Exeter City’s Under-18s recorded their second consecutive victory following a 2-1 win over Newport County at the Cliff Hill Training Ground on Saturday.
The Grecians controlled much of the first half, but fell behind courtesy of an own goal four minutes before the interval.
Patience proved to be vital, as the hosts grabbed an equaliser just after an hour courtesy of Jay Stansfield’s low effort.
James Dodd completed the turnaround for his side seven minutes later, when he placed a precise shot out of the reach of the goalkeeper, helping the Devon club secure a precious three points, and climb to fourth in the league standings.
After recording a fine victory against Yeovil Town last week, Chad Gribble was hoping his team could take that form into their contest with bottom-placed Newport.
Conditions were far from ideal for football, with the match having to take place on the 4G artificial pitch, but both teams showed some neat touches in the early moments.
Will Dean fired the first meaningful effort off target on five minutes, whilst Felix Norman’s comfortable save from a curling effort was the closest the visitors came to scoring.
The home side often looked bright down their right side, and as a consequence, Stansfield saw a deflected effort go wide. Cheick Diabate fired a volley over the crossbar from the resulting corner, as they cranked up the attacking pressure.
As the game approached the 20-minute mark, even with the disruptive weather, City started finding a bit more of a groove in their build-up play. One lovely move involving Charlie Lawrence and Max Clark led to Stansfield glancing the ball wide of the far post.
But on 41 minutes, the first goal did arrive thanks to a huge slice of luck. As County attacked down the right, a low cross into the penalty area seemed pretty innocuous, however the ball deflected off of an Exeter body, out of the reach of Norman, and rolled into the bottom corner of the goal.
It meant a determined Grecians side took to the pitch in the second period, and despite a long-range strike from an Exiles defender whistling just over, much of the possession was with the hosts.
A positive spell brought a number of opportunities in a matter of moments for the Devonians.
Theo Simpson’s low drive forced the away goalkeeper into a decent save in the 59th minute, before Stansfield was unable to make contact with a dangerous cross when in front of goal moments after.
Two minutes later, Stansfield shanked an effort past the post, before the attacker made up for his miss when he converted Dean’s sumptuous through pass, with a finish under the keeper drawing the two teams level.
All the play was heading in one general direction, towards the Welshmen’s goal, and at the midway point of the second period, Simpson tested the Newport shot-stopper once again with a powerful strike.
Gribble made some personnel changes to add a new impetus to his side, and after 69 minutes, the turnaround on the scoreboard was complete.
Dean located Clarke with another pinpoint pass, and with Clarke now pushed further forward, the wideman was able to find Dodd with a pass into the 18-yard box. Dodd sorted his feet out with some quick agility, before placing the ball into the net.
The two sides traded half-chances in the final minute of play, but no change in the scoreline meant the home team did enough to grind out an important three points, before their final game against rivals Plymouth Argyle on Tuesday.
Following the match, Exeter City under-18s coach Chad Gribble said: “The most pleasing aspect from the game is the patience we showed, particularly after going a goal behind. It was a difficult game due to the conditions, but I thought we didn’t do too much wrong in the first half. Credit has to go to the players. We thought their goal was against the run of play, but the response from the boys was fantastic. I’m pleased we were able to improve in the second half, and that we didn’t look like we would concede again.
“We were quite confident that if we were able to use the ball better in the second half, we would be giving ourselves a chance. Arguably it was easier to play against the wind, and you could see with all the goals scored against the wind, it showed how difficult it was to play out there with it.
“I expected it to be difficult to beat them. We knew it was going to be a spirited display from them after they had gone through some difficult times recently, but we weren’t too sure what to expect from them. Once we saw that they were sitting back off of us, we knew it was all about how patient we would be.
“Will Dean was excellent, and he displayed a good fight and energy in the midfield area. He played multiple good balls that got us in behind their backline, and we could’ve scored a few more goals off of the back of those passes.
“Tuesday’s match with Plymouth Argyle will provide us with a different test. It is a derby game, which is different to anything else, and we know we can’t look at the league positions or recent results. We will sit down with the boys and discuss how we need to approach the game, but whatever we do, I have no doubt we will show the mentality and desire a derby game requires which will ultimately give us the best chance of a successful performance.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Felix Norman, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Joe Belsten, Max Clark, Louis Morison, Will Dean, Charlie Lawrence, Jay Stansfield, James Dodd, Theo Simpson
Subs: Jack Arthur, Jack Stafford, Jack Veale, Alex Moyse, Frank Lovett