15th August 1987
Cambridge United (h)
FLYING START IS JUST THE TONIC
EXETER CITY 3 Carter (2), O'Connell
CAMBRIDGE UTD 0
Report by Trina Lake
ONE SWALLOW doesn't make a summer just as one good result in August isn't necessarily a guarantee of promotion in May.
But on a blisteringly hot day when the birds were having second thoughts about winging their way South for the winter, Exeter City took an impressive first step on the nine-month trail that could well lead them back to Division 3.
They put Cambridge United to flight in such emphastic fashion that the pre-season whispers of positive promotion prospects at St James's Park were noticeably more audible by the end of a pulsating game. Before those murmurs can grow to roars of anticipation, City must overcome another 45 hurdles in conditions that won't always be as perfect as Saturday's for their new brand of confident, flowing football.
Two-goal hero Ray Carter summed it up after a memorable debut. "It's what you do over 46 league games that counts. We've made a great start and although it's early yet, things are looking hopeful. We've got a positive attitude and we know what we've got to do. There is definitely a buzz about the place now," he said. Carter could hardly have wished for a better start to his competitive career with City. he scored an instinctive first goal after 33 minutes, started the sweetest of moves that led to No 2 for Brendon O'Connell just before half time and headed an excellent and crucial third in the 78th minute.
It wasn't just the margin of this comfortable victory that sent the fans home happy though. The way it was achieved should be savoured.
Cambridge never had a look in. City goalkeeper John Shaw dealt comfortably with a few testing first half crosses but didn't have a shot to save in 90 minutes. Credit for that must go to his well-disciplined defence. They caught Cambridge, and the usually dangerous David Crown in particular, off side on countless occasions as wel- las winning nearly every battle for the ball in the air and on the ground.
Carter and Paul Olsson anchored midfield in a way that never happened last season while Steve Harrower shuttled tirelessly down the left flank and Paul Batty ex- ploited acres of space on the right. Batty had a field day against one-time City loan signing Alan Kimble, providing the sort of service that ensured Dean Edwards and Brendon O'Connell could make life distinctly uncomfortable for the lumbering Lindsay Smith and Mark Crowe.
City's new strike pair repeatedly ran rings round the Cambridge defence and, with a little more luck and a touch more accuracy, could have added to the satisfying goal tally. Chances were being created with sparkling regularity, especially in the second half when City attacked the Big Bank end. They weren't quite incisive enough early in the game, despite sustained pressure, but as the ebullient Edwards became increasingly threatening, a goal seemed inevitable. It came, as did the other two goals, from man initial right wing cross by Batty. The ball was blocked by Alan Kimble but ran to Harrower who centred for Edwards to head goalward. Goalkeeper Keith Branagan could only palm it away and there was Carter lurking on the far post to tap in the simplest of chances from close range.
The 33-year-old Cornishman showed delightful touch and vision to send Batty scampering away again as half time approached. This time Olsson linked with the attack, receiv- ing the ball to cross for O'Connell to send a brilliant header into the top corner with Branagan clutching the air. City started the second half as eagerly as they had finished the first, laying siege to the Cambridge penalty area for long periods. O'Connell went desperately close four times, Edwards almost forced Smith into scoring past his own stranded 'keeper, and Shaun Taylor had a headed goal disallowed for a foul on Branagan. Then just when it looked as if two goals would have to do, Batty picked out Carter arriving on a well-timed run into the penalty area and he guided the perfect header home to make it 3-0. He had a cheeky attempt at completing his hat-trick late on with a measured shot that didn't quite deceive Branagan but was nevertheless satisfied, like everybody bar Cambridge, with the result.
City manager Colin Appleton praised the peformance, saying: "I was very encouraging. I never expected them to be as sharp and dangerous as they were. The whole team played well and did everything that was asked of them,"
Exeter City: Shaw, Nisbet, Viney, Marker, Taylor, Carter, Batty, Edwards, O'Connell. Olsson, Harrower. Subs: Cooper (on for Olsson, 66 min), Kellow.
Cambridge United: Branagan, Ebanks, A. Kimble, Crowe, Smith, Beck, Butler, Clayton, Horwood, Crown, G. Kimble. Subs: Brittan (on for Ebanks 85 min), Beattie.