Five-star performance by young Grecians
Exeter City’s under-18s won in convincing style in their first home game of the season by thrashing Swindon Town 5-0.
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From start to finish, it was almost the complete performance from the young Grecians, and their dominance during the game helped erase all the memories of the opening day 1-0 defeat to AFC Bournemouth.
In conditions that were ever-changing as the game progressed, the only thing that didn’t alter here was the direction in which the three points were heading.
Charlie Madden, Ollie Watkins, Cameron Gill, Dean Billingsley and Matt Jay all managed to find the net, all deservedly reaping the rewards and opening their accounts for the season in the process.
The game started lively, and Exeter soon got a grip on the key midfield area. Cameron Gill and James Byrne both had early opportunities, whilst the Robins failed to create anything clear-cut despite threatening down the flanks.
After 16 minutes, the first real chance arrived for home team, after a neat one-two from Charlie Madden and Matt Jay led the to the latter attempting a strike on goal. Jay’s effort was blocked, however it was Gill who pounced on the rebound and tucked the ball away before being flagged for offside.
In what was an attacking three of Jay, Gill and top goalscorer from last season Ollie Watkins, the trio worked effectively, and it was Watkins who set up a great chance one of his strike-partners just a quarter of the way through the game.
The attacker used his acceleration to beat the defender down the right, before drilling in a low cross for Jay to finish, however a fantastic save from the opposing goalkeeper kept the score at 0-0.
However the breakthrough did come 34 minutes into the match.
After winning a corner from a free-kick, midfielder Jason Pope delivered a beautiful ball from the resulting set-piece, and centre-back Madden rose highest to glance the ball inside the far post.
It was a goal City fully deserved after creating so much and their opponents so very little. Arguably Town could have taken the lead themselves just five minutes before, however the wind was in the Grecians’ sails and they should have doubled their lead just before the break.
Alex Byrne was at the heart of the good play down the wing, and his cross found Pope bursting into the middle, who might have netted a free header just 10 yards out.
However the teams went into the break at 1-0, with Exeter deservedly leading. Though 1-0 quickly became 2-0 just moments into the second period.
With a goal that will live long in the memories of everyone at the Cat & Fiddle that day, Watkins grabbed his first goal of the season with an unbelievable strike.
From almost 30 yards out, the striker bent a shot from the left hand side that deceived the Swindon goalkeeper and crept inside the far post silencing the crowd in sheer disbelief.
Still amazed by the previous events, Watkins could have made it 3-0 when sent through one-on-one, but the low shot was well saved by the opposing shot-stopper.
The lead though did become comfortable when Gill made it three. Alex Byrne, part of an effective spine of the side, started the move. His pass to Jay was expertly turned on with a through ball that was just as delightful for Gill to round the goalkeeper and slot into an empty net with 16 second half minutes played.
Captain Connor Riley-Lowe and strike Jay both had opportunities to put the result beyond all doubt. However that role fell to substitute Dean Billingsley who acted with poacher instincts to convert a real opportunist’s goal.
Despite the scoreline, the chances were still coming for the home team, who kept bombarding the Robins’ goal with their waves of attacks.
In the end the victory was wrapped up just before the finale, as good footwork from Jay drew the foul inside the penalty area, and it was Exeter’s number 10 who picked himself up and converted the spot kick himself to grab the goal he merited.
As the full-time whistle sounded, a pleasing smile from the Exeter coaching staff showed as they, like the players on the pitch, were very happy with the convincing performance and the 5-0 scoreline.
Under-18 coach Lee Skyrme said: “I am really pleased with the effort shown from the boys and it has become evident that the hard work they have shown in training and on the football pitch has paid off.
“I thought Connor Riley Lowe was excellent; he played very well and showed good leadership in his play and his on-field commands, whilst it was also pleasing to see all our strikers scoring.
“I can see that there is a good progress from the players, and we won the match by playing our way which was pleasing.”
Exeter City u18
1 James Mitchinson
2 Scott Townsend
3 Connor Riley-Lowe
4 James Byrne
5 Josh Read
6 Charles Madden
7 Alex Byrne
8 Jason Pope
9 Ollie Watkins
10 Matt Jay
11 Cameron Gill
12 Dean Bililngsley
14 Joe Charles
16 Brandon Green