Watkins tipped to follow the star trek
OLLIE WATKINS added to his growing reputation with the winning goal as Exeter made it three games unbeaten against Cambridge.
Watkins found the net with a low shot that deflected past Will Norris to give the Grecians the points in a match of few chances at the Abbey Stadium.
Exeter first-team coach Danny Butterfield believes Watkins, 20, has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Matt Grimes and Tom Nichols, both of whom have earned moves to a higher level after starting out at St James Park.
“Ollie’s got a bright future as long as he keeps his feet on the ground,” said Butterfield.“He’s got great natural ability and is only going to get better with age. His work rate and tracking back were excellent, and he was always in the thick of the action.
“It was a great allround performance from him, but I think it was a brilliant display from the team too.We defended resolutely and kept the ball well. Cambridge couldn’t put us on the back foot, and we were comfortable in our defending.
“We controlled the game which, as the away team, is pleasing to see.”
Exeter’s patient passing style saw them enjoy the majority of possession in the first half, but Cambridge’s more direct approach almost paid dividends when a sharp one-two between James Dunne and Ben Williamson led to the former firing in a low shot from the edge of the box which Bobby Olejnik turned round the post.
Paul Tisdale’s side came close after the restart when Christian Ribeiro arrived to meet a Lee Holmes corner but saw Darnell Furlong brilliantly clear his header off the line.
Norris had already made a double stop to deny David Wheeler and Watkins, but the U’s keeper was powerless to stop the midfielder’s low effort which took a nick off Ryan Haynes and flew into the bottom corner after good approach play from Ryan Harley.
Cambridge boss Shaun Derry, whose side remain three points off the play-off places, was irked by criticism from some U’s fans sitting close to the home dugout.
“I can’t accept abuse from one or two individuals behind me, and I don’t stand on the sidelines to take that,” said Derry. “I hope those gentlemen have a long think about some of the things they said to me this afternoon because I won’t accept that. But it was a disappointing afternoon. Exeter played well, and we never found a way to combat that.”
One positive for Derry was debutant Zeli Ismail, who he believes produced a “sparkling display” when on.
STAR MAN LEE HOLME