Watkins strikes but Torquay triumphExeter City’s Under-18s were left frustrated as they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Torquay United in their opening Cup match of the season.
The visitors went 2-0 up inside the opening 30 minutes of the game, and from then on, the young Grecians had a mountain to climb.
An Ollie Watkins penalty brought City back into the tie, however a third Gulls goal killed the game and confirmed the result ten minutes from time.
However it was Exeter who started the game the brighter, with Matt Jay and Jason Pope both having early opportunities.
Captain Matt Grimes also tested the goalkeeper in the early exchanges with a dangerous free-kick, only to see his effort saved on the line; cries of a goal from the home team were silenced as the referee waved play on.
Despite the bright opening ten minutes from the Grecians, Torquay started to find a foothold in the game and City goalkeeper, Christy Pym had to be at his best when he tipped a fierce shot over the bar.
However Pym was beaten just five minutes later with a low finish. A cross flew over Sam Brown’s head, the right-back powerless to stop the perfectly weighted pass, which fell to the grateful United attacker who duly smashed his shot inside the far post.
The goal came slightly against the run of play, but it did liven the play from the visitors, who started having more possession as they tried to dictate the tempo of the game.
Right-midfielder Josh Wadham cut in from his flank to shoot over, reminding the visitors that City were still in the game, however it wasn’t for long as the Gulls struck again.
In a mirror image to the first goal, left-back Connor Riley-Lowe was left helpless as a deep cross beat him and landed to his opponent in yellow. The Torquay player latched onto the ball and fired his shot into the bottom corner to beat Pym once again.
Half-time blew with the Exeter’s players more incensed at the referee than their own performance, whilst the City coaching staff tried to keep their focus on the match and work out a way they were going to get back into it.
However the second half started much like the first period had ended, with the visitors creating the chances, however Pym in the City goal looked comfortable in dealing with whatever was thrown at him.
Though it didn’t take long for Exeter to take the game to their counterparts, and they went close on several occasions.
Grimes, trying to pull the strings in midfield flashed a shot just wide after good play from Jay and Brown. And just four minutes later a whipped ball from the skipper was begging for a touch goalwards by any onrushing attacker, however Hussein Heidari left his teammates with their heads in their hands as he failed to make any contact with the goal at his mercy.
Midway through the second half controversy arose in a game where the next goal was always going to be crucial.
Again Grimes was instrumental with another dangerous cross, with both Heidari and fellow centre-back, Kamarl Duncan throwing themselves at the ball. However as the ball seemed to cross the line in what became a goal-mouth scramble, the referee awarded a free-kick to United and adjudged that the goalkeeper had been fouled off the ball during the build-up.
City were incensed but didn’t let that trouble them as they continued to press forward, restricting the Gulls to limited shots at the other end of the pitch.
And finally the home side’s attacking pressure paid off on 71 minutes.
Winger Wadham collected the loose ball from the corner, and his trickery led to a hand-ball from the defender as the midfielder tried to round him.
Watkins took responsibility and converted coolly in off the post from 12 yards.
However the goal gained an immediate response from the away side, who fired two efforts in quick succession just off target, before they sealed the win with 10 minutes to play.
An attacking Torquay throw led to a quick cross, and the United striker got to the ball before either centre-half to glance a superb header inside the far post.
It seemed slightly harsh on City, however they continued to advance forward, in a hope of a miracle in the closing stages.
A change of shape from Exeter was to bring no change of luck for them, with Jay and substitute John Mahon both going close.
And as the final whistle drew ever closer, their game was summed up by almost their final attack.
A patient move involving both full-backs, Riley-Lowe and Brown, finally saw the ball on the right hand side with Wadham. The talisman beat his defender with ease and swung in a dangerous cross met by Watkins in the penalty whose volley struck the post and was cleared to safety.
The full-time whistle sounded and the Grecians trudged off with a mixture of disappointment and frustration in their own performance, referee and result.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “The first two goals have come about due to basic defensive errors, which we need to address before the next game.
“Before we can try and advance our game with tactics, we need to get the basics right first, which I’m sure the lads will do in time for our next fixture.”
Academy Manager Simon Hayward: “The bad performance today has come from a number of small problems and issues, that have mounted up, which in the end has contributed to three goals conceded.
“We need to put in the right amount of work, do our jobs properly, keep our focus and sometimes put our heads in where it hurts. But that’s what can get you your rewards at the end of the day.”
Exeter City U18s
1 Christy Pym
2 Sam Brown
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Kamarl Duncan
6 Hussein Heidari
7 Josh Wadham
8 Matt Grimes
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Jason Pope
12 Irvine Densu
14 John Mahon
15 Joe Charles