Exeter City’s under-18s earned a hard-fought three points with a 4-3 victory over Cheltenham Town.
The Grecians actually found themselves behind at half-time, conceding twice with the Robins hitting them with swift counter-attacks.
However, with the wind in their favour in the second half, the Grecians’ determined mindset saw them turn the game around by the 68-minute mark thanks to a Will Dean free-kick, a Josh Williams strike which deflected off James Dodd, and Dodd netting a rebound following a save from the Cheltenham goalkeeper.
But Town responded with intent, and levelled the game with three minutes remaining with another quick break.
Despite the setback, City regrouped and won the match just two minutes later thanks to Jordan Dyer heading home Dodd’s corner to give Dan Green’s side an important win.
City arrived in Gloucestershire in high spirits, as they looked for another victory to keep the pressure on the teams above them in the Youth Alliance league standings.
Both sides failed to get any rhythm going as the wind affected the build-up play when goalscoring opportunities looked promising.
It meant the start was fairly even, and the lack of quality led to a lack of goals.
However, the hosts took full advantage of the wind on 40 minutes when they netted their first goal of the game. The Robins quickly broke down their right flank, before their forward fired the ball across Lewis Williams and inside the far post.
Moments before the interval, the lead was doubled. In similar fashion to the first goal, Cheltenham turned defence into attack quickly,and found their forward once again on the right wing. He cut inside and struck a shot into the net to put the home team in a decent position at half-time.
In spite of facing a two-goal deficit, the visitors brought about a determined response after the break. With the wind favouring Exeter’s youngsters in the second half, they pulled a goal back on 48 minutes. Defender Will Dean sent a beautiful free-kick up home to bring his team back into the contest.
The goal really helped the away side gain momentum, and just four minutes later parity was restored. Josh Williams fired an effort goalbound and a deflection from teammate James Dodd deceived everyone and the slight bit of fortune resulted in the scoreline being tied.
On 68 minutes, the turnaround was complete. Joel Randall first unleashed a shot which the Cheltenham goalkeeper initially saved and Dodd’s quick reactions saw him pounce on to the loose ball to make it 3-2.
Even though it seemed as if the Grecians had the momentum, the home team responded strongly to going behind for the first time in the match. With three minutes remaining, they perhaps thought they may have nicked a draw when another break, this time from halfway, led to a leveller.
However, the Devon club regrouped once again. Demonstrating tremendous character, Green’s men found a winner with just a minute left to play. Dodd turned provider when his corner was met by Jordan Dyer who celebrated his side’s fourth goal, giving Exeter all three points.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Dan Green admitted there were lessons to be learnt: “We felt the goals we gave away were very preventable. We were sloppy in possession at times and we weren’t ready to defend when we did lose the ball. We worked so hard to get back in the game so conceding late on was a bit of a sucker punch. We did really well to bounce back from the late equaliser to win it.
“As a group we weren’t happy with the performance. But what we are pleased about is the belief and character they showed to go on and win the game, especially when you consider we were 2-0 down at half-time. Their reactions were good, and they did well not to deviate from the game plan.
“We were well aware the wind was going to be a factor, and we would have been happy going in at the break just one goal down. However we gave away a second goal which made our lives more difficult than it should’ve been. We didn’t have to chase the game at that stage, and the boys can learn from that lesson, but we knew how they would play, and that stopped us from getting frustrated.
“The boys showed a lot of good character. It was a weekend where other teams in the division have dropped points when maybe you wouldn’t have expected them too. It may have been an off performance for us, but the silver lining is that we still managed to get a result.”
Exeter City under-18s: Lewis Williams, Sam Haynes, Jordan Dyer, Will Dean, Joe Belstun, Mitch Thomas, Josh Williams, Joel Randall, James Dodd, Josh Key, Brandon Parsons. Subs: Felix Norman, Harry Gardner, Tom Preece, Nelson Iseguan, Louis Morison