Exeter City’s under-18s produced a miraculous fightback to win 3-2 in a five-goal thriller against Bournemouth in Dorset on Saturday.
It was the home side who started the brighter, and they stormed into a two-goal lead before the midway point of the first period. But the Grecians fought back and ended the half the stronger, halving the deficit on 38 minutes.
A brilliant start to the second period from the visitors saw them score two goals in six minutes to completely flip the game on its head, as they put themselves into a deserved lead.
The determination in getting back into the game was then matched by the team’s endeavour towards not conceding again during a frantic final 15 minutes, and with mission accomplished, Chad Gribble’s men returned to the west country with a fantastic victory.
Match Report sponsored by Speedy Freight
City came into the contest with the Cherries with the intention of bouncing back from last week’s defeat to Bristol Rovers.
But they were second best in the opening exchanges, with the home team dominating possession, often pinning the Devon outfit in their own half.
With the away side struggling to get out, a mistake of theirs allowed Bournemouth to score the game’s opening goal.
An unsuccessful dribble out of defence was seized upon by the bright forwards, and after pinching the ball, the south coast club took full advantage and broke the deadlock on 17 minutes.
The goal really shook the City players, and the bright spell from the hosts saw them double their advantage just four minutes later.
Following a clever combination down the right flank, one Dorset striker found himself through one-v-one, and he finished off the well-worked move with a smart finish, putting his team in a commanding position.
The Grecians slowly settled afterwards, and they did a reasonable job of making themselves more resilient and harder to beat to play themselves back into the game.
They also looked better in attack too, with the visitors starting to enjoy more possession in their opponents’ territory.
The forward intent got them somewhere, with Gribble’s men pulling a goal back seven minutes before half-time.
The Dorset club attempted to play themselves out of trouble, but the aggressive press from City’s players allowed Lewis Wilson to nick the ball away, round the goalkeeper, and tuck the ball in to restore some belief in their ranks.
With the momentum fully shifting, the Devon youngsters saw half-chances go close before the interval, with Will Dean and Louis Morison both shooting off-target.
With the away team feeling as if they were on top of proceedings, the end of the first 45 minutes arguably came at the wrong time, however the beginning of the second period saw Exeter continue where they had left off.
The half was just six minutes old when the Grecians deservedly levelled the scores.
After winning the ball back high up the pitch once again, James Dodd was able to cut inside and finish emphatically past the Cherries’ shot-stopper to make it 2-2.
With the home team unable to stop the visitors’ energy, the turnaround was complete on 57 minutes.
In a similar fashion to his first effort, Wilson stole the ball from the Bournemouth defence once again, before taking it around the goalkeeper for the second time and slotting home the goal that gave his side the lead for the first time in the contest.
Off the back of their third goal, Gribble’s men continued to apply pressure on the opposition for a 15-minute spell of positivity when they were looking to kill the game off.
A strong showing from the south coast side saw them press for an equaliser in the remaining quarter of an hour.
The period saw City’s players retreat back into shape and defend their penalty box effectively. Despite the hosts chucking everything at the Devon club’s goal, the away team threw themselves in front of goal-bound efforts, and effectively cleared opposing set-pieces to keep themselves in front, earn themselves a superb result against all odds, and return home fully satisfied with their performance.
Exeter City under-18s Coach, Chad Gribble: “I’m delighted with all of the players. We’ve seen these players do this before, and at no point during the game did we feel like we couldn’t win the match. The boys had a belief at half-time despite being behind, and I have to praise all of the guys’ character for coming back.
“It would’ve been easy to tweak things, but the comeback was down to all of the players’ belief and trust in the plan were set out to do, and the way we play as a football club. We believed in the way we approached the game, and I have to thank the players for trusting in the plan.
“I’m impressed with the way the players applied themselves. Not just in the way they came back from behind, but then the way they managed to see the result through to the end, and the resilience they showed when they needed to.
“The first goal really lifted the players, and what I could see from the sidelines was plenty of encouragement and motivation. We have strong characters in our group, and I have to credit them for being outstanding in their football, as well as their character; not just in bouncing back from two goals down, but also reacting to last week’s defeat too.”
Exeter City under-18s: Felix Norman, Joe Belsten, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Louis Morison, Will Dean, Tom Preece, James Dodd, Jay Stansfield, Lewis Wilson
Subs: Jack Arthur, Alex Moyse, Max Clark, Frank Lovett, Callum Brake