Exeter City’s under-18s avenged their league defeat to Swindon Town by beating them 2-0 in round two of the Youth Alliance Cup on Wednesday.
Despite the Robins enjoying plenty of territory during the early exchanges, a James Dodd free-kick opened the scoring after half an hour.
The Wiltshire outfit started the second half on top as they looked for an equaliser but the game was wrapped up with 10 minutes remaining thanks to substitute Frank Lovett.
The young Grecians now progress to the third round, where they will play Bristol Rovers for a chance to progress into the latter stages, in the hope they can put together another good cup run and hopefully add some silverware at the end of the season.
Following their league victory over Forest Green Rovers at the weekend, Chad Gribble and his players looked to banish memories of their loss to Swindon earlier on this month by securing a victory at the Cliff Hill training ground in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup Southern Round Two.
Despite Exeter coming into the tie full of confidence, it was the visitors who applied the pressure early on, spending a lot of time in the hosts’ half.
During a lively first 15 minutes, Town advanced quickly onto their opponents as they searched for an early breakthrough with their direct and aggressive play, putting the Devon club on the back foot.
However, City got through the tricky period unscathed and managed to see much more of the ball when they finally got the ball down and moved it between their midfield.
The away side’s threat came mostly from their right flank, courtesy of their talented winger, but once the home defence nullified his danger and they used the switch of play effectively and looked to attack through Harry Gardner.
As the Grecians grew into the game, their attacking intent became more obvious, and on 30 minutes they took the lead in an emphatic fashion.
After winning possession back on the left wing, Gribble’s men worked the ball into the middle of the park, resulting in Dodd winning a free-kick within shooting distance. The attacker whipped his goal-bound effort past the Robins goalkeeper and into the back of the net to give his team the lead.
The Wilshire team’s response was instant, and they found themselves in behind the Exeter backline with a fantastic opportunity to level the scores. However standing tall in the hosts’ goal was Felix Norman, who produced a brilliant one-on-one save to keep the Devonians ahead.
Swindon continued their domination at the start of the second period, with plenty of possession and territory in a fruitful 20-minute spell.
With the City defence put under an enormous amount of pressure, loose balls and clearances were falling the way of their opponents, as they struggled to get any momentum or foothold in the match.
Eventually, the home team did begin to settle, and they started to make more progress up the pitch. With changes in personnel made to the Grecian ranks, they started creating more openings, and on 80 minutes, they scored once more to put the game beyond the opposition.
Tom Preece did well to pinch the ball in the centre of the pitch, before sliding the ball to the ever-dangerous Gardner. The midfielder found Lovett with a nice ball, who finished his chance well to make it 2-0 and send Gribble’s men into round three of a competition.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “We were definitely put under a lot of pressure here, but the key message to the boys was to maintain our focus, particularly through the early moments. We believed that if we could get through that period, we could exploit the space if we won the ball back.
“It took us 15 minutes to get through stage one of the game, but in stage two of the match, we displayed some nice possession and good build-up play. Their response was aggressive, and we had to be ready for it. What I liked about the display, was that despite being put under pressure, the players looked confident with their defending.
“In comparison with our league match against Swindon, I thought we added the missing ingredient here. It looked like there was an attitude of ‘we are not conceding today’, and you could see that in their belief and resilience. The steeliness in our play helped us look after our goal. You don’t dominate games for 90 minutes at this level so when the opposition have their moments, it is all about defending well together.
“I thought it was a mature performance from a young side.”
Exeter City Under-18s: Felix Norman, Joe Belsten, Jordan Dyer, Cheick Diabate, Louis Morison, Tom Preece, Max Clark, Harry Gardner, James Dodd, Jay Stansfield, Lewis Wilson. Subs not used: Jack Arthur, Callum Brake, Ben Chrisene, Frank Lovett, Jack Veale