Plymouth Argyle XI 1 Exeter City XI 0
A youthful looking Exeter City representative squad suffered a 1-0 defeat to the hands of a vastly more experienced Plymouth Argyle in the semi-final of the St Lukes Bowl at Home Park.
A solitary goal, from the head of Pilgrims’ striker Tyler Harvey, gave the home side the victory, who now face Torquay United – again at Home Park – in the final.
The Grecians started with a number of their under-18s representing the club, including goalkeeper Christy Pym and midfielder Matt Grimes who were both recently rewarded by City with professional contracts, who both made the starting XI.
Argyle included the likes of Durrell Berry, Ronan Murray and Nick Chadwick amongst nine professionals in their starting line-up, and in the end the experience told as they did just enough to see their team progress.
The first half proved to be rather scrappy in large periods, but there was evidence that both sides wanted to play a short and quick game whilst in possession of the football.
At the heart of everything from the visitors was Grimes, who continued his impressive season’s form by orchestrating many of the Exeter attacks; his delivery from set-pieces in particular was giving the home defence plenty to think about.
There were no clear-cut chances during the first 45 minutes. Myles Anderson won a few attacking headers but couldn’t make the Rene Gilmartin work in the Plymouth goal, whilst striker Matt Jay, had possibly the best chance for the Grecians after linking up with fellow attacker Ollie Watkins. Jay volleyed his shot towards the top corner, but Gilmartin was equal to the effort.
Arguably though, the best chance of the first period came from the home side, when just before half time, Harvey received the ball of Chadwick, but could only flash a shot wide, as both sides went into the break deadlocked. The Grecians were deservedly in the game at the interval, and matching their counterparts every step of the way.
The Pilgrims started the brighter in the second half, with Exeter goalkeeper Pym rescuing his side by saving a Ronan Murray free-kick.
Murray and Chadwick were beginning to trouble their younger opponents after creating several more chances early on in the second period, but City’s high work-rate was ensuring that they weren’t surrendering.
And they were to squander their best chance of taking the lead on 53 minutes. After seeing a shot trickle wide a minute earlier, Watkins found himself played through on goal down the right wing. The forward fired a low shot, but Gilmartin saved with his legs to keep the game goalless.
Left-back Connor Riley-Lowe was to go close for the Grecians too, but he could only unleash a shot into the side netting as the away team continued to press for the opening goal.
And just 10 minutes later, Plymouth were to score the first goal of the game. Jared Sims collected the ball on the half-way line and fired a deep ball towards Harvey. He beat the offside trap and headed the ball over the onrushing Pym to give the home team the lead.
Even though it had been coming, with the Pilgrims looking more dangerous in attack, it appeared harsh on the young Grecians that had put in so much effort to get to that point.
Murray was close to doubling the lead, whilst the introduction of Isaac Vassell from the bench lifted the Greens even more.
The Grecians were to remain in the game up until the final whistle and almost snatched an equaliser late on, when Jacob Wannell volleyed wide. It wasn’t to be the Grecians night, but the representative team put in a gutsy and proud performance.
Youth Team Coach Kevin Nicholson said: “There was a big difference in terms of experience between the two sides and I thought it was a really good effort from our boys. We dealt with the game and the occasion very well, and nothing fazed the lads, and we gave it our best shot.
“Obviously it’s disappointing that we didn’t get through to the final, but we gave it our best efforts against a team full of professional players, when you consider our team included five first-year scholars and two under-16s who came on off the bench.”
Plymouth Argyle: Rene Gilmartin, Durrell Berry, Colin Watson, Aaron Bentley, Anthony Charles, Jared Sims, Paris Cowan-Hall, Matt Lecointe, Nick Chadwick, Tyler Harvey, Ronan Murray.
Subs: Isaac Vassell, Ollie Chenoweth, River Allen, Kieran Asumadu-Sakyi, Josh Hutchinson.
Goal: Tyler Harvey.
Exeter City: Christy Pym, Jordan Tillson, Connor Riley-Lowe, James Byrne, Kamarl Duncan, Myles Anderson, Jason Pope, Matt Grimes, Ollie Watkins, Matt Jay, Jacob Wannell.
Subs: Hussein Heidari, Alex Byrne, Dean Billingsley.