Exeter City bowed out of the second round of the Youth Alliance League Cup following a 4-2 defeat away at Cambridge United.
Charlie Lawrence and Theo Simpson both netted, but two goals at the end of the first half put the hosts in control of the game at 3-1 and they grabbed a late fourth with the visitors pushing for an equaliser.
It was an even start to the game, with perhaps Exeter creating the first half-chances of the contest. Striker Lewis Wilson fired his team’s best effort into the side netting as they looked to turn their territory into a breakthrough.
That, however, came the way of the home side after 11 minutes. After a break down the left flank, the visitors conceded a free-kick. The set-piece was sent goalwards, and after keeper Jack Arthur misjudged the flight of the cross, the ball found its’ way into the back of his net to gift Cambridge an early score.
The goal didn’t affect the mentality of the Devon outfit though, and they began to enjoy more possession as the half grew older. Creating clear-cut opportunities against a stubborn defence however was proving to be difficult, but they did manage to find a leveller in the 39th minute.
Following an error from the United backline, Lawrence managed to get away from the desperate defenders to finish cooly past the hosts’ shot-stopper to make it 1-1.
However, parity was only restored for a matter of moments, as The Us netted their second of the game four minutes later when a wide free-kick was headed in.
Then, just a minute before half-time, Cambridge established a two-goal cushion. Following a ball into the City penalty area, it was a Cambridge body which won the first aerial duel, before winning a second header to convert the chance and make it 3-1.
It was a bright showing from away side early on in the second half, and they deservedly pulled a goal back to pile the pressure on their opponents.
Louis Morison linked up with Theo Simpson, and the forward powered the ball high into the goal to restore hope within his team’s ranks.
His side dominated proceedings for much of the second period, enjoying plenty of possession and territory, and seeing chances for an equaliser go extremely close.
Whilst crosses from both wings flashed across the United goal, perhaps the closest the Grecians came to finding a leveller was when Nelson Iseguan tried combining with Lawrence, however it came to no avail.
For all of the offensive pressure put on the hosts, Gribble’s men were unable to put anything together that completely unlocked the defence and present them with a clear cut opening.
It meant, with Exeter committing more men forward in their quest to take the match into extra-time, the hosts were able to exploit the space left, and as the clock ticked into injury time, they sealed their place into the next round when they scored their fourth goal following a counter down the right side.
The Devonians, as a result, bow out of the YA League Cup, diverting their focus back onto league matters, with a match against Yeovil Town coming up this Saturday.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “We’ve come away disappointed. The tie was a bit of a nothing game with no side really settling into any rhythm. There were two fortunate goals early on, and we got out of trouble with our equaliser, but to give away two soft goals from set-pieces is frustrating. We pride ourselves on our set pieces, but the two goals for them off of those gave us a bit of a mountain to climb.
We never had our backs to the walls, we just conceded three times off our errors. Maybe our high scoring defeats recently had some sort of effect on us, but if we got into half-time at just 2-1 down, and then come out int the second half and got a leveller, the game may have been ours.
I can’t fault the players in the second half, we just didn’t have enough about us, and the damage was done in the first period. Cambridge were a strong and physical side, and they did what they needed to win the game. If you take the set pieces away, we were the better team in my opinion. We didn’t play particularly well, but if we defend the set pieces right, we end up winning the game.
There are lots of positives to take away from our games recently, but the boys know at some point during their footballing careers, they’ll be judged on their wins column. The boys are trying to put things right, and we are going through games at the moment where we end up addressing what the problem was in our previous performance, and then finding something new to work on. We have to remember the age of this group, and appreciate they will make errors, but we are competing well with good sides right now.
Next up for us is a derby match against Yeovil Town. They are always a good side, but the boys want to win this one. Yeovil will be high in confidence, but we will be looking to put everything right, show both sides to our game, and hopefully, that will put us in the best position to get a positive result.”