Exeter City’s under-18s suffered a 2-1 defeat away at Peterborough United last Saturday in their seventh game of Merit League One.
A couple of goals inside the first 20 minutes gave the Posh the early initiative, with good wing play down the left flank the catalyst for the two opening strikes.
However, in response, the Grecians soon got a foothold in the game, and they halved the deficit just before half-time when Jack Veale fired home from just inside the penalty area.
A dominant second-half showing from Chad Gribble’s men saw them on the front foot for the remainder of the game, but they were unable to take any of their decent openings, resulting in an unfortunate defeat; the third consecutive loss for the Devon youngsters.
Saturday’s opening exchanges saw end-to-end action between both teams in a lively start. However, it was the hosts who found a rhythm in their play first.
With their first meaningful attack, United’s winger showed some neat play to skip away from his marker to whip a teasing cross into the visitors’ box. The ball found its way to the back post, where on hand, another blue shirt was able to convert from close range.
With the early momentum favouring the Cambridgeshire outfit, they struck once again seven minutes later to take full advantage of the positive spell they were enjoying.
In almost identical circumstances, the same midfielder made his way down the left wing before clipping the ball into the middle and, at the far post, while the goal-bound effort was kept out by goalkeeper Jack Arthur the follow up was slotted in making it 2-0 to the home side.
A response to the double setback was needed, and City reacted by seeing more of the ball, as they looked more promising trying to build from deep.
With their possession, Exeter looked to pin their opponents in their own half, and on 30 minutes, they created their best chance as a result of some aggressive pressing.
Lewis Wilson forced the Posh defence into a mistake as they gave the ball away cheaply. A loose backpass was picked up by the attacker but he could only drag his attempt wide.
However, it gave the away team plenty of encouragement, and 10 minutes later they were unlucky not to score when Wilson produced some more good work down the flank, before delivering a tasty ball in for Theo Simpson but he was unable to apply the significant touch needed to divert ball home.
The Grecians’ strong end to the first period continued up until the half-time whistle, and moments before the interval they deservedly pulled a goal back.
Wilson demonstrated his creative side once again by working hard down the right side, before seeing his cross half-cleared by some desperate defending from the hosts. Veale found some space 18 yards out, and he arrowed home a strike-out of the reach of the United keeper and into the back of the net.
After the break, Gribble’s men continued to enjoy more of the ball and territory, and they created a number of decent openings for their forward players.
Nelson Iseguan began to have more of an influence on proceedings, and the wide man put in two dangerous crosses into the opposition box - the first in particular threatening after locating Simpson at the far post.
After Peterborough were able to nullify that particular threat, the Devonians resorted to their substitutes’ bench for some more inspiration, and the introduction of Ben Chrisene and Jay Stansfield seemed to have the desired effect.
Chrisene, in particular, looked eager to get on the ball in midfield and drive into the final third of the pitch, and it was his through pass to Iseguan on the hour mark that brought about another save from the home goalkeeper.
Jack Stafford squandered an opportunity later on in the half when perhaps Louis Morison might have been in a better position, but with two minutes remaining, the visitors carved out another clear-cut chance that they should’ve taken.
Chrisene’s positive play led to the midfielder finding his fellow replacement with a neat pass. Stansfield looked to tuck the ball home, but an excellent save prevented the substitute from scoring, as well as denying his team the point they merited.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “It was a match that was very similar to the week before. We fell behind early, but when we did get a foothold in the game, we were very good. The only thing that was missing was our end product.
“I thought Peterborough only had two real chances, which they ended up taking. We had at least five decent opportunities, and on the balance of play, I feel we definitely deserved to get something from the game.
“It is no coincidence that the same things are happening. But this is a new group, and they are a work in progress. The things we want to achieve are not going to happen overnight, but they are working hard, and it will take time. We gradually progressed during the first half of the season, and the same will happen with this younger group during this Merit League.
“The result is not the be all and end all. It is all about developing players. The first group we had at the start of the season were ready to step up to the next challenge, so we have started again with this younger group in the Merit League. There are going to be inconsistencies, but overall I’m pleased with our performances in these matches, and pleased we are putting out such a young side.
“We have a home match against AFC Wimbledon next. We’ll be looking to put right the early parts of the matches. When the two teams are trading blows at the start, we need to learn to get through that spell when they put us under a bit more pressure at 0-0, and maybe if we are able to keep it tighter, it will give us belief when it comes to taking our chances.”
Exeter City under-18s: Jack Arthur, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Louis Morison, Joe Belsten, Jack Veale, Alex Moyse, Charlie Lawrence, Nelson Iseguan, Lewis Wilson, Theo Simpson. Subs: Harry Lee, Ben Chrisene, Jay Stansfield, Alfie Pond