Exeter City’s under-18s suffered a defeat in their first match of the 2017/2018 season last Saturday despite holding a significant lead at one stage.
The Grecians scored twice thanks to goals from Lucas White and Josh Key, and they took a healthy two-goal lead into half-time with all members of the team performing rather well.
However, a determined looking Swindon side took to the pitch in the second period and scored three times during a 20-minute spell to turn the game on its head.
City’s under-18s took to the field, for the Youth Alliance South West division fixture, in a buoyant mood following their productive pre-season. Spirits were high following their return from Holland and they were looking to start the season off in the perfect way.
Lewis Williams was selected between the posts, with Sam Haynes, Jordan Dyer, Josh Hancock and Joe O’Laughlin chosen as the defence in front of him.
The midfield included Joel Randall and the aforementioned Key, both of who ended last season in terrific form, with White partnering Brandon Parsons in attack.
It was a bright start from the Devon youngsters, and they created a number of decent chances for Parsons. However, the striker was unable to take full advantage of his openings.
Exeter continued to apply pressure, and after 13 minutes White slid Key in down his flank. The winger created half a yard of space to smash home a shot and deservedly put the hosts 1-0 up.
It was just 12 minutes later when Green’s side doubled their lead. Key and Haynes linked up on the wing, and the latter crossed where White met the ball to send the ball past the despairing Town goalkeeper.
Despite missing a few more half-chances, the home side went into the interval two goals up. Green warned his players to be wary of a Robins’ response as they looked for a way of killing the game off in the second half themselves.
The visitors switched tactics and got on the front foot early looking for a way back into the contest. More possession led to more chances for Swindon, and they halved the deficit on 65 minutes with a cross that went straight in.
Just 10 minutes later the game was tied. The Grecians’ replacements weren’t able to adjust to the pace of the game after their introduction and the away side took full advantage of that by squaring a ball inside the penalty box before dispatching the ball past Williams to make it two goals apiece.
The goal seemed to bring a reaction from City’s players as the match entered a frantic final 15 minutes. Randall wasted a glorious opportunity to give his side the lead once more.
However, with five minutes remaining the fifth goal of the match went with the momentum, putting the Robins within minutes of securing a great victory.
With little time left, Exeter were unable to create one last chance of snatching a draw, leaving Green and Devon youngsters disappointed they let a good opportunity slip on the opening weekend of competitive football.
City under-18s coach Dan Green, said: “We weren’t at our very best, but we were good in places. We dropped off it in the second half and their goals came from a couple of our mistakes.
"I’m disappointed we weren’t able to continue on from our first half display. We know we need to be able to sustain those levels of performance if we want to secure a good result, and our subs need to be at it when they are brought on. There is plenty to work on but there were good bits in the first half and the response in training has been good.
“It would have been really nice to win the first match, but as long as we can learn from this, the loss won’t be in vain. I’m pleased with how training has gone so far this week, and we’ll be hoping to secure a good result against Cheltenham on Saturday.”
Exeter City under-18s: Lewis Williams, Sam Haynes, Jordan Dyer, Josh Hancock, Joe O’Laughlin, Josh Key, Harry Kite, Mitch Thomas, Joel Randall, Lucas White, Brandon Parsons. Subs: Felix Norman, James Dodd, Harry Gardner, Ollie Jarrett, Nelson Iseguan