A late penalty from Forest Green Rovers saw Exeter City’s suffer a 2-1 away defeat last Saturday in the Youth Alliance South West Division.
In a game that saw the defences on top, the hosts scored the opening goal five minutes before half-time with a well-worked set-piece routine.The Grecians responded 15 minutes into the second half through Lewis Wilson, but Rovers won the game with five minutes remaining with a late penalty.
Coming into the match off the back of a decent win over Yeovil Town, Chad Gribble and his squad looked for a result that would consolidate their top half position in the league standings.
The contest started with the home team enjoying plenty of possession aided by the windy conditions, but, their time on the ball wasn’t in any particular danger to City’s youngsters.
When the Gloucestershire club did surge forward, the visitors’ backline proved to be solid and stubborn in their approach, and they repelled any promising attacks with strong defensive work in and around their own penalty box.
The Devon side had moments on the break, with Nelson Iseguan in particular looking threatening, putting in several decent crosses from his flank that just went away from goal.
However, five minutes before the break, Forest Green took the lead. A short free-kick wasn’t picked up, and the ball was worked into a dangerous area and headed home.
The hosts then looked to build off the back of the goal, and they had a strong spell in the remainder of the first half; Jack Arthur produced a brilliant point-blank save to keep his team in it as the Grecians looked to get into half-time at just one-goal down.
With the conditions favouring City’s youngsters in the second period, some desperate defending by Rovers meant they survived a barrage of attacks for a quarter of an hour, however, in the 60th minute, a deserved equaliser did arrive.
Iseguan attacked down the wing, before crossing for Wilson. The striker beat his man to the ball, and he finished nicely with his left foot past the despairing dive of the Gloucestershire goalkeeper.
That goal spurred the visitors on, and moments later captain Louis Morison saw a half chance go over the crossbar.
The Devonian skipper provided an opportunity for Jack Stafford from a set-piece later on the in half, but the centre-back could only divert his attempt off target.
As the game reached its’ climax, with the game still up for grabs, it was Forest Green who nicked the winning goal with five minutes left on the clock.
Following a break down the left-hand side, the hosts managed to work the ball into a promising position inside the 18-yard box. Alex Moyse remained tight to his man and looked to have won possession back fairly, however, the referee adjudged that it was unfair, and a controversial penalty kick was awarded. The spot-kick was tucked away, handing victory to Rovers, with a disappointed Exeter side returning home empty-handed despite deserving much more from the contest.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “Firstly, I am disappointed with their winning goal. The penalty was an incorrect decision and the referee was the only person who thought that it was a foul. We should have come away with at least a point, and perhaps we had done enough to even win the game.
“We almost executed our game plan to perfection. We initially defended our box very well, and they didn’t have many clear cut chances, but they took the lead with a set-piece which was brilliant from them. Up until then, it was a contest that was just two teams trading blows. We probably created enough half chances, particularly in the second half, to get another goal. Maybe we could question some of the decisions we made in the final third, but, from a young side, I thought it was a mature approach.
“They were a big physical opponent, and with the conditions, they probably favoured them and traditionally not an Exeter City side, but that wasn’t the reason we lost the match. In a game of fine margins, they’ve put together a well-worked set-piece, and it ended up being one of those days when a decision went against us.
“We are certainly looking at the positives from here and wanting to take them into our home game with Swindon Town this weekend. Thankfully this was another round of fixtures where others around us in the league dropped points, so it is very open. It isn’t all about getting the results, but we want to develop these players and get them into a winning habit. We haven’t quite found the consistency we would like but that is something we are striving towards.”
Exeter City under-18s: Jack Arthur, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Alfie Pond, Max Clark, Louis Morison, Ben Chrisene, Alex Moyse, Nelson Iseguan, Frank Lovett, Lewis Wilson. Subs: Jack Veale, Harry Lee, Zeph Collins, Jamie Nicholson