Under-18s defeat RobinsIn a nine-goal thriller, Exeter City’s Under-18 side came out on top against Cheltenham Town at the Cat & Fiddle last weekend.
Coming off the back of a 2-1 to local rivals Plymouth Argyle last time out, City won in a relatively comfortable fashion with a 6-3 victory; a Matt Jay hat-trick the catalyst for a strong attacking performance.
Further goals from winger Jason Pope, full-back Sam Brown and skipper Matt Grimes displayed how attack was the best form of defence on the day, however defensively, the Grecians may need to tighten up before their next fixture.
And the home side didn’t get off to the best of starts on Saturday.
After just six minutes, Cheltenham attacked down their left hand side, and after some sharp passing, the home defence was left exposed. Down the flank went the winger, whose low cross was converted with consummate ease by his fellow midfielder, and suddenly City were behind.
Arguably though, Exeter fought back when their opponents were most vulnerable, and were level within minutes. Grimes whipped in a ball that only the visiting goalkeeper could parry out, and on handwas Jay to poach like a true predator, tucking home the rebound to restore parity.
Jay, and fellow striker Watkins were causing the away defence continuous problems with their sharpness and movement, and the latter came close when a long-range effort brought a diving save from the keeper.
Though arguably against the run of play, poor defence from the Grecians once again meant the Robins were in front once again. This time down their right, the cross whipped in by the right-back was met by a brave header from the striker, who beat goalkeeper Christy Pym to the ball and powered his header home.
However that goal only seemed to spur Pym on, as he was on hand to save well twice in a matter of minutes as Town went in search for a third.
But it fact it was Exeter who scored the fourth of the game, grabbing a deserved equaliser seven minutes before half-time. Jason Pope ventured inside from his left wing, and after collecting a lose ball from a midfield tussle, unleashed a shot from 25 yards which found the corner with great precision.
And the momentum was suddenly with the home side, as just before the break, they scored what was surely the goal of the game. After some quick interchanges between Pope, Kamarl Duncan in the centre midfield and Connor Riley-Lowe at left-back, the ball found its way to Grimes in the middle of the park. The captain bent a sumptuous through-ball around the defender for Jay to run onto, and the striker finished coolly past the goalkeeper to round off a stunning move.
Half-time blew not long after, and the Exeter coaching staff all pointed at their third goal as a prime example of what the team were all capable of.
Despite the visitors hitting the post early in the second period, the Grecians continued the momentum they had gained from their previous two goals to try and score again.
Watkins again going close from distance, whilst Grimes saw a free-kick saved by a goalkeeper who had his work cut out. However there was not much he could do about City’s next attack.
The outstanding Brown intercepted a pass in opposition half and continued his run as he linked up with Jay. The attacker saw his blocked however the ball fell to Brown and he lobbed the ball over the helpless goalkeeper to make it 4-2.
However just as it looked as if Exeter were in control of the game, Town brought themselves back into it with a goal from a corner. Debatably, poor defending again cost Exeter as no real attempt to clear the initial set-piece, nor the follow-up was made before their winger converted his side’s third of the match.
There was still 15 minutes to play, and substitute Toby Gostling made an instant impact when he made the most of a Cheltenham defensive mix-up. The midfielder curled an effort from the edge of the box, and was desperately unlucky to see it come back off the crossbar and away to safety.
But just 10 minutes later, the home side did find the net again. Grimes, leading by example, showed why he is somewhat a dead-ball specialist, with a delightful free kick that arrowed right into the far top corner.
And the victory was rounded off in style just minutes before the end, when Jay, who had worked hard all afternoon, completed his hat-trick when he turned in a Riley-Lowe centre, and give City all three points.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “We are beginning to attack with more intent now which is pleasing and to score six goals in any game is a great achievement.
“Neither team defended well on the day. We must make sure we stay switched on and fully concentrated on our defensive roles and responsibilities at all times.
“There are two sides to the game and we are continually working with the individuals, and collectively as a team, on finding the right balance to be effective at both.”
1 Christy Pym
2 Sam Brown
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 Kamarl Duncan
5 Hussein Heidari
6 Irvine Densu
7 Josh Wadham
8 Matt Grimes
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Jason Pope
12 James Byrne
14 Toby Gostling
15 Dean Billingsley