Exeter City’s under-18s maintained their current unbeaten run in Merit League One last Saturday following a 0-0 draw at Southend United.
Following a decent start, the away side had a man advantage after 35 minutes when a red card was shown to a United player. However, they found unlocking a stubborn Shrimpers defence afterwards too difficult.
With the match still goalless, the Grecians might have thought they had a case for a penalty in injury time, but the contact on attacker James Dodd was deemed not enough for the referee to give the foul.
The result has kept Dan Green’s men top of the league standings on goal difference, with just one fixture left for the Devon youngsters.
The visitors came into Saturday’s contest off the back of a good run, with four wins from their last five games, and they prepared themselves well for their match in Essex.
Travelling up on the day before and staying overnight at a nearby location helped City ready themselves for their clash against a side also fighting for a top half spot in this season’s competitive Merit League.
Once the game got underway, Exeter soon settled and hit their stride.
Early opportunities fell the way of the away team. Harry Gardner was fed the ball wide by Will Dean, before he cut inside, finding enough room to shoot at goal. The effort was blocked well, but the early signs looked promising for the Grecians.
Not long after, Jack Sparkes was unfortunate to see his shot smash against the underside of the crossbar, as Green’s men looked to turn their offensive pressure into goals.
The home side saw some half-chances go begging. However, they didn’t create anything too clearcut which required goalkeeper Lewis Williams to make any drastic saves for the Devon club.
With 10 minutes left in the first period, Southend had a man sent off, handing the initiative to the visitors.
However after half-time, it was the hosts who came closest to opening the scoring. A well-worked set-piece routine saw them strike the woodwork with a header.
Exeter resorted to the bench to help try and snatch the goal that they needed and their best moment of a tight second half came at the death. Dodd showed tremendous footwork to cut back with the ball, before having his feet taken from under him by the opposing defender. To the forward’s credit, he tried to stay on his feet, in spite of the contact, and the officials felt there was not enough to award a spot-kick to the away side.
It meant the game ended deadlocked at 0-0, with the Grecians perhaps a little unfortunate in not taking three points, instead of one, back to the Westcountry.
Exeter City under-18s coach Dan Green, said: “It was a good test. Playing against 10 men was difficult. People think playing against 10 men is easy, but Southend have some good players, and they were resilient.
“We struggled to find a solution to the problem, and this is something we can and will learn from. We will be better next time for it.
“We couldn’t quite click our game together. This is only the second time out of 49 fixtures this season, that the boys haven’t been able to score inside 90 minutes. I think that shows the level of consistency that these young players have been performing to. We will be working hard again this week in training to be ready for our final league game against Swindon at home this Saturday."
Exeter City under-18s: Lewis Williams, Joe Belston, Jordan Dyer, Josh Hancock, Sam Haynes, Joe O’Loughlin, Will Dean, Harry Kite, Harry Gardner, James Dodd, Jack Sparkes. Subs: Felix Norman, Cheick Diabate, Louis Morison, Nelson Iseguan
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