finishing at the back post after a strong run and cross from Stacey.
Fosu tried to get the U’s back in the game with a fierce shot that was tipped over by Olejnik, before the goalkeeper tipped Prosser’s fierce header over the bar from Dickenson’s right-wing cross.
Exeter substitute Troy Brown then got in the way of a Fosu effort close in, after the winger had got on the end of Dion Sembie-Ferris’ cut back.
U’s substitute Denny Johnstone had the ball in the net with four minutes of normal time left, but his effort was ruled out for offside, before Szmodics then hit the outside of the post, at the second attempt, in injury time, as Exeter defended for their lives.
The U’s had one last chance but in a crowded box, goalkeeper Walker glanced a header wide.
Colchester: Walker, Brindley, Prosser, Eastman, Kinsella (Sembie-Ferris, 78), Drey Wright (Fosu, 60), Lapslie, Szmodics, Dickenson, Guthrie, Porter (Johnstone, 74). Subs not used: Barnes, Vincent-Young, Wynter, Diaz Wright
Exeter: Olejnik, Sweeney, Ampadu (Grant, 65), Croll (Brown, 77), Moore-Taylor, Harley, James, Watkins, Stacey, Simpson (Oakley, 83), Taylor. Subs not used: Pym, McAlinden, Riley-Lowe, Butterfield