Exeter City’s under-18s suffered their first loss of this season’s Merit League with a 3-1 home defeat to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.
In what was a close affair, the Grecians took the lead in the first half through Jack Sparkes.
However, three goals in 13 second-half minutes turned the game around for Bournemouth, helping them record their first victory of the Merit League One campaign.
For the Devon outfit, they drop one place to second position in the league table, with Swindon Town leapfrogging them into first place.
The hosts went into last weekend’s contest with a 100 per cent record from their two previous Merit League fixtures, and they were hoping to remain top of the standings after a clash with an opponent who they had already met three times earlier this season.
City looked solid, and they created a couple of decent chances during a competitive first half. James Dodd and Lucas White were both looking to break the deadlock for Dan Green’s men, however, the opening goal came from another source.
With 35 minutes on the clock, a well-worked corner routine saw the ball fall kindly for Sparkes inside the penalty area. The forward sent a half-volley past the Cherries’ goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
City's youngsters took that one-goal advantage into half-time, but a slow start to the second half from the home side allowed the south coast club to mount a come-back.
On the hour mark, a counter-attack from the away team led to a nice pass slid into an advanced Bournemouth player. The forward tucked away the one-on-one opportunity to restore parity, making the next goal crucial in the match.
It came 10 minutes later, when a failed clearance from the Grecian back-line resulted in the ball breaking nicely for their opponents. The visitors punished the mistake and completed the turnaround to lead the game 2-1.
On 73 minutes, the Cherries wrapped the game up with their third goal of the afternoon. One long ball from the Dorset side caused confusion for the hosts, and after failing to deal with the initial pass and Bournemouth taking their chance, City stared down the barrel of a defeat.
Tactical changes and substitutions were made by Dan Green in the hope of trying to get back into the contest, but the away side held on to the 3-1 victory, inflicting defeat on Exeter for the first time since early February.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Dan Green: “It was a close affair. First-half, in particular, we gave a really good account of ourselves.
“There are always learning opportunities regardless of the result, and here the biggest thing we could learn is that against good players it only takes a moments lapse in concentration and you can get punished. We have hard-working, dedicated players in the squad that will learn from this.
"The pressure of knowing our mistakes will be punished is a good thing, it gives us the opportunity to learn and develop whilst being tested, this is where improvement and growth takes place.
“We’ll be looking to respond this weekend with our match against Cambridge United. If we continue to work hard and we cut out the mistakes from our game we will be ok. The players gave a lot on Saturday, and it was a performance we can build on.”
Exeter City under-18s: Lewis Williams, Joe Belston, Jordan Dyer, Lewis Wilson, Joe O’Loughlin, Will Dean, Harry Kite, Harry Gardner, James Dodd, Jack Sparkes, Lucas White. Subs: Sam Haynes, Nelson Iseguan, Max Clark, Mitch Thomas