League Two

If this game had been decided on chances created, then Colchester United would have romped to their eighth home victory of the League Two season.

Sadly for the U’s it was getting the ball in the back of the net that counted and meant they had to settle for a share of the spoils against fellow high-fliers Exeter City.

Colchester were lively up front and created a catalogue of chances, but it was only Sammie Szmodics who actually got one past Grecians keeper Christy Pym.

It was worth waiting for when it came on 67 minutes, but the lead was short-lived and the hosts were left to rue not making more of their opportunities when Jayden Stockley levelled three minutes later.

And it stayed level until the final whistle as the U’s were held to a draw for the first time in the league this season on home turf.

There were three changes for the U’s from the side that started in the 2-0 defeat at Newport County seven days earlier.

Those changes saw a first league start for youngster Ollie Kensdale, with a return for striker Mikael Mandron and midfielder Harry Pell was also back after a one-match ban.

Coming out of the team were club captain Luke Prosser, who was suspended after picking up a fifth booking of the season at Newport, along with Brennan Dickenson and Diaz Wright, who both dropped to the bench.

Colchester came into the game on the back of three away defeats, but they had also won seven of their nine home games in the league this year.

So U’s boss John McGreal had said he was looking for a quick start from his team and they responded with a positive opening.

With McGreal urging Courtney Senior to run at the Grecians’ defence, the U’s striker followed orders and charged past a couple of challenges into the Exeter area on four minutes and it so nearly led to an opening goal.

Senior capped his run by laying the ball back to Kensdale, who saw a fierce shot cleared off the line and from the resulting corner Sammie Szmodics lashed a shot just wide.

It was encouraging from the hosts, but Exeter were able to ride out the early storm and began to impose their own game.

They started to enjoy greater possession in the U’s half, but other than a free-kick that Pierce Sweeney drove over the crossbar from 30 yards, the home goal wasn’t really threatened.

It was at the other end that a goal still looked most likely and it almost came on 20 minutes when Senior was provider again and Szmodics drilled an effort low across the Exeter goal and inches past the post again.

They went even closer six minutes later from a free-kick wide on the left.

It was taken by Senior, who looped the ball into the danger area and after it was clipped off a boot towards goal, Exeter keeper Christy Pym had to make a superb reflex save to keep it goalless.

There was also the need for some brave keeping at the other end soon after as the ball was slid in for Tristan Abrahams, but Dillon Barnes came out to make the save.

The U’s keeper was clattered in the process, but did his job well and was able to continue after treatment.

It was a thrilling high-paced end-to-end first half and continued with the U’s on the attack and they went close again on 36 minutes.

Having worked the ball into a dangerous area through some great movement and work rate, Ryan Jackson skipped inside on the right and fired across the face of the Exeter goal only for a deflection to take it just wide again.

The end-to-end nature of the opening period concluded with Exeter on the attack and the half ended with Abraham seeing a shot deflected just wide as it stayed goalless at the break.

Colchester may have been the more frustrated at the interval, though, with the chances they had created, but they began the second half on the front foot again.

The visitors found it tough to get out of their half of the pitch and the U’s almost made their pressure count on 50 minutes.

Pym had come out of his goal to close down Senior, who feds ball in to Szmodics and his low ball across the area has to be scooped over his own bat by Aaron Martin as Colchester looked a real threat.

Nouble then saw a shot deflected just wide and a free-kick by Senior fizzed into the arms of Pym as Colchester kept pressing and they got their reward on 67 minutes.

When it came, the opening goal was a well-crafted one in all respects - build-up and execution.

Senior and Nouble combined superbly down the right before the ball was teed up for Szmodics on the edge of the box and he got his body into the perfect shape to drill the ball past Pym for the opening goal

The lead lasted just three minutes though, as Exeter hit back quickly.

A free-kick was conceded wide on the right and it was thrown into the middle of the U’s area where Exeter had two or three attempts before Jayden Stockley rammed the ball in through a scrum of bodies to grab a quick-fire equaliser

It was a sucker punch for Colchester after they had battled so hard to get themselves ahead and they knew they would have to build again.

They tried in the closing 20 minutes but there was no second forthcoming and they were left to rue the ones that got away.

Colchester United: Dillon Barnes, Ryan Jackson, Harry Pell, Frankie Kent, Kane Vincent-Young, Mikael Mandron (Brennan Dickenson 89), Tom Lapslie, Courtney Senior (Ryan Gondoh 86), Frank Nouble, Ollie Kensdale, Sammie Szmodics.

Subs not used: Aaron Collins, Cameron James, Brandon Comely, Diaz Wright, Ethan Ross.

Exeter City: Christy Pym, Pierce Sweeney, Craig Woodman, Dara O'Shea, Aaron Martin, Jordan Tillson, Nicky Law, Lee Holmes (Lee Martin 75), Jayden Stockley, Tristan Abrahams (Chiedozie Ogbene 63), Jake Taylor.

Subs not used: James Hamon, Jonathan Forte, Matt Jay, Dean Moxey, Luke Croll.