Oxford United U18s 4 Exeter City U18s 2
Exeter City’s Under-18s suffered an unfortunate loss to top-of-the-table Oxford United in a six-goal thriller.
Oxford came into the game in good form, though it was City who controlled a lot of the play, but ultimately saw their efforts fall short in a 4-2 defeat.
The Exeter performance was strong and disciplined, and they took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room at half-time. Arguably, had they grabbed a third goal, they could have been rewarded with a well deserved victory.
A United equaliser didn’t halt the Westcountry side, but two late goals for Oxford proved to be the sucker-punch as it turned the game completely on its head, and failed to give the Grecians the three points that they merited.
Things hadn’t started well for Exeter, as the hosts took the lead inside three minutes. The U’s attacker made the most of the space he was given to unleash a shot past Christy Pym in the City goal.
The Exeter coaching staff looked for a strong response following the early setback, and they got what they were after. Matt Grimes, captaining the side, lifted the team and the Grecians showed character and determination as they pressed for an equaliser.
And on 20 minutes, centre-back Kamarl Duncan provided it, finding the net from an attacking set-play. After Grimes crossed for City, after numerous goal attempts inside the Oxford box, Duncan prodded the ball home with the final touch to restore parity.
The goal gave the visitors the lift they needed, and they started to dictate the game, using the momentum to control the tempo of a highly competitive match.
Exeter pushed for a second as they started to create more openings, both through the middle, and on either wing through Josh Wadham and Toby Gostling.
Gostling in particular was proving to be industrious and gave the opposing right back a torrid time with his neat ball work and excellent work ethic. Meanwhile the productive, attacking duo of Matt Jay and Ollie Watkins provided the energy in attack, which caused the home defence numerous problems throughout.
And through Watkins, Exeter took the lead just before the break. The fleet-footed striker supplied an individual goal of pure quality that was celebrated by all of the away side.
He wriggled free of the opposing defenders as he cut in from the left, and curled a precise finish into the far corner leaving the Oxford goalkeeper no chance.
The Grecians had made the most of their dominance, and unfortunately for them, half-time came at the wrong time for them.
After the interval, United had come out with a determination of their own, which saw City concede a highly debatable penalty for a foul on the onrushing striker when it seemed Irvine Densu had clearly won the ball.
The spot-kick was dispatched and the game was tied once again.
However the equaliser didn’t disrupt Exeter going forward, and during a 15-minute spell, the away side looked like they may take the lead once again.
Jay and Watkins were again at the heart of the attacking moves, but neither could take their chances to get the crucial Grecian third.
And they were made to pay on 75 minutes due to another lucky break for United. The Oxford forward smashed the post with his initial effort, but the ball ricocheted of the unfortunate Pym to divert the ball over the goal line.
It was a cruel blow as City were arguably the better team up to that point. And just five minutes later, the game was won for the home team.
As City pushed up in search of a goal that could salvage at least a draw, the home team’s striker punished City with Oxford’s fourth to seal the victory.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “I am really pleased with the determination and character we showed after going behind so early on.
“At 2-1 we looked in control and I was very happy with the way we were playing. Going forward, that was the best performance I have seen from us this season. Matt Jay and Ollie Watkins were a real handful throughout the 90 minutes.
“I’m just disappointed a few things have gone against us, but we have to make sure we don’t concede cheaply, and make teams earn their goals against us. Defensively, we need to develop a stronger desire, and have the right mentality to see out games when we are ahead.
“We matched a very strong Oxford team throughout, and even bettered them for large periods.”
1 Christy Pym
2 Sam Brown
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Kamarl Duncan
6 Irvine Densu
7 Josh Wadham
8 Matt Grimes
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Toby Gostling
12 Charlie Madden
14 Jason Pope
15 Dean Billingsley