Exeter City under-18s earned a well-deserved three points from their latest Youth Alliance league fixture with a 4-1 victory away at Newport County.
The Welshmen began the brighter, and looked the more likely to break the deadlock, but a quick-fire double from the visitors at the start to the second period put them in front. The Exiles pulled a goal back from a free-kick, before Chad Gribble’s men sealed the win with a late Will Dean spot-kick, followed by a simple tap-in for James Dodd.
City’s youth team travel up to Wales in the hope they could continue their decent on-field performances. However, it was the hosts that controlled the early proceedings, combining their bright and positive start with plenty of territory, and putting the Exeter defence under considerable amounts of pressure from long balls and crosses.
It was a tough period for the away side, as the first 20 minutes saw plenty of defending from them, and little in terms of going forward.
However, County were unable to turn their dominance into a goal as midway through the first half the Devon side grew into match.
The young Grecians started putting together some neat passage of plays, and after half an hour, they created the first real opening. Morgan Cullen buried his chance, and despite the goal being disallowed, it gave the visitors some belief.
Just before the interval, Dodd and Cullen combined well during some neat build-up play, but the latter lost control of the ball and consequently squandered his chance.
It remained 0-0 at the break, but there was plenty of encouragement for City to take from the half, as they ended the first period stronger, without really carving out a clear-cut opportunity.
Two minutes after the restart, Exeter did create a decent opening when Dodd darted into the Newport 18-yard box. The playmaker was brought down illegally resulting in a penalty, which Dean converted confidently to give the away side the opening goal.
Soon after, the lead was doubled. Having been awarded a free-kick in a wide position, Dodd stood over the set-play and delivered a delicious cross which allowed Morison to guide a header past the home goalkeeper.
The explosive second half start suddenly saw the Devonians in a comfortable position. However, the Exiles, as they responded with a goal of their own on 60 minutes. A direct free-kick was placed beyond the reach of Felix Norman as it curled inside the near post.
The conceded effort didn’t faze the visitors though, as they stuck to their game plan and continued to create more openings.
With just 15 minutes remaining, City increased their lead. Dodd fired a goalbound effort which was blocked by one defender’s raised arm inside the penalty box. With the award of a second spot-kick, Dean made no mistake again and gave his team the two-goal cushion.
The Grecians managed to defend that advantage well and added another goal in injury time. The strike came from another set piece as Dean crossed the ball into a dangerous area, and with the ball evading everyone in front of goal, Dodd, lurking at the far post, tapped home to put the cherry on top of what was almost a complete performance by Gribble’s side.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble said: “The first 25 minutes were tough, but once we figured out how to play against their system, and what was required from ourselves, we were quite comfortable. We created a lot of chances which was pleasing to see, and overall it was another good team performance.
“At half-time, we reiterated to the boys that the chances were coming and it seemed like it was just a matter of time before we scored. Credit has to go to the players for starting the second half in such a positive manner.
“They changed their shape midway through the second half, which gave us more problems to solve, but we were able to deal with that. Despite their goal, we didn’t get flustered because of how much in control we were. Their free-kick goal couldn’t be helped, and credit to the goalscorer for that, but the response to that from the players was good, and that probably helped us get the third and fourth goal in the end.
“This whole month has seen us put together some very good team performances, displaying good habits and strong character. Saturday was just a time when we managed to tie it all together, and the players got what they all deserved, and that was a great win. Credit has to go the boys for sticking with the process over these past few games, and they finally got the rewards for it all here.”