Exeter manager Matt Taylor admitted his side were far from their best but showed great character to extend their unbeaten run in Sky Bet League Two to nine games with a 2-0 win over Cambridge.
After a dire first half which saw referee James Oldham replaced after feeling unwell, Exeter stepped it up a gear after the break and went in front when Ryan Bowman swept the ball in from Nicky Law’s cross.
Randell Williams lashed in a second eight minutes from time to complete the win and leave Exeter hot on the heels of leaders Swindon.
“It was a disjointed first half with a lack of rhythm,” Taylor said. “You worry, when you have so many games in quick succession, that players will just come out of their focus and rhythm and I felt we were like that in the first half.
“Something wasn’t quite right with us in the first half, but when the referee got injured, it probably helped us as it meant we could reshuffle a few bits and simplify our game.
“We showed more energy, intent and desire to get to the ball in the second half and we got the rewards.
“Credit to the players for getting through that first half and then turning it around in the second but the creative players have to do that dirty side of the game as well.
“It was a lesson learnt today but I am pleased to come through and when you aren’t at your best, you have to keep a clean sheet.
“After a shaky start, I thought our centre-halves defended really well and gave us a platform for the second half.”
Cambridge manager Colin Calderwood felt his side were hard done by after a few decisions did not go their way, including a potential offside that led to Exeter’s first goal.
“We competed well and had a couple of chances second half, but we will feel aggrieved because of that decision for the first goal,” he said.
“We knew we would be tested at times in this game and we were. We held on our nerve and probably didn’t deserve to lose, so I am pretty confident about the group and pretty pleased what I saw today.
“We didn’t get the rub of the green with the decisions and to go behind to a goal which was clearly offside rubs salt into the wounds. We didn’t deserve that against a good team.
“We have given our supporters a lot better feeling than they had last week. We looked in moments the type of side I like to watch and probably think will justify a loftier position in the league.
“I am pretty pleased, although really disappointed with the result. We have got more quality to come.”