Cambridge United battled hard to fightback against table toppers Exeter City at the Abbey Stadium, but fell to a 0-2 defeat following first half goals by Jonathan Forte and Jayden Stockley.
United lined up with two changes, as Jevani Brown and Louis John stepped into the side following the 2-2 draw with Northampton Town four days earlier.
United had looked promising in the opening encounters with Ibehre getting an early shot away, and Carroll and Liam O’Neil both delivering threatening crosses inside five minutes.
However, the U’s were behind early when a long ball forward was picked up by Grecian’s striker Jonathan Forte who showed all the composure of a player with his experience at League Two level, and made no mistake when one-on-one with Dimitar Mitov.
United were dealt a second sucker punch ssoon after, as the visitor’s doubled their lead on 15 minutes when former U Jayden Stockley met a cross from the left with his head, which squeezed under Mitov at close range.
United rallied as they went in search of a route back into the fixture, and the match returned to the pattern it had previously been playing out before the goals.
Ade Azeez looked particularly lively working hard to chase down every ball, going close too with the U’s best chances of the first half when he flashed a shot across goal, and then roe highest from a corner five minutes before the break but directed his near post header over the bar.
George Maris hit a fierce out-swinging shot from mid-range moments before the break which looked to have the better of Exeter keeper Christy Pym, only for the flight of the ball to take it away from the target.
Stockley crashed a header against the U’s woodwork early in the second period, which went on to be totally dominated by the U’s.
George Maris broke free on 51 minutes, before playing a delicate pass into the path of Liam O’Neil, who struck the ball well but grazed the outside of Pym’s near post. Jabo Ibehre attempted an acrobatic kick three minutes later which headed over the bar, in what was turning into a real purple patch for United on the ball.
Joe Dunne introduced Barry Corr, David Amoo and Harrison Dunk as the half progressed and the latter perhaps had United’s best chance of the game. A superb counter attack from an Exeter corner, ended with David Amoo squaring a pass for Dunk at the other end of the field, but Pym read the winger’s shot perfectly to save low in the centre of his goal.
Maris and Ibehre both had openings in the closing 20 minutes of the match, but lifted their efforts over the cross bar, and despite a lot of endeavour the U’s were denied a way back into the match all the way into ix minutes of stoppage time.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Halliday, Taft, John, Carroll, Deegan, Maris, O’Neil (Amoo, 60 mins), Brown (Dunk, 69 mins), Azeez (Corr, 60 mins), Ibehre
Bookings: Corr, Deegan
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Woodman, A.Martin, L.Martin, Law (Holmes, 83 mins), Stockley, Forte (Tillson, 76 mins), Moxey, Taylor, Boateng
Bookings: Law, Holmes
Man of the Match: George Maris
Attendance: 3,662 (241)
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