Exeter City’s Under-18s suffered a defeat to Plymouth Argyle U18s in a five-goal thriller at the Cliff Hill Training Ground in the Youth Alliance South West division.
Theo Cutler’s penalty rewarded the bright start made by Exeter’s youngsters, before the striker netted again just past the midpoint of the first half to make it 2-0.
A strong second period from Argyle, however, saw the game turn on its head, as Freddie Issaka, Joe Hatch and Lewis Colwell all found the back of the net to steal all three points away from their Devon counterparts.
That result leaves the Grecians in the bottom half of the league standings on three points after three games, while the Pilgrims sit at the top with a 100% record.
Following their 4-0 defeat the week before against Portsmouth U18s, Tom Donati was hoping for a positive response from his squad, as Scott Simmons and Liam Oakes came into the starting XI.
With that intent, the hosts began proceedings strongly, and in the opening 10 minutes, they found numerous routes to Plymouth’s goal, however, Dan Holman stood firm with several athletic saves all from Cutler, Tom Dean and Santino Ohanaka.
But City’s pressure was rather relentless, and their bright start was rewarded shortly after when striker Cutler found the back of the net for the second consecutive home match this season to break the deadlock.
A quick set-piece routine allowed the Exeter attack to get inside the penalty box, before Aamir Stanford-Daniels fired at goal. With Holman denying the initial shot, Cutler reacted quickest and slotted in the rebound to make it 1-0.
Donati had his team playing on the front foot both in and out of possession, and on 26 minutes, the Grecians doubled their lead after a mistake from Holman. The shot-stopper lost possession in a dangerous area, before he committed a foul while trying to retrieve the ball to atone for his mistake. Cutler cooly converted from 12 yards to put his team in pole position.
Ohanaka received lengthy treatment for an injury, and his departure from the game proved decisive in how the rest of the game panned out.
Eight minutes after half-time, the visitors won a free-kick in a threatening position, and Issaka curled an effort around the wall and into the bottom corner to half the deficit.
On the hour mark, the scores were tied courtesy of an attack down the Pilgrims right. Colwell picked out Hatch, who looped a header over Dylan Shanahan to make it two goals apiece.
The comeback was complete in the 68th minute when the home defence failed to clear their lines. The ball came to Colwell, who powered a volley past Shanahan to make it 3-2.
A reaction from such a setback can show a lot about a group of individuals, and Donati and the City squad will be hoping to bounce back from this defeat to their rivals quickly, with the reverse fixture of the Devon Derby currently scheduled for mid-January. Exeter's youngsters return to action though on Saturday 16th September, when they travel to Bristol Rovers U18s.
Exeter City Under-18s: Dylan Shanahan, Scott Simmons, Max Edgecombe, Liam Oakes, Tom Dean, Aamir Stanford-Daniels, Guilio Maroni, Jake Richards, Alfie Cunningham, Santino Ohanaka, Theo Cutler
Subs: Rafa Beadman, Sam Joce, Harry Crees, Rohullah Mohammadi