Exeter City’s under-18s ended their Merit League One season with a 1-0 victory away at Yeovil Town on Saturday.
The Grecians started brightly, but had to wait until the 39th minute before they broke the deadlock; Jay Stansfield finishing well from the right-hand side following some good play from Lewis Wilson.
A reaction came from the hosts in the second half, but some solid defending meant City goalkeeper Jack Arthur preserved his clean sheet.
The result meant Chad Gribble’s men ended their Merit League fixtures two points clear of bottom placed Luton Town in the final standings, and coupled with the final day victory, can enter their summer off-season with more belief and confidence ahead of next year’s campaign.
Coming off the back of their defeat in the final of the Youth Alliance Cup on Tuesday evening, it was the visitors that began proceedings on top and dominated much of the early possession.
However, it was Town who created the first opening. Following a break down in Exeter possession, the Glovers countered quickly and located their target man with some neat passing moves.
The striker struck the crossbar with a sharp effort, but was flagged for offside. After 39 minutes, the Grecians created their best chance and took the lead. Wilson won the ball back in midfield before a 15-yard dribble forward put his team into a promising position.
The attacker slipped in Stansfield to his right, and the winger fired a shot across the goalkeeper and inside the far post to hand his team a 1-0 lead. City took their advantage into half-time, but they were put under some considerate pressure after the break as the home team looked for a way back into the contest.
The first 10 minutes of the second half belonged to Yeovil, but the Devonians defended their own penalty area well, and managed the game enough to get through the spell unscathed.
Gribble’s men began seeing more of the ball as the clock ticked past the hour mark, and created a half-chance through Charlie Lawrence; though the midfielder’s effort was blocked when he managed to cut in from his flank.
Five minutes later, the playmaker provided a dangerous cross from a free-kick which Cheick Diabate reached first, but the centre back’s effort sailed over the crossbar.
The closing stages of the game saw the hosts throw more bodies forward as they continued to search for a leveller, but Jordan Dyer and his fellow Exeter defenders proved to be stubborn in the protection of their own 18-yard box, denying Town any clear cut chances at Arthur’s goal.
That meant the away side were able to keep a hold of their lead, bouncing back from their midweek cup defeat in superb fashion, and they were able to secure their first Merit League win since the start of March, delighting everyone connected to the academy before they enter their summer break.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “It’s very pleasing to get the win and three points, as it is what the players deserve for the hard work they have put in during this good season.
"It was always going to be challenging after Tuesday night, but to go again so soon deserves credit. I knew the boys would respond, because that is the kind of people that they are. They showed no real sign of disappointment.
“It was a good performance. The desire, belief and character they showed after Tuesday gave us the platform to put in such a solid performance. We defended our penalty box well, but there was not one area of our game that stood out more than another.
"In some ways it was a complete performance from us. To get the goal and clean sheet was a nice way to end the season.
“This victory will give our young group more confidence looking towards next season. We changed the team a bit from the Wigan match by bringing the first year scholars and the younger players back into the fold.
"That young group have gone through a difficult few matches in the Merit League recently, but to win and put in this performance will give the players the belief that they are able to put in good performances and secure wins at this level.”
Exeter City under-18s: Jack Arthur, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Joe Belsten, Alex Moyse, Louis Morison, Jay Stansfield, Charlie Lawrence, Lewis Wilson, Theo Simpson. Subs: Jack Veale, Max Clark, Nelson Iseguan, Frank Lovett