Exeter City’s under-18s suffered their second defeat in a matter of days following their 3-1 loss away at AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday, December 3.
City travelled to the south coast hoping to banish memories of their loss to Swindon the previous weekend with a positive performance in Dorset.
They started brightly, and they looked to get on the ball after some aggressive pressing forced their opponents into mistakes and misplaced passes.
The first instance should have led to a breakthrough on three minutes, when Exeter won possession back high up on the left wing. The ball then fell to Lewis Wilson, who saw his initial effort saved, however following up was Jack Veale, who somehow sent the rebound over from close range.
The Grecians were in the ascendency and created another decent opening after quarter of an hour. After the hosts looked to play out from the back through their goalkeeper, Frank Lovett managed to close down and win back the ball for Gribble’s men. In the aftermath however, the visitors were unable to force the ball in.
Five minutes later, Wilson caused more problems for the home defence when he surged past his defender on the right. He drew the keeper and looked to square the ball to Lovett for a tap in, but some desperate defending by Cherries saw them cut the final ball out and relieve the danger.
Bournemouth grew into the game from that point, and they came close to scoring later on in the half when they struck the crossbar with a free-kick from a wide position.
But in spite of seeing plenty of the ball in the latter stages of the half, the Dorset side weren’t able to use it to their advantage as the visitors continued to win possession in advanced areas of the pitch.
After the break though, the hosts showed more intent in the play, and they gave their opponents an early second half scare when they flashed a ball across the face of the City goal.
They did score the first goal of the game though in the 53rd minute, after a break down the left. The home team worked the ball into the middle, and after a smart backheel inside the box, the ball was slotted home to make it 1-0.
Four minutes later, the Cherries made it a quick-fire double when they took full advantage of catching the away side out of position. After countering down the left side once again, Bournemouth reached the byline before cutting the ball back into a dangerous position. The move was finished off emphatically doubling the advantage to two goals.
Exeter’s youngsters saw more of the ball following that goal and looked to find a way back into the contest. Midway through the second period they did just that with a captain’s contribution.
Veale’s good work saw him slide a pass into Morison, and his first time shot beat the Dorset goalie to set up an enthralling final quarter of the game.
The match was finely poised, and it hit a stalemate as the Grecians tried to push forward to find an equaliser.
Despite that, with 10 minutes remaining, the hosts restored their two-goal cushion with another goal on the break. A swift move saw the home side worked the ball into a position where they could cut it back into the middle, however Arthur’s smart reactions saw him push the ball away initially, however the goalkeeper could do nothing about the follow up, which was struck home making it 3-1, and sealed the important three points for the Cherries.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “Goals change games, and if we had gone 1-0 up inside the first three minutes through Jack Veale, we probably would have seen a more open Bournemouth display, and from that we may have then been able to grab a second goal because we had some chances.
“But in all honesty, I thought we delivered half a performance. The pressure we put on Bournemouth was good, but we defended too often for my liking. We would have liked to create some more chances off the back of winning the ball back, but we weren’t quite at the races on the ball.
“After the amount of energy we put into our performance, I thought we were always going to concede. We couldn’t really cope with the pressure they put onto us during that 10 minute period at the start of the second half, because we were pinned in and tired as a result of us not using the ball well enough.
“Bournemouth are top of the league for a reason. They are there for a reason, and the best team we have played by quite a way. I’d be lying if I said I’m pleased to have competed well with Bournemouth as they are a football club with a lot of resources, because we want to do more than that. Credit has to go to Bournemouth for the quality they showed and how organised they were without the ball, but we are striving to compete consistently with them because we have done it before.
Exeter City under-18s: Jack Arthur, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Max Clarke, Harry Ford, Louis Morison, Alex Moyse, Jack Veale, Nelson Iseguan, Frank Lovett, Lewis Wilson. Subs: Ellis Johnson, Michael Lilley, Jamie Nicholson, A. Trialist