Exeter City’s under-18s put themselves in a great position in the standings of the Youth Alliance South West division with just one match remaining following their comprehensive 5-1 victory at home to AFC Bournemouth
Joel Randall gave the Grecians the perfect start, before Jack Sparkes doubled the lead for Dan Green’s men after 17 minutes.
The visitors pulled a goal back, however eventually City’s youngsters wore down their opponents and three goals in the last 14 minutes wrapped up the victory with Josh Key, Randall, and Josh Hancock all netting.
The win leaves the Devon club 10 points clear at the top of the table, with just the Cherries, who currently lie in third-position, able to catch them.
City went into the contest fully focused on the game, and it took just three minutes to see their game-plan reap its rewards.
Key received the ball on his flank, before he drove to the byline and crossed towards the far post. Stood there was Randall, who met the ball on the volley to smash home an opening goal the rest of the team could build from.
The starting XI for the home team were industrious in their work and attitude, and consequently created plenty of goalscoring opportunities. On 17 minutes, they managed to double the lead.
James Dodd was able to slip in Sparkes, who coolly tucked home his chance to put his side firmly on the front foot.
The away side didn’t allow their opponents to get away from them though and pulled a goal back eight minutes later.
After applying pressure onto the league leaders, a late run into the penalty box wasn’t picked up, and the Dorset midfielder was able to tuck the ball home to restore belief in the visitors’ ranks.
More openings came and went as the Grecians looked to extend the lead to a two-goal cushion once again. However half-time arrived with both teams still in the contest at 2-1.
The second period started with both teams searching for the next goal. It was an important stage in the match, but neither side were able to take the opportunities they managed to carve out.
Eventually, the possession enjoyed by Green’s men wore the Cherries down, and on 76 minutes, they managed to take one of those chances they created.
Dodd’s inswinging free-kick was met by Key, who managed to guide his header past the Bournemouth goalkeeper and into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
With time running out for the Dorset club to get anything from the game, Randall punished them once again with some emphatic finishing.
On 89 minutes, the winger won possession back in midfield, before he dribbled his way towards goal and powerfully sent the ball home to put the match beyond the opposition.
There was still time during injury time for City to strike again. Harry Kite’s corner eventually fell to Hancock, and he despatched the loose ball from close range to make it 5-1 helping secure another important three points for Exeter’s youngsters.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Dan Green: “It was a good performance. I’m really pleased for the boys that we have managed to come through this match and win the three points. It was always going to be a tough encounter but we managed to come through it well.
“We started well, and created plenty of chances and should have scored even more. The players worked hard with and without the ball. It was a very good team performance. The scoreline shouldn’t hide the fact that we had to dig deep and work hard for the win.
“Mitch Thomas was excellent. He filled gaps and killed any counter attacks Bournemouth were looking to build. He worked hard alongside Harry Kite in the midfield.
“Up next we have a tough match against second-placed Swindon, where we will be looking to put another hard-working performance in and finish the league with a positive performance and result.”
Exeter City under-18s: Felix Norman, Jordan Dyer, Sam Haynes, Josh Hancock, Mitch Thomas, Harry Kite, Joel Randall, Josh Key, James Dodd, Jack Sparkes, Brandon Parsons. Lewis Williams, Joe Belston, Joe O’Loughlin, Josh Williams, Lucas White